MA Peace and Conflict Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Ethics in World Politics

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI70451
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course is designed to introduce students to the theory and practice of ethics in world politics. It is organised around the theme of the problematic relationship between the theoretical components of international ethics and political practice. As such, the course is divided into two sections. Section I: Theorising ethics in world politics covers significant and influential developments in thinking about the place of ethics in political practice.
Section II: Ethical dilemmas then looks at specific issue areas that bring into sharp relief some of the difficulties encountered in Section I.

Learning outcomes

The objectives of the course are both general and subject specific. The former includes the development of oral skills through general discussion and presentations, written and analytical skills through the assessed essay and critical thinking tasks and finally, research skills from the use and assessment of large amounts of complex and often contradictory material.  By the end of the course, students should attain the subject-specific objectives of a master’s level ability to:

  • Identify, describe and analyse the conflicts of value and priority within the dominant approaches to ethics in world politics;
  • Identify and critically assess the assumptions that underpin specific ethical positions and arguments;
  • Outline, compare and evaluate competing understandings of a specific ethical issue;
  • Understand and critically engage with the possibilities and limits of humanity in world politics;
  • Develop your own ethical position as a critical evaluation of both theories and practices of ethics in world politics.

Teaching and learning methods

The Course makes extensive use of inquiry-based learning. Students will be expected to have completed their journal entry and, therefore, read extensively before each seminar. The journal entries facilitate students' ability to participate fully in the learning experience.

Assessment methods


  1. Participation/course engagement 25%: Ethics Journal – consists of 8 journal entries
  2. Article review 25%: 1,000 words
  3. Essay 50%: 2,000 word essay due at the beginning of the January exam period.

Recommended reading

  • Pin-Fat, Véronique (2010) Universality, Ethics and International Relations: A Grammatical Reading. London: Routledge.
  • Bell, Duncan (2010) Ethics and World Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Includes further online resources)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sabrina Villenave Unit coordinator

Additional notes




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