Centre for Applied Ethics

MPhil in Applied Ethics (Social and Political Ethics)

This programme is offered every second year. Applications for the 2023 intake will open in July 2022.

This MPhil specialisation focuses on contemporary ethical issues related to collective action, information distribution and consumption, artificial intelligence, racial prejudice, sexual harm, justice and equality, risk and trust, and migration and xenophobia. The investigation of these issues is anchored, in turn, in broader ethical reflection on social norms and public policy. You will receive advanced instruction in ethical theory and the methods of practical ethics, aided by extensive case studies. The aim throughout is to integrate theoretical knowledge, critical thinking and real-world decision-making.

Is this specialisation for me?

The specialisation in social and political ethics is suited to people working in government, law, journalism, politics, the civil service, public enterprises, information technology, the NGO sector, policy institutes or social activism who seek a better understanding of the ethical issues they face in their professional environment. More broadly, the specialisation is suited to anyone who is interested in thinking more deeply and critically about the moral questions we face as individuals and as citizens. The flexible structure of the programme makes it possible to pursue this qualification without interrupting your career.

Programme format

The social and political ethics specialisation consists of 11 study units (click on the link below to see the draft syllabus for 2021). For the taught component of the programme, you will participate in two intensive, week-long contact sessions: one week in the first semester and one week in the second semester of 2021. If we cannot meet on campus due to Covid-19, we will meet on a virtual platform such as zoom or MS Teams. We will inform you of these arrangements well ahead of time. Apart from participating in the contact sessions, you will be expected to complete a number of coursework assignments plus an exam, and write a thesis of 20 000 to 30 000 words on a research topic of your choice. The coursework and the thesis will each constitute 50% of your final mark.

Click here for the 2021 syllabus


To qualify for this specialisation in the MPhil (Applied Ethics) programme, you need the following:

  • A four-year qualification – an Honours degree, or a three-year degree plus a postgraduate diploma – from a recognised university;
  • Sufficient prior training in philosophy and ethics;
  • A minimum average of 60% for previous philosophy and ethics courses. Realistically, however, we recommend a prior average of at least 70% for the specialisation in social and political ethics.


For more information, please contact Prof Vasti Roodt at vroodt@sun.ac.za.

Apply now for 2021