MA Health, Bioethics and Law

The MA in Health, Bioethics and Law will enable you to critically explore key issues in bioethics and law in terms of legal principles and philosophical concepts.

Co-taught by the Birmingham Law School and the Department of Philosophy, the programme takes an interdisciplinary approach which caters to the needs of those from a variety of backgrounds. The programme is ideal for healthcare professionals, intercalating medical students, philosophers or anyone interested in the issues at the intersection of healthcare, ethics and law.

This programme is also available to legal professionals, although we also offer an LLM Health, Bioethics and Law.

You will take two core modules:

  • Bioethics
  • Human Rights and Healthcare Law

In addition:

  • Students with a law background will take Research Skills and Methods and attend mandatory pre-sessional generic LLM introductory classes
  • Students without a law background will take Socio-Legal Theory and attend mandatory bespoke pre-sessional introduction to law classes and mandatory pre-sessional generic LLM introductory classes

You will then choose three optional modules from the following:

  • Criminal Law and Medicine
  • European Health Law
  • Global Ethics I
  • Global Ethics II
  • Mentally Disordered Offenders 
  • Philosophy and Mental Health
  • Philosophy of Cognitive Science
  • Philosophy of Health and Happiness

You will also complete a 15,000-word dissertation.

Why study this course

  1. Taught by experts – you will study alongside some of the finest minds in Philosophy. We are ranked second among all Philosophy departments in the UK in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
  2. Friendly and relaxed atmosphere – staff within the Department of Philosophy know students by name and are always happy to talk through work and provide additional feedback on academic performance.
  3. Be a part of an active postgraduate community – you will join a lively and stimulating Department where you can contribute to on-going research activities, including research seminars and events such as our weekly speaker series and various workshops, reading groups and conferences throughout the year.
  4. Small classes – teaching on the masters-level modules involve mainly small-group seminars allowing you to really get to grips with the learning material. 
  5. Access to a wide range of services – as a postgraduate student you will have access to services such as the Academic Writing Advisory Service and the Bank of Assessed Work. You will be supported throughout your time at Birmingham – if that be aiding your transition from undergraduate to postgraduate level, or back into academia after a time away and making sure you develop as an academic writer. 


In addition to Research Skills and Methods (for students with a law background) or Socio-Legal Theory (for students without a law background), you will study the following two core modules:


This module introduces you to the increasing number of dilemmas in bioethics that cross national boundaries and transcend domestic regulation. Bioethical dilemmas, whether arising from scientific and technological developments or from the research practices of pharmaceutical companies, raise issues which cannot be effectively addressed at national or regional levels. Bioethics clearly calls for global solutions to what are global dilemmas and you will be introduced to some of the key bioethical issues which arise in the contemporary global context

Human Rights and Healthcare Law

This course explores the interface between human rights and health care law. It examines the evolution of Health Care Law both before and after the enactment of the UK Human Rights Act 1998. It explores this debate in the context of a number of controversial and topical issues.
Further information on the Human Rights and Healthcare Law module is available on the Law School website.

You will then choose three optional modules from the following:

Criminal Law and Medicine

The aim of this module is to explore some key aspects of criminal law and its relation to medicine. The focus will be on the arrangements in England and Wales, but where appropriate reference will be made to comparative material from other countries.
Further information on the Criminal Law and Medicine module is also available on the Law School website.

European Health Law

The EU is increasingly having an impact upon domestic health law and policy across member states. This has given rise to increased legislation, regulation and engagement by academic writers and policy makers in this area. This module explores the legal and institutional frameworks that deliver health law and policy in Europe and the nature and extent of their impact upon member states by reference to selected examples.

Further information on the European Health Law module is also available on the Law School website.

Global Ethics I

This module aims to introduce you to key concepts and debates in global ethics. First, we will explore several prominent traditions in ethical theory; next we will apply these normative ethical theories to concrete ethical questions. In investigating these theories and applications, you will be encouraged to question your presumptions about the nature of ethics and moral values. The module also develops critical reasoning and argumentative skills through philosophical discussion and writing. The theoretical tools of analysis and argument can be applied in all aspects of global ethics.

Global Ethics II

This module develops your understanding of key global ethical issues, in particular human rights, poverty, distributive justice, cosmopolitan democracy, governance and humanitarian intervention.

Mentally Disordered Offenders

This module covers a number of areas, including relevant legislation (The Mental Health Act, The Human Rights Act and The Mental Capacity Act) and topics such as psychiatric defences, mental health tribunals, civil law and statutory care in the community as well as recent developments and proposed reforms.
Further information on the Mentally Disordered Offenders module is available on the Law School website.

Philosophy and Mental Health

The module provides an overview of contemporary debates in philosophy and mental health. In each seminar a new issue will be investigated, but there will be three interrelated threads throughout the module. One is about the nature of psychiatry. The second is about the sense in which psychiatric disorders are disorders of the self. The third is about how we should respond to people with psychiatric disorders, considered from a wide range of perspectives, including interpersonal, clinical, ethical, legal and public health policy. These themes will be addressed by reference to different aspects of psychiatry (e.g. classification, diagnosis, aetiology, research, treatment), different psychiatric disorders (e.g. addiction, anorexia, dementia, dissociation, schizophrenia, personality disorders, psychopathy), and different disciplinary frameworks. The course will also have a practical element involving structured, outcome-focused deliberation about difficult cases highlighting these threads and their inter-relations.

Philosophy of Cognitive Science

This module covers key topics in the Philosophy of Cognitive Science. We will start off with traditional topics which provide insight into the conceptual foundations of cognitive science. In particular, we will look at: the distinction between personal and sub-personal levels of explanation, the Computational Theory of Mind, modularity and, if we have time, Connectionism. Against this background, our discussion will turn to more contemporary topics, with an emphasis on methodological worries about current theorising in cognitive science and neuroscience. Specifically, we will focus on a selection of topics such as the scientific study of consciousness, delusions and rationality, the use of double dissociation arguments in cognitive neuropsychology, and the question of what fMRI can tell us about the mind.

Philosophy of Health and Happiness

The module will examine debates at the forefront of current research in the philosophy of health and happiness. You will explore conceptual problems (e.g. what ‘health’ and ‘disease’ are) and question contemporary lifestyle issues (for instance, regarding how health, happiness and meaning relate, as well as whether there is a correlation between income and life satisfaction). You will also be asked to consider how technological advances (such as those in genetics) are changing these understandings.

Fees and funding

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

  • Home / EU: £6,570 full-time; £3,285 part-time
  • Overseas: £14,850 full-time

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

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 tuition fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Entry requirements

The programme allows for multi-disciplinary entry. You need an upper second-class Honours degree, or equivalent, in humanities, social sciences, medicine or a cognate discipline.

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

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.

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

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You will be taught by colleagues from across the University, and have access to expert supervision on a variety of topics from leading academics in the Department of Philosophy and the Birmingham Law School.

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support through the English for International Students Unit (EISU).

The University of Birmingham has been ranked 8th in the UK and 60th in the world for post-qualification employability in the latest global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.

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.

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.