MA International Relations (Standard)

Year of entry: 2022

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Course unit details:
Ethics in World Politics

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
Offered by Politics
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 an international ethics and political practice.  As such the course is divided into two sections.  Section I: Theorising the ethical in world politics covers major and influential developments in thinking about the place of ethics in political practice.  Section II: Ethical dilemmas then goes on to look at specific issue areas which 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 consists of a 50 minute online lecture and a 50 minute seminar per week.. The course makes extensive use of enquiry-based learning. Students will be expected to have completed their journal entry and therefore, have read extensively in advance of the seminar. The journal entries facilitate students’ ability to participate fully in the learning experience.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 25%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%
Set exercise 25%
  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.