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Undergraduate course

Politics, Philosophy & Ethics BA (Hons)

Dive into rule, revolution, conflict and resolution to understand how and why the world operates the way it does.

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Our world is changing fast. New technologies, political upheaval, global environmental concerns – the challenges we face now are not those of previous generations and the tools to address them are yours to discover.

York campus

  • UCAS Code – L2V5
  • Duration – 3 years full-time | 6 years part-time
  • Start date – September 2021
  • School – School of Humanities

Minimum Entry Requirements

    104 UCAS Tariff points

    3 GCSEs at grade C/4 (or equivalent) including English Language

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2021 entry £9,250 per year full time

    International 2021 entry £12,750 per year full time

Discover why York St John is The One

Course overview

A rich understanding of political theory will enable you to analyse, challenge and address the unique political issues of the world today – but it is through an understanding of philosophy and ethics that you can balance questions of social good and global justice. If politics is your map to a changing political landscape then philosophy and ethics are your compass. This Politics, Philosophy & Ethics Degree will develop you as a resilient and insightful thinker and an active citizen, prepared for a range of careers.

Drawing upon historical and contemporary thinkers, this course explores the trajectory of political thought, tackling questions which have troubled mankind throughout time. Why should we obey the state? What is ‘good government’? How do we understand equality and what makes for a just society? Through an investigation of these questions you will consider the social and historical context, impact and legacy of key thinkers and ideological movements.

We also encourage you to explore topics of personal interest and to look beyond standard practice and simple answers; how have philosophers understood a controversial idea like forgiveness, or a complex emotion like compassion? How might watching films be a way of exploring ethical problems?

Philosophers have played an influential role in the development of political and ethical thought throughout history. This course will introduce you to some of the most important topics in these areas and give you a full understanding of their interaction historically and in contemporary contexts. Through this application to everyday concerns, philosophy will come to life. No longer just as an intriguing intellectual pursuit, philosophy becomes a way of engaging with the world around us and the problems it presents us with.

Course Structure

Level 1


Modules include:

Introducing Politics: Key Concept and Skills
This module introduces students to the academic study of Politics. It will introduce students to basic terms, concepts, methodologies and issues in the study of politics in preparation for their degree programme. A key focus will be exploring the diverse definitions and the scope of politics.

‘Politics and …’: An Interdisciplinary View
This module is designed to demonstrate to students that the ‘real world’ does not neatly divide itself into discrete subjects and disciplines. Students will be guided through a series of case studies that bridge and incorporate perspectives from politics and at least one other academic discipline.

Political Philosophy: Themes and Thinkers
The module takes a thematic look at key issues in political philosophy, locating the ideas of thinkers throughout the span of the history of political thought within these. The themes will be organised in response to fundamental questions of political thought, such as: Who should rule? Why should we obey the state? What does a just society look like.

International or Global? Globalization in Debate
The module introduces students to the debate surrounding the nature and extent of ‘globalisation’ and its impact on the role and power of contemporary states.

Values and Virtues: Ethics and Religion
The module will take you through the key concepts and theories in moral philosophy. You will challenge muddy thinking and learn how to identify, critique and apply moral theories with clarity. By the end of the module, you will have gained a critical understanding of classic and contemporary theories underlying religious and secular ethics.

Philosophy and Religion
The module will take you through important debates in the philosophy of religion, from the classic to the contemporary. You will gain a critical understanding of religion as a pervasive aspect of human society as well challenging preconceived ideas and learn how to construct rational arguments.

Level 2


Modules include:

Political Analysis: Theory and Method
The module provides a comprehensive overview of different theoretical and methodological approaches to studying the political world. There will be critical coverage of schools of political analysis broadly focused around structural and agential approaches. These may include: behavioural analysis; rational choice; institutionalism; Marxism; constructivism; feminist approaches; political psychology.

Political Ideologies
The module explores the origins and evolution of the political ideologies that have shaped major social and political developments from the 18th Century to the present, and those ideological movements that have arisen as critical responses to the mainstream. There will be a broad coverage of ideological traditions, which may include: liberalism, conservatism, socialism, anarchism, nationalism, fascism, feminism, fundamentalism, environmentalism, multiculturalism.

Using Political Philosophy
The module aims to examine contemporary issues in society and explore how political philosophy can help us to understand and develop arguments and perspectives in response to these. Furthermore, the module aims to show the impact that political philosophies can and do have on decision-makers, as well as social groups and wider society.

Film, Ethics and Theology will explore the way in which film may be used as a source of theological and ethical reflection and, introduce students to a range of approaches to understanding the significance of film-watching more generally. Students will be given a conceptual base on which they will then develop their own engagement with film.

From Descartes to Marx: Philosophers and Religion focuses on modern western philosophy, and aims to cover in some detail key philosophers from the beginning of the 17th century through to the end of the 19th century, as well as the ethical and religious issues that emerge from their thought.

Matters of Life and Death will take you through some of the key life and death issues in practical philosophy. You will challenge existing assumptions by identifying, critiquing and assessing arguments. By the end of the module, you will have gained a critical understanding of religious and medical ethics.

An Employability module is an opportunity for students to reflect on possible futures, find out more about the world of work, and to explore the philosophical, theological and ethical issues relevant to workplaces.

Level 3


Modules include:

The Social Contract: Justifying the State
The module constitutes an in-depth study of perspectives on the social contract, primarily through the works of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Through an examination of the social contract tradition, this module allows students to critically explore possible justifications for why we need government and state.

Contemporary Political Philosophy
The module explores a range of developments in modern political philosophy, involving an in-depth study of works by scholars which may include John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Susan Moller Okin, Brian Barry, Michael Sandel, and Gerald Cohen. In doing so, the module aims to cover several key themes, which may include: Justice; Libertarianism; Marxism; Feminism; Multiculturalism; Citizenship.

The Morality of War
The module explores philosophical thinking on war, considering questions such as: Is it ever right to go to war? What constitutes a justifiable reason to go to war (jus ad bellum)? What is the right way to conduct war (jus in bello)? How should wars end (jus post bellum)? In doing so the module will critically review the literature on just war theory, examining arguments dating from Aristotle, early Christianity, the Enlightenment, through the tumultuous 20th century to the contemporary state of the debate. Alternative perspectives may also be considered, such as Asian perspectives of just war, forms of pacifism and advocacy of non-violent resistance.

Global Justice
The module explores how longstanding questions and concerns over social and distributive justice are of increasing concern at the global level, for both philosophers and activists. Starting with fundamental questions of justice – Who should get what? What are our duties to each other? – The module examines how approaches to justice have evolved through social, international and global conceptions. The module will cover various issues within the scope of global justice, which may include: human rights, humanitarian intervention, poverty and economic inequality, gender, natural resources, migration, the environment.

Evolution, Theology and Ethics explores the philosophical implications of the theory of evolution by natural selection. In doing so, you will consider the relationship between scientific knowledge/theory and matters of existential or ethical significance.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation will introduce you to a range of philosophical and theological perspectives concerning the meaning and possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation and learn how to use resources from a range of other disciplines (e.g. ethical and political theory, peace studies, psychology) to conduct a sustained, critical reflection upon these issues.

Feminist Ethics and Religion will take you through advanced moral theory and issues in applied ethics, considering both traditional approaches and contemporary feminist arguments. You will challenge presumptions and prejudices and learn to identify gender discrimination in theory and practice, while relating your findings to the teaching and practice of the Abrahamic religions.

This year-long, double-weighted module will involve the student working independently to research a topic in the field of Politics, and is the culmination of the Politics degree. The purpose of the module is to enable students to plan, research, and write a substantial piece of work which demonstrates the ability to structure a sustained argument, think independently, and deliver a document to a required standard of presentation.

Teaching & Assessment

Teaching & Learning

We use a range of teaching styles and settings to help support you during your time at York St John. You will attend lectures, seminars (groups of students with a tutor), tutorials (one-to-one meetings with a tutor), workshops, and experience collaborative learning (working with your fellow students), events, field trips, as well as independent study sessions, and times when you will need to use online resources through the University’s Virtual Learning Environment. In the classroom you may find yourself leading a class discussion, or doing a non-assessed presentation. To gain maximum benefit from class contact time, you will need to engage fully with academic literature, notably academic books, academic journal articles, original texts and official reports, where relevant.

Assessment & Feedback

The Politics, Philosophy and Ethics degree is committed to authentic, real-world assessment. As such, assessment is entirely through coursework, with no exams. You will experience a wide range of assessment modes designed to help you develop new skills and prepare for graduate employment, which may include essays, portfolios, reflective writing, individual and group presentations, video presentations, posters, group reports, book/article reviews, and case study reports. This variety is to ensure that the kinds of work you are doing through the degree reflect the kinds of work graduates undertake, in professional employment or further study.

Feedback is essential in identifying what you have done well and how you can improve. Not only will you receive detailed feedback on the summative (credit-bearing) assessments on each module, but you will also have the opportunity to check your understanding and develop assessment skills through formative assessment. Formative assessment moves the focus away from end-result grades towards your learning process and positive, qualitative feedback. This can take the form of written and oral work, concept checking and mapping exercises, submitted and class-based activities. Ultimately, this will positively impact on your academic performance.

Entry Requirements


The minimum entry requirements for this course are:

104 UCAS Tariff points

3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above (or equivalent) including English Language

International Students

If you are an international student you will need to show that your qualifications match our entry requirements. Information about international qualifications and entry requirements can be found on our international pages.

If your first language is not English you must show evidence of English language competence at IELTS level 6.0 (with no skill below 5.5) or equivalent.

International entry requirements

Foundation Year

This course is available with a foundation year. This option is ideal if you do not yet meet the minimum requirements for entry straight onto a degree course, or feel you are not quite ready for the transition to Higher Education. A foundation year prepares you for degree level study, giving you the confidence and skills needed to make the most of your course. Passing it guarantees you a place on this degree course the following academic year.

Foundation courses

Terms and conditions

Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. These can be accessed through our Admissions webpages.

Fees and funding

To study for an undergraduate degree with us, you will need to pay tuition fees for your course. How much you pay depends on whether you live inside the UK or EU, or internationally (outside the UK/EU). Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

UK and EU 2021 entry

The tuition fee for 202 entry onto this course is

  • £9,250 per year for full time study
  • £6,935 per year for the first 4 years if you study part time.

These prices apply to all UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

You can find out more about funding your degree by visiting our funding opportunities page.

Funding Opportunities

Placement year funding

If you choose to take a placement year, and your course offers it, you can apply for the Tuition Fee and Maintenance Loan for your placement year. How much you are awarded is based on the type of placement being undertaken and whether it is a paid or unpaid placement. The tuition fee for your placement year will be reduced.

International 2021 entry

The tuition fee for 2021 entry to this course is £12,750 per year for full time study.

This price applies to all students living outside the UK/EU.

Due to immigration laws, if you are an international student on a student visa, you must study full time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.

Find out more about funding your degree.

International Fees and Funding

Additional costs and financial support

There may also be some additional costs to take into account throughout your studies, including the cost of accommodation.

Course-related costs

While studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing personal equipment and stationery, books and optional field trips.

Study Abroad

For more information on tuition fee reductions and additional costs for studying abroad, please visit our study abroad pages.

Accommodation and living costs

View our accommodation pages for detailed information on accommodation and living costs.

Financial help and support

Our Funding Advice team are here to help you with your finances throughout your degree. They offer a personal service that can help you with funding your studies and budgeting for living expenses. 

All undergraduates receive financial support through the York St John Aspire card. Find out more about the Aspire scheme and how it can be used to help you purchase equipment you need for your course. 

Aspire Card

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