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Postgraduate Study

Bioethics & Society MSc

Applications for this programme are now open. Apply online.

Who is the programme for?

The programme is ideal for health professionals, graduates of a relevant discipline, policy makers and shapers, and those wishing to develop a more rigorous understanding of ethical and societal issues in biomedicine, neuroscience, and health policy today.

Our degree lays the foundation for future careers; for example, in government, national and international NGOs, or research in bioethics or social sciences. The programme can also enhance existing careers in clinical practice, biomedical research, public health, and health policy. 

Why does it matter?

Ethics in general revolves around the fundamental questions of how we should act and how we should live. Ethicists argue about our rights and responsibilities as individuals, our obligations towards others, and which acts are morally right or wrong. They also think about the societal structures and institutions that influence how we act as individuals, and how we can shape those structures in just and fair ways.

Bioethics is traditionally a branch of ‘applied ethics,’ where moral philosophers apply their theories to ethical problems in medicine and bioscience. But in recent years, bioethics has become a thoroughly interdisciplinary endeavour and bioethical debates are held by philosophers, social scientists, lawyers, health professionals, biomedical researchers, policy-makers, and others.

Social scientists have a particular role to play in bioethical debates. They study bioethical questions and the context in which they arise, moral intuitions that people have in relation to bioethical issues, as well as how they reason about these issues. Social scientists also try to assess the implications of different ethical positions and critically evaluate the role that bioethicists now play in hospitals, research institutions, and policy contexts.

There is a real need for social scientists who can conduct rigorous empirical research and use their findings to advance bioethical debates and develop proposals for how to address bioethical controversies in practice. This ‘empirical bioethics’ approach motivates our research and teaching in the bioethics & society programme.

 

What is unique about this programme?

  • The only bioethics programme in the UK based a social science department. It offers a unique 'real-world' approach to bioethics, allowing students to understand the social and political contexts in which bioethical controversies arise and proposed solutions are developed.

  • Provides a thoroughly interdisciplinary approach to bioethics that draws from key concepts, theories, methods and findings from philosophy and the social sciences.

  • Offers advanced training in a range of qualitative and quantitative research methods, as well as critical policy research methods, allowing students to acquire the skills needed to undertake cutting-edge, social scientific analyses of diverse health-related issues.

  • Taught within a world-leading Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine, by internationally recognised experts who have trained across a range of disciplines – from sociology, anthropology, geography, gerontology, socio-legal studies and political science to psychology, bioethics, philosophy, biology and medicine.

  • Lectures and seminars are given by internationally recognized faculty who consult for the World Health Organization, the Nuffield Council or Bioethics, and the UK Parliament Office of Science & Technology, among others

  • Provides opportunities to join a thriving research community, to participate with active researchers in a range of extra-curricular events such as reading groups and roundtable discussions, and to attend a rich programme of seminars and lectures by world renowned visiting speakers including the KCL/UCL Joint Bioethics Colloquium.

  • Provides internship opportunities and career support to enhance students’ employability.

  • Taught in the heart of London, at the Strand Campus on the banks of the Thames, providing unrivalled opportunities to engage with the worlds of policymaking, private sector organizations, non-governmental agencies and other academic institutions relevant to health and medicine.

What will my timetable look like?

Timetabling is difficult to predict and may change from year to year. In the past, our modules have typically been taught on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Please see here for an overview of our annual schedule.

Full-time students typically take their modules as follows: (Please note that some modules may involve additional activities, such as discussion groups, workshops or methods labs).

Term 1: Late September - December

Term 2: January - late March or Early April

Term 3: May

Part-time Students typically take Critical Bioethics, Case Studies in Bioethics and a research methods module in year 1 of their studies, and Foundations of Social Science, Health & Medicine as well as an optional module in year 2. Part-time students begin working on their MA dissertation in year 1, but conduct most of the work on this in year 2 of their studies.

 

How do I find out more?

More information is available in the KCL prospectus and on the programme website.

Information on scholarships and funding, including bursaries offered by the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine, can be found here.

For an informal discussion about the programme, contact Dr Silvia Camporesi, Programme Director at silvia.camporesi@kcl.ac.uk or at (0)20 7848 7918

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MA in Bioethics & Society - What students say

Interview with Alex Meyer, Student

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