Study Bioethics at the University of Sydney

Bioethics is concerned with discussion of the ethical issues relating to all of healthcare and the life sciences. Issues in bioethics are central to our existence and are discussed every day in the media.

  • When, if ever, should medical treatment at the end of life be withdrawn?
  • Whose interests should prevail when doctors and patients views on treatment differ?
  • Should society pay huge amounts of money for the remote chance of saving a particular life?
  • Should vaccinations be compulsory?
  • How does climate change relate to health and what should we do about it?
  • What role can the arts play in how we think about health and ethics?

Our bioethics courses cover a wide range of areas, and are aimed at improving your understanding of ethical issues in clinical medicine, biotechnology and society, public health, global health, mental health, health law, the beginning and end-of-life, human and animal research ethics, philosophy of medicine, the methodology of bioethics, and the nature of the relationship between doctors, patients and society.

Course aims

You will receive training in four key areas:

  1. Critical ethical reasoning – developing analytic and critical thinking and writing skills to identify and assess ethical reasoning in complex situations,
  2. Decision-making – identifying the beliefs and interests of stakeholders and their impact on ethical decision-making in professional and research practice,
  3. Action – applying critical reasoning skills in clinical and research contexts to ensure moral standards are met and maintained in practice and
  4. Advancing knowledge – developing skills for ethical research that extends the knowledge base of bioethics, and responds to emerging ethical problems in practice.

Who should study this course?

This area of study is suitable for people from a wide variety of backgrounds, such as philosophy, humanities, social science, law, science, medicine, nursing, allied health professions, psychology and health management. Studying bioethics allows our students to broaden their knowledge in their chosen health and/or research area and add value to an existing career or help to change a career path.

Why study with us?

  • Receive a first class education - as a bioethics student of the University of Sydney, you will study at Sydney School of Public Health – Australia’s first and leading school of public health, ranking number 1 in Asia Pacific and 18th in the world (2017 Academic Ranking of World Universities).
  • Tailor your work-load with flexible study options – the bioethics program offers flexible study options with online, part and full time, evening and intensive study modes, allowing you to tailor your work-load with your professional and personal life.
  • Study unique content - our multidisciplinary courses of study are diverse and cover a range of topic areas, enabling you to confront bioethical issues in new and challenging ways. We offer topics of study not offered anywhere else in Australia, for example the ethics of mental health.
  • Improve your non-technical skills - you will improve your ability to think critically and to problem solve, skills which are valued in both professional and academic endeavours. Our bioethics program involves different disciplines and has a particular focus on critically engaging with issues and methods.

What are my study options?

We offer highly flexible study options that allow interstate and international students the opportunity to receive world class teaching without the inconvenience of travelling or the expense of relocating. This also means that as a busy professional, you can tailor your degree around your workload and lifestyle. The various study options include:

  • Face-to-face
  • Fully online
  • Blended learning with a combination of online and face-to face study modes.

Graduate opportunities

The Master of Bioethics responds to the widely recognised need for ethics education for scientists, researchers and professionals working in medicine, nursing, allied health, pharmacy, dentistry, public health, health law, health and public policy, science communication and related fields.

Course options

Professional recognition / accreditation

The study courses are also designed to meet the Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) continuing professional development standards, contributing 50 credits per semester under “Category 4: structured learning projects”.

How to apply

Applications for all bioethics courses are made directly to the University and assessed by Sydney School of Public Health. Click here to start an application and apply.

Key academic staff

  • Associate Professor Ainsley Newson works at the forefront of ethics and emerging technologies. She is interested in the ethical application of methods such as DNA sequencing to benefit both individual and population health.
  • Professor Angus Dawson seeks to transform bioethics by exploring issues in public and global health. He is increasingly focused on working with bodies such as the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières to implement ethics into the real world.
  • Professor Ian Kerridge is an internationally recognised scholar in bioethics and the philosophy of medicine. His research focuses on the philosophical, moral and socio-cultural concepts, frameworks and issues that underpin health, health policy and biomedicine in public health, research and clinical care.

Meet our alumni and students

Anne Marguerite Doone Preisz
Master of Bioethics, 2017

“As a musculoskeletal senior specialist working in acute and emergency settings, it can be challenging to advocate for patients with complex needs as well as balance resource allocation.

With a special interest in back pain and neonates, I started the Master of Bioethics to keep up with the rapid change and ongoing demands of working in public health. As a science based student, I had done little sociology studies and so the degree has taught me many new and transferrable skills.

It has given me a philosophical language and helped me in real world cases, especially with ethical dilemmas, a reality clinicians face daily. I have also developed my skills in writing papers, arguing logically, and succinctly discussing and collating multiple views.”

Dr Eric Ip
Master of Bioethics, current student

“As a Legal Academic in Hong Kong who specialises in public law and legal theory, I began the Master of Bioethics to help with my research into public health law and ethics.

The degree has strengthened my ability to address critical bioethical controversies with rigour. It has also armed me – a medical layperson – with solid knowledge in a wide variety of public health and biomedicine subjects, enabling me to converse fruitfully with health academics and medical practitioners on topics of common interest.

With commitments in Hong Kong, I needed flexibility in my course so that I could study outside of Australia. Sydney School of Public Health has provided me with that and has helped me adjust my study load to suit the demands of my career and family.”

Dr Julia Jones

Dr Julia Jones MBBS (Hons) FRACP
Master of Bioethics 2017

“The Master of Bioethics has taught me about different approaches to tackling ethical issues in my work. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about and then discussing difficult ethical concerns with my fellow students. It has been valuable hearing different perspectives from people with diverse professional backgrounds helping me to form balanced views on difficult problems. Studying a Masters in Bioethics will help me to be the kind of kidney specialist that I aspire to be.”