Skip to content Exit mobile menu

Your next steps...

Open days

This established MA course equips you with the skills to assess the ethical, legal, social and spiritual aspects of advances in medicine and related technologies. 

  • Graduates now serving on their national bioethics committees.
  • Both current students and graduates published regularly in peer review journals.
  • There are flexible full time, or two-three year part time options with a choice of on-site or blended distance learning available.
  • Priority placed on building thriving learning communities between students and lecturers.

Why study Bioethics and Medical Law?

Whether you realise it or not bioethics is relevant to all our lives. Even if we never work in healthcare it touches us when we are most vulnerable - when we or those we care for are unwell.

Almost every day, it seems some new ethical dilemma appears in the news; whether to do with assisted dying, stem cell therapies or three-parent IVF, resource allocation, nanotechnologies, human cloning or health and climate change. Having a greater understanding of the issues involved can enable more in-depth public engagement.

Reflection on the ethical principles that underlie medical and allied practice is an important part of continuing career development for healthcare professionals.

Ethics and values are becoming central themes in many boardrooms and planning meetings across all sectors of life. From civic leadership to business, from politics to healthcare, new developments in medicine, biotech, genetics and other sciences are stretching traditional ethical understanding to the limit.

If you are working in any of these areas, or aspire to in the future, the MA in Bioethics and Medical Law is an excellent way to be equipped to play your part. 

Many of our students study for the MA as a form of professional development and advancing their career prospects. The degree sharpens your ability to critically engage and contribute to the world around you: the study of a contemporary and universally relevant subject such as medical ethics and law is excellent preparation for any profession that requires graduates with high levels of human understanding, critical skills and knowledge of current affairs.

Why St Mary's?

At St Mary's our multidisciplinary team of ethics experts with backgrounds in law, medicine, philosophy and theology ensure that every student has a chance to gain a thorough understanding of the grounding of ethical principles and their application.

We place a high priority on building a learning community between students and lecturers, which allows for the exchange of ideas and perspectives to thrive.

Personal Tutors will support you throughout the degree, providing learning guidance that will assist you to make the best possible progress and help to map your career development.

The success of our students - in completing PhDs, getting papers published and advancing their careers in biomedical ethics and related fields - bears out the effectiveness of this approach.

The MA in Bioethics and Medical Law is offered both part-time (normally over two or three years) and full-time (over one year). This structure has the great benefit of flexibility, allowing you to switch between your initial decision to study for an MA, PGDip or PGCert.

Aims and outcomes

  • To promote respect for human dignity and the life of human beings, as understood in the Hippocratic / Judeo-Christian tradition, through the provision of a thorough academic understanding of the major issues and competing schools of contemporary bioethics.
  • To contribute significantly to St Mary's University’s mission to seek to develop the whole person and empower its community to have a positive impact on the world.
  • To familiarise its students with the plurality of academic and practical approaches to bioethical issues and encourage them to study all approaches with academic rigour and sensitivity.
  • To promote academic enquiry into Bioethics within a Hippocratic/Judeo- Christian context with awareness of the ecumenical and inter-faith significance of cooperation in matters of justice.
  • To provide healthcare professionals and those who teach ethical subjects with the intellectual resources to reflect critically on the ethical issues of modern medicine.
  • To develop as a centre for dialogue and reflection for those within the Catholic Church, those of other Christian traditions and of other faiths or none, in order to explore the theme of common humanity, and hence to promote the culture of life.

Upcoming open days and webinars

We'll be running events for you to find out more about Bioethics and Medical Law MA, PGDip, PGCert on the following dates:

  • Tuesday 25th April 2023, 5.30pm

Course lead

Matthew James headshotMatthew James
Course Lead

Entry requirements

2:2 Previous degree

Students are normally required to achieve a 2:2 degree from a UK university, or equivalent, in a relevant subject.

Additional requirement information

Alternatively, a professional qualification in teaching, medicine or law is also accepted.

Medical students can also take the full-time MA programme as an intercalated option during their studies usually in their third of fourth year of training.

If you don't meet these requirements you may be admitted if you show evidence of sufficient experience and aptitude for academic study at Master's Level. You'll need to provide a portfolio of suitable work and experience.


International requirements

International students should check our country-specific pages for equivalents. If English is not your first language you will need to achieve an IELTS score of 6.5 overall with no less than 6.0 in any section (or equivalent).

We now accept IELTS Indicator test results as proof of your English language level.

Further information

For more information about entry requirements please email

Course content


  •  Core
  •  Core
  •  Core
  •  Core
  •  Option
  •  Option
  •  Core

Please note: it is possible that a module listed on the website will not be able to run due to reasons beyond our control. For more information please refer to our course information disclaimer.

Career opportunities

Institutions are increasingly being called to account for their decisions and procedures, and reflection on the ethical principles that underlie practice is an important part of CPD for healthcare professionals.

This degree is, therefore, a very flexible qualification to have. It offers something unique for your CV: our students find the course a distinguishing asset when applying for jobs in medicine, nursing and allied health care professions, as well as in education and law.

The degree provides a strong foundation anyone wishing to pursue undertake a PhD. Previous graduates have gone on to study for doctorates across the globe. Several past students are currently on the national bioethics bodies for their home countries.

Working with the Employability Service, we aim to help students explore the range of opportunities available to them once they have completed their MA.

A careers forum is held each year, with graduates and other guests sharing their insight as to how a degree in bioethics has helped their career progression and current students can learn of the variety of career opportunities available.

Return to sub navigation

How the degree is taught

Teaching methods

You'll be taught on our beautiful and historic campus located in Twickenham, London.

All the lectures are available on our online learning platform. Both on-site and distance learners also participate in online discussion.

Some highlights of the course each year include:

  • Extensive use of film clips and current news items incorporated into the taught programme to encourage you to reflect on and analyze contemporary events.
  • A field trip to a local hospice helping to enhance your understanding of theory and practice.
  • Use of the flipped classroom approach enabling you to explore subjects in a deeper manner as well as enhancing your research and critical reasoning skills. 
  • A drama presentation which aids your reflective practice and creative exploration of key ethical ideas and concepts.

Assessment methods

A variety of different forms of assessment are employed across the programme including:

  • Online discussion
  • Critiques of academic papers, news media and thought leader pieces
  • Essays
  • Collaborative based assessments
  • An unseen written examination (in the case of medical law)

How the course is taught

Lectures and discussion groups are held on campus, one (part-time) or two evenings (full-time) per week.

All students attend three (part-time) or six (full-time) Saturday study days over the year.


View all facilities

Fees and funding

Tuition fees

September 2023

  • Home: £10,500
  • International: £16,350

The tuition fees listed are for the duration of the course. Students will be charged for the modules undertaken per academic year. Module prices are calculated as a percentage of credits against the total credits and cost of the degree. Please see clause 5.15.2 of the Tuition Fee Regulations for further information.

Tuition fees are subject to an inflationary increase each year, meaning if your course runs over more than one academic year you may pay an increased fee per module for each subsequent year of study. Tuition fee increases for returning students will be capped at the higher of 5% per annum or the rate of Consumer Price Index inflation in the United Kingdom.

Alumni discount

A 20% tuition fee discount is available for our alumni (undergraduate and PGCE) planning to study this Master's degree. Those studying for a PGDip of PGCert are not eligible for the discount.


Government-funded loans of over £11,000 are available to many home postgraduate students. Home and international students may also be eligible for external sources of funding.  International students should check their eligibility for our International Scholarship.

For more information, please look at our postgraduate funding page.

Additional costs

Your tuition fees will cover the cost of all mandatory elements of your programme. Additional costs could be incurred depending on optional modules chosen and other projects undertaken.

For further information about additional costs please see our additional costs webpage

Further information

Previous dissertations

Previous titles of completed MA dissertations have included:

  • Wombs without borders - The Ethics of International Surrogacy
  • The Ethics of Performance Related Pay in Nursing
  • Should the rights of donor-conceived children be the ruling principle in gamete donation in the UK?
  • Creating an Ethical Framework for a Financial Market in Organs
  • Ethics of sectioning the mentally ill for their own protection
  • Is there anybody there? An examination of what Levinas's "Face" and Kitwood's practice might contribute to an ethical understanding of dementia
  • An examination into the embryo disposal practices of UK licensed fertility clinics
  • The Use of Pronuclear Zygotes
  • The effect of abortion on moral character
  • Professionalism and managerialism and in modern healthcare, how can they co-exist for the benefit of the patient?
  • To what extent has the duty of candour changed patient-professional relationships? A feminist analysis
  • Stem cell research
  • Is it possible to maintain a distinctive ethos in a Catholic hospital today: As demonstrated by Mount Alvernia Hospital, Guildford, UK?
  • Abortion policy for the disabled: Is it discriminatory?
  • The public health dimensions of the use of depleted Uranium in warfare
  • In the patient's best interest? From paternalism to autonomy
  • Is autonomy the appropriate principle for DNR decision making?
  • Is the legal protection of conscientious objection for medical professionals in respect of abortion adequate following Doogan v Greater Glasgow Health Board?
  • Forced isolation for infectious tuberculosis: are patient’s rights sufficiently protected? A comparison of the law and its application in the Netherlands, England and South Africa.
  • The Liverpool Care Pathway
  • Genetics in the movies: how the ethical questions are being portrayed in science fiction films
  • The tyranny of autonomy
  • Daily bread and just desserts: an examination of the activity of human nourishing and eating within an ethical context
  • The Labour Government’s Policy on Teenage Pregnancy from 1997
  • Prenatal Screening and Disability: Ethical issues and discrimination
  • Ectogenesis – is it really necessary?
  • Communication in Radiography: Ethical and Legal Aspects in the UK and Malta
  • The Rest of the Surrogacy Story: Lesser-known feminist critiques of commercial surrogacy
  • Context and content of clinical photography: issues of human rights and the implications for responsible practice in the imaging of medicine
  • Physician assisted suicide in Oregon
  • Utilitarianism's critique of the sanctity of life doctrine: a world-view perspective
  • Organ transplantation - Who is the donor?
  • Defining Dignity: What is dignity and why does it matter?
  • The ethics of choice in healthcare
  • What is a good death? An exploration of issues at the end of life through phenomenological analysis of selected dramatic literature
  • Perceptions of personhood and healthcare allocation
  • Passive suicide: Towards and understanding and definition of suicidal refusals of life-sustaining treatment or subsistence requirements
  • Before virtue: Does sexual goodness exist?
  • The implantable cardioverter defibrillator at the end of life
  • Natural Embryo Loss in Human Reproduction: How much do we really know?
  • Hybrids in the Press: Media coverage of UK human-animal hybrid legislation
  • The impact of new practitioner roles in healthcare: a potential threat to professional relationships and values?