Ethics for Bioscience

Course summary

Ethics for Bioscience


This ten-week online module is designed to facilitate understanding, reflection on and engagement with key ethical issues thrown up by conducting clinical research, practising evidence-based health care and engaging with science and technology.

The course is designed to introduce healthcare practitioners to clinical and medical ethics, providing the philosophical tools for continued engagement with these important issues throughout their professional lives.

The course materials are delivered online with discussion forums which enable interactive communication between students and the tutor. This encourages critical thought and interpretation of practical scenarios. The course also helps students develop their writing skills through constructive feedback on the brief essays set during the course.

Through guided readings, online discussion, case studies and other activities participants will engage with key issues from bioethics. Students will consider issues such as:

  • the social and ethical implications of increases in life span
  • cloning
  • genetic modification
  • genetic differences in race and gender
  • clinical trials in the developing world
  • eugenics
  • private markets in organs for transplant and the ownership of human tissue

A sample unit gives a flavour of the course and how it is delivered.

The course is taught by tutors with an understanding of medical and philosophical research and students enliven the discussion with ethical questions and dilemmas arising from their own practical experiences.

The last date for receipt of complete applications is 5pm Friday 12 January 2018. Regrettably, late applications cannot be accepted.

Course Author

The course was created by Marianne Talbot, Director of Studies in Philosophy for the Department for Continuing Education.

She adds: "These days science students cannot afford to be oblivious to the ethical and social issues surrounding their subjects. The online course in bioethics is designed especially for science graduates with no background in philosophy. All who complete it will find that they can discuss these issues with confidence."

Core reading

Talbot, Marianne Bioethics: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

Comments from previous participants

"Thank you again for all your guidance, support, and an amazing (understatement) course!"

"I’m really enjoying this philosophy stuff! I had no idea how hard formal Philosophy was - I found it required far more brain-energy than anything I have done before. It was great!"

"Months after having taken your bio-ethics class, I still find it thought-provoking and have been attending more conferences and reading more in relation to the topics we covered. I am happy to say I have developed a keen interest in the history of thought and the philosophy of medicine, and particularly the use of evidence. The class kindled a lot of excitement and internal debate about why we do what we do individually, and in healthcare. For that, I thank you!"

Programme details

Online modules are delivered entirely through a Virtual Learning Environment with the first week allocated to introductory activities. There are ten units to work through which are released week by week (starting on the dates advertised), you then have five weeks of personal study with use of a revision forum and then you will be required to submit your assignment electronically the following week (usually on a Tuesday at 14:00 UK Local Time).

IT requirements

Please ensure that you have access to a computer that meets the specifications detailed on our technical support page.


Short Course in Health Sciences: £2195.00
Students enrolled on MSc in Evidence-Based Health Care: £1795.00
Students enrolled on Postgraduate Cert in Health Research: £1795.00
Students enrolled on Postgraduate Dip in Health Research: £1795.00


Details of funding opportunities, including grants, bursaries, loans, scholarships and benefit information are available on our financial assistance page.



If you are an employee of the University of Oxford and have a valid University staff card you may be eligible to receive a 10% discount on the full stand-alone fee. To take advantage of this offer please submit a scan/photocopy of your staff card along with your application. Your card should be valid for a further six months after attending the course.



Dr Andrew Papanikitas

Module Coordinator

Dr Andrew Papanikitas is an NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer in General Practice and teaches on the Ethics for Bioscience module.

Course aims

This course will help participants to:

  • reflect on, and engage with, some key ethical issues thrown up by biological science and technology that have implications for clinical practice and clinical research
  • consider the social and ethical implications of increases in life span, cloning, genetic modification, genetic differences in race and gender, clinical trials in the developing world, eugenics, private markets in organs for transplant and the ownership of human tissue

Assessment methods

The University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education offers Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points for the course. Participants who successfully complete the assessment methods are eligible to earn credit equivalent to 20 CATS-equivalent points which may be counted towards a postgraduate qualification.

Attendance Only

Applicants registering as "Attendance Only" are not eligible to undertake the academic assignment offered to students on award-bearing programmes of study and will not have access to the University library resources, other than those provided by the Department for Continuing Education. Applicants cannot receive CAT (Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme) points or equivalence. Credit cannot be attributed retrospectively. CAT accreditation is required if you wish for the module to count towards a further qualification in the future.

A Certificate of Completion is issued at the end of the course.

"Attendance Only" applicants who subsequently wish to register for academic credit and complete the assignment are required to submit additional information, which must be received one calendar month in advance of the module start date. Please contact us for more information.

Please contact if you have any questions.


We strongly recommend that you download and save files before completing to ensure that all your changes are saved.

This course requires you to complete the application form and the additional information form below, and submit them alongside a copy of your CV. If you are applying to take this course for academic credit you will also need to complete section two of the reference form and forward it to your referee for completion. Please note that if you are not applying to take the course for academic credit then you do not need to submit a reference.

Please ensure you read the guidance notes before completing the application form, as any errors resulting from failure to do so may delay your application.