Professor Heather Widdows BD(Hons), PhD

Professor Heather Widdows

Department of Philosophy
John Ferguson Professor of Global Ethics
Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor Research (Impact)

Contact details

ERI Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Professor Heather Widdows is the John Ferguson Professor of Global Ethics and the Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research Impact. In this role she seeks to support and extend the impact of Birmingham's research across policy, cultural and industrial sectors. Her track-record shows her commitment to public engagement and work with policy makers. As such she has served as a member of the UK Biobank Ethics and Governance Council (2007-2013), the Philosophy REF-panel (2013-2014) and she is currently a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. 

She is currently working on the increasing demands of beauty, which she examines in her latest book Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal (Princeton University Press) and her ongoing research into A duty to beautiful. She also co-runs the Beauty Demands blog, a research network addressing the changing requirements of beauty, and founded the #everydaylookism campaign. Prior to this project, she has run multidisciplinary grants on Property Regulation in European Science, Ethics and Law, the ethics and governance of human tissue, and collaborated on grants on terrorism and trust.


Heather Widdows is a leading international researcher across applied ethics. In 2005 she was awarded a visiting fellowship at Harvard University, where she worked on issues of moral neo-colonialism. She has led a number of funded projects on issues of property in the body; reproductive rights; human tissue; war on terror and ownership and governance of the genome. Heather's current research explores the moral philosophy of beauty, funded by a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship (2014-2016) and an AHRC Network on 'The Changing Requirements of Beauty' (2015-2016). Her latest book, Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal, was published Princeton University Press in May 2018.

Currently Heather serves as a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and is also on the REF Philosophy Sub-Panel. Previously she was a member of UK Biobank Ethics and Governance Council (2007 to 2013) and co-lead Saving Humans, one of the two inaugural themes of the University's Institute of Advanced Studies.



Heather is currently not teaching UG or MA students, but she is still accepting doctoral candidates.

Postgraduate supervision

Professor Widdows is particularly interested in the ethical issues which arise in the context of globalisation, including those of technological development, war and terrorism, poverty and development, as well as bioethical issues, particularly those of reproductive, research and genetic ethics. She is happy to supervise PhD students in any of her research areas.

Find out more - our PhD Philosophy  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


Other activities


Highlight publications

Widdows, H 2018, Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal. Princeton University Press.

Widdows, H 2013, The Connected Self: The ethics and governance of the genetic individual. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Widdows, H 2011, Global Ethics: An Introduction. Acumen, Durham.

Widdows, H 2005, The Moral Vision of Iris Murdoch. Ashgate, Aldershot.

Widdows, H & Moellendorf, D (eds) 2014, The Routledge Handbook of Global Ethics. Routledge.

Recent publications


Marway, H & Widdows, H (eds) 2015, Women and Violence: The Agency of Victims and Perpetrators. Gender and Sexualities in the Social Sciences, 1 edn, Palgrave.

Widdows, H & Smith, NJ 2013, Global social justice. Taylor & Francis.


Widdows, H 2019, 'Structural injustice and the requirements of beauty', The Journal of Social Philosophy.

Widdows, H 2017, 'The Neglect of Beauty: What’s in and what’s out of Global Theorising and Why?', ProtoSociology.

Widdows, H 2017, 'The neglected harms of beauty: beyond engaging individuals', Journal of Practical Ethics, vol. 5, no. 2, 1, pp. 1-29. <>

Widdows, H & MacCallum, F 2016, 'Altered images: understanding the influence of unrealistic images and beauty aspirations', Health Care Analysis.

Widdows, H & Marway, H 2015, 'A Global Public Goods Approach to the Health of Migrants', Public Health Ethics, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 121-129.

Widdows, H 2015, 'Global health justice and the right to health', Health Care Analysis, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 391-400.

Baylis, F & Widdows, H 2015, 'Human Embryos and Eggs: From long-term storage to biobanking', Monash Bioethics Review, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 340-359.

Marway, H & Widdows, H 2015, 'Philosophical feminist bioethics: past, present and future', Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 165-174.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Widdows, H 2017, Exploitation and the global demands of beauty. in M Devereaux & V Panitch (eds), Exploitation: from practice to theory. Studies in Social and Global Justice, Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 179-194.

Marway, H & Widdows, H 2015, Introduction. in H Widdows & H Marway (eds), Women and Violence: The Agency of Victims and Perpetrators. 1 edn, Gender and Sexualities in the Social Sciences, Palgrave, pp. 1-12.


McGuinness , S & Widdows, H 2017, Access to basic reproductive rights: global challenges. in L Francis (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reproductive Ethics. Oxford University Press.

Widdows, H, Marway, H & Johnson, S-L 2014, Commodification of Human Tissue. in B Gordijin & HAMJ ten Have (eds), Handbook of Global Bioethics. Springer, Netherlands, pp. 581-598.


Widdows, H & MacCallum, F 2018, 'The Demands of Beauty: Editors’ Introduction', Health Care Analysis, pp. 1-13.

View all publications in research portal


Ethics, Policy and governance issues in particular:

  • Beauty, Everyday Lookism, Public health Crises
  • Global Ethics, Moral Theory
  • Feminist Theory, Women’s rights
  • Bioethics, Reproductive Technologies, Medical Tourism, Genetic Ethics and Governance
  • War on Terror, Global Justice



  • Beauty from the perspective of moral philosophy and justice, including cosmetic surgery
  • Issues of body image and global demands of beauty
  • The ethical issues which arise in the context of globalization, including those of technological development, poverty and development, and gender justice
  • Bioethics and global health, particularly genetic ethics, reproductive ethics and research ethics