Frequently asked questions


What is bioethics?

Bioethics is concerned with the ethical questions arising in contexts of biological and health sciences. Traditional topics in bioethics include abortion, euthanasia, relationships between health care providers and patients, research involving humans and animals, and justice in distribution of health resources. Emerging topics include genetic enhancement and modification of humans, risk and health, nanotechnology, and global public health.

What should my background be?

These programs have been designed to meet the widely recognised growing need for ethics education for scientists, researchers and professionals working in medicine, nursing, psychology, allied health, pharmacy, dentistry, public health, health law, health and public policy, science communication and related fields, as well as students with backgrounds in applied philosophy, politics, law, sociology and anthropology. You should have an undergraduate degree in any of these related fields or comparable experience. If you wish to enrol in the Master degree, a credit average in your qualifying degree is required for acceptance.

How long will this program take to complete?

If you are a full time student, graduate certificates will take half a year, the graduate diploma and Masters will take one year. If you are a part time student, completing these degree programs can take anywhere from one to four years.

How many units of study do I take per semester?

Full time students usually take four units of study per semester to complete the degree in the allocated time. Part time students should take one or two units of study per semester.

How do I apply?

Application forms and further information on the application process for domestic and international students are available at the Sydney Courses Website.

When is my application form due?

If you wish to commence your degree in the first semester of the year, beginning March, the due date for applications is usually 31 January of the year you wish to commence study.

If you wish to commence your degree in the second semester of the year, beginning July, the due date for applications is usually 14 June of the year you wish to commence study.

While it is best to apply by the required dates, late applications will usually be considered if places are available.

International applicants should submit their application early to allow sufficient time for visa documentation to be processed.

If I get an offer for admission, how do I enrol?

Once you have received an offer of admission to a degree in the Bioethics Program, you need to complete the enrolment process as specified by the admissions team. It is possible to enrol electronically.

How much will my degree cost?

Information about fees for this course can be found on the fees page of this course on the School of Public Health website.

Can I get financial support to help me complete a postgraduate coursework degree?

Scholarships for postgraduate coursework degrees are rare. Information about any available scholarships can be found on the scholarships office page.

Can I work and study at the same time?

Yes. If you work full time, you can be a part time student, as classes are held after working hours, on evenings and weekends. If you are a full time student, it is also possible to work part time.

Can I take one unit of study without being enrolled in a degree?

Yes - all Bioethics units of study are stand-alone and may be taken one at a time by students not enrolled in Bioethics or any other degree programs. There are two modes for study not associated with a degree.

The first is ‘non-award’ study, which involves enrolling formally in a Unit of Study and undertaking all assessment. Your grade for the Unit will appear on a University of Sydney transcript in perpetuity. Enrolment for non-award study is via the Sydney Courses website.

The second mode is ‘short course’ mode. This involves attending class (face to face or online) and undertaking readings. You are not assessed and do not receive a mark. Participants are provided with a certificate of attendance at the end of the course. More information about short courses can be found on the School of Public Health website.

Can I take a unit of study for professional development or continuing education points?

Some of our courses are available to non-enrolled students for a fee. Please for further information.

What is an intensive?

An intensive is a unit of study that is offered over several day-long learning sessions (instead of weekly seminars), and supplemented by online weekly tasks and discussion forums. This is especially useful for people who work full-time, or who live outside of Sydney.

Can I enrol in and complete a degree in the Bioethics Program if I don't live in Sydney?

All of our subjects can be studied online. Several subjects are also taught in intensive or block mode. Lecturers will offer online students as close an experience as possible to face to face teaching. This may include online lectures or telephone tutorials.

When can I start the program?

You can start the program either in semester one, which begins in early March of each year, or semester two, which begins in late July of each year.

When I am enrolled, how much time should I spend on the unit of study each week?

Each Unit of Study should take around 120 hours to complete. This includes class attendance, readings and assignment preparation. We strongly discourage students who work full-time from studying full-time.

Can I do a research project as part of my degree?

Students enrolled in a Masters in Bioethics undertake a research project over 1 or 2 semesters. To enrol in the research subjects you must first complete at least 4 units of study in the BETH program with marks at credit or higher level.

Satisfactorily completing a degree can allow you to apply for subsequent postgraduate research degrees, such as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). If you think you may be interested in undertaking research, please see the University of Sydney information pages on postgraduate research degrees.

Can I take a Bioethics unit as an ILA (independant learning activity)?

In most cases, you can take our units as an ILA. Please check with the course coordinator of your course first. They will need to confirm that taking a Bioethics unit as an ILA fits your course requirements.

Once you have gained permission to study, the UOS coordinator will add you to the class roll and grant you access to the course website. They will need your unikey login to add you to the sites, and your student ID number so they can confirm that you have completed the course.

Our standing policy on assessment for ILA students is that you will be expected to:

  • do the readings; and
  • attend at least 80% of the seminars and participate in discussion (or the equivalent online participation if you’re studying in distance mode); and
  • submit a 2000 word essay (or some kind of equivalent piece of work) which is due about a month after the last class.

I have an enrolment or fees query, who should I contact?

Candidature management is looked after by faculty - in this case the Sydney Medical School.

The Postgraduates Enrolment page of the SMS website may assist with your enquiries. If not, enquires regarding candidature management (enrolment/deferral/ etc) should be directed to the faculty at or by calling +61 (0)2 9351 3132.

Candidature Variations can be addressed to Examinations' questions can be addressed to

I’d like to read some more about bioethics. Where should I start?

Here are some links that will help you get a feel for what bioethics is. - an extensive site on bioethics including upcoming bioethics conferences and seminars, bioethics job postings, bioethics journal articles, editorials and more.

Ethics and Health Law News - News service providing links to latest news, journal articles and case law in ethics and health law.

Croakey - The Croakey blog is a forum for debate and discussion about health issues and policy

ABC News Online: Health - Most recent stories on Health from the ABC news service

The Australian: Health and Science - News stories on Health and Science

The Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law (AABHL) is an Australian and New Zealand organisation concerned with issues of bioethics and health law.

Medical Observer - Medical Observer is committed to bringing GPs the best news and features every week.

Healthtalkonline - the award-winning website of the DIPEx charity sharing more than 2,000 people's experiences of health and illness.

Australasian Bioethics Association (ABA) at BioEdge

History and Philosophy of Science Research Seminar Series

Southern Cross Bioethics Institute - part of an initiative by the Southern Cross Care Inc., SCBI is an an independent, non-sectarian, autonomous institution committed to research into important bioethical issues that was established in 1987 in the South Australian capital, Adelaide.

Health Law Seminar Series

History Department Public Lectures

School of Public Health Seminar Series

Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science

Sydney Science Forum