Global Ethics PhD/ PhD by Distance Learning

Within the Department of Philosophy, we offer promising candidates the opportunity to carry out research and explore the leading ethical issues of our time in a dynamic and reflective way.

Our research interests cover a wide variety of topics; including ethics and global public health; ethics, war and terror; poverty and financial exclusion; and ethics of borders and immigration.

Dr Scott Wisor

Dr Scott Wisor

“The Centre for the Study of the Global Ethics is the oldest centre of its kind in the UK, and home to ground breaking research in areas including health and the environment, global development and justice, conflict and security, and gender justice. Our interdisciplinary approach to ethics and international affairs gives students the tools they need to critically analyse complex issues in a globalized world. ”

The PhD – the most advanced research degree – requires you to undertake independent research (under the expert supervision of an academic member of staff) that leads to a dissertation of up to 80,000 words on a subject of your choice.

We provide training opportunities to help you in your studies, such as modules from the Global Ethics MSc programme or research skills training.

You can study an MA by Research or PhD programme on campus or by distance learning. Please note that if you are studying with us by distance learning, there is a compulsory annual visit to campus (every two years for part-time PhD students) - please see our frequently asked questions about distance learning to find out more.

Profiles of our current Philosophy doctoral researchers

Why study this course

  • Philosophy at the University of Birmingham was ranked second among all Philosophy departments in the country in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework exercise, with almost 50% of our research judged to be ‘world-leading’.
  • Birmingham’s Philosophy postgraduates develop a range of skills that are highly desirable in the job market, including: articulacy; precise analytical thought; clarity; rigour in formulating complex problems; and the ability to analyse and construct sound arguments.
  • The Department includes the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics, which was founded in 2001, and was the first of its kind in the UK. The Centre was set up to address the practical and theoretical issues raised by globalisation. Global Ethics has natural affinities with Political Science and International Relations, as well as the Institute of Applied Social Studies.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17:

  • Home / EU £4,110 full-time; £2,055 part-time*
  • Overseas: £13,680 full-time

For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

* For UK/EU postgraduate research students the University fee level is set at Research Council rates and as such is subject to change. The final fee will be announced by Research Councils UK in spring 2016.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuituion fees and funding.

Entry requirements

Candidates are normally required to have at least an upper second-class Honours degree in Philosophy (or a Joint Honours degree of which Philosophy is a component)

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

Please refer to our six step process on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas.

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Additional Guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Making your application


When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Research interests of staff include:

  • Ethical issues raised by biomedical research and clinical practice, psychiatric disorders, philosophy of mind and psychology, applied ethics, philosophy of science
    Contact: Lisa Bortolotti
  • Moral theory – utilitarianism, Kantianism, Virtue ethics.  Consent, autonomy and free will.  Wellbeing and happiness.  Philosophy of medicine: health, illness and disease.
    Contact: Iain Law
  • Moral theories, population ethics, global warming, happiness and wellbeing, morality and poverty, global distributive justice, multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism.
    Contact: Jussi Suikkanen
  • Global ethics; global justice; bioethics and public health; commodification of the body; ethics of sex and beauty; women's rights; reproductive rights; ethics of war and terror; communication across value-frameworks and belief systems; and all aspects of virtue ethics and moral theory.
    Contact: Heather Widdows
  • Moral and political philosophy, and applied ethics, especially bioethics, the ethics of killing (including the ethics of war), theories of rights, justice, legitimacy, and public justification.
    Contact: Jeremy Williams
  • Moral, social, and political philosophy, especially global ethics and global justice. Global poverty, development ethics, gender and development ethics, natural resource ethics, international trade justice, gender and global justice, climate ethics, just war and the ethics of civil resistance, the measurement of social progress, ethics of NGOs. Contact: Scott Wisor; Email:
  • Philosophy of mind and psychiatry; clinical ethics; addiction; mental health and criminal justice; moral psychology; agency and responsibility; decision-making capacity; placebos; violence.
    Contact: Hanna Pickard:

The University has been recognised for its impressive graduate employment, being named ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

In addition, the global edition of The New York Times has ranked the University 60th in the world and 9th in UK for post-qualification employability. The rankings illustrate the top 150 universities most frequently selected by global employers and are the result of a survey by French consulting firm Emerging and German consulting firm Trendence.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. The University also offers a wide range of activities and services to give our students the edge in the job market, including: career planning designed to meet the needs of postgraduates; opportunities to meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs, employer presentations and skills workshops; individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

Birmingham's Philosophy postgraduates develop a range of skills that are highly desirable in the job market, including: articulacy; precise analytical thought; clarity; rigour in formulating complex problems; and the ability to analyse and construct sound arguments.

Over the past five years, over 93% of Philosophy postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Due to the transferable nature of their skills, Philosophy postgraduates traditionally enter a wide range of employment areas, from the Civil Service to finance. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: Afrikids (child rights organisation); Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust; Muslim Scout Fellowship; Rights and Humanity; University of Birmingham; and University of Edinburgh.

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.


Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.