MA in Contemporary Ethics

Programme Leader

Dr Anna Abram

If you are interested in what makes society good and individuals function well, this is a course for you. You will be introduced to standard moral theories, different ways of formulating moral arguments, and applying ethical values to all aspects of life. You will investigate models of moral decision-making and the impossibility of achieving total precision (in contrast to mathematics) when it comes to moral truth. The dialogical and inter-disciplinary approach that we foster in this course will help you make ethics relevant to your particular context and to allow you to understand the moral condition of yourself and society. The will course will especially appeal to you if your occupation requires ethical reflection, particularly if you are a teacher, a public, health, business or social service professional, a religious minister, or if you are simply interested in exploring ideas related to the ‘good life’ and wish to make an informed contribution to contemporary ethical debates.  The degree incorporates two core modules and two optional modules (see below).

Compulsory Modules

Foundations of Morality

This compulsory core module offers an introduction to different ways of thinking about moral ideas within normative philosophical ethics. It inquires into such questions as ‘what makes an act right or wrong and the human being good or bad?’; ‘how should one live?’, ‘what is the good life?, ‘how do we assess difficult moral situations?’; ‘where our principles come from?’; ‘why be moral?’, ‘do moral facts exist?’; ‘what does moral living require of us, both as human beings and within our specific social, professional and vocational roles?’. In searching for answers, key moral theories (deontology, teleology and virtue ethics) are considered.  The module engages in dialogue with neuroscience and artificial intelligence as well as major influences on ethical debate (relativism; theistic and non-theistic approaches; science); conscience; human rights; law and morality.

Moral Development, Reasoning and Decision Making

This compulsory module provides introduction to developmental moral psychology in conversation with selected themes from within normative philosophical ethics (for example, ‘care’, ‘justice’ and ‘duty’. It engages with science and art.  It inquires into such questions as ‘what is moral maturity?’; how does the moral self develop?’; ‘what constitutes and conditions moral growth’?; ‘how to achieve moral excellence?’; ‘is good character enough for leading morally good life?’, ‘how do we assess difficult moral situations and prioritise goods?’; ‘how do we deal with moral incontinence or failure?’; ‘what should the content of moral education be in order foster moral growth?’.

Optional Modules

Ethics in Professional Context 30

This interactive, interdisciplinary module is designed to explore ethical concepts as they form, relate and critique a particular professional context, with a view to helping students develop their own foundations and tools for reasoning about their own professional ethics.  The module explores questions about sources of ethical thinking, the role of moral imagination in professional practice as well as such central concepts as ‘equality’ and ‘discrimination’; ‘partiality and impartiality’, ‘common good’, ‘responsibility’, ‘conscience’, ‘justice and care’; ‘personal versus professional’; ‘paternalism and autonomy’; ‘virtue,’ ‘right’ and ‘duty’ in the context of work.  Various case studies are introduced throughout the module in order to address these questions and discuss the possibilities of responsible professional practice.

Catholic Social Thought for Contemporary Christian Practice 30

This optional module explores official documents of the Roman Catholic Church known as ‘Catholic Social Teaching’ as well as other sources, thinkers, and social movements known as ‘Catholic Social Thought’ (CST) in relation to economic, social, and political life. Much of CST has been explicitly addressed not only to Catholics, but to people of all faiths and none, as it addresses issues of our common sociality and our common political structures. Throughout the module, students are encouraged to connect this body of thought and its key themes to praxis in particular contexts.

+PG Major Project: Dissertation 60

Other optional modules can be chosen from the following list:

  • Christianity and Ecology 30
  • Interfaith Relations from Theory to Encounter 30
  • Embodying Wisdom 15
  • Christian Spirituality, Imagination and the Arts 15
  • Mystery of Love 30
  • Philosophy and Theology 30

Co-validated modules are optional modules available to students taking a particular programme but are run by one of the other ARU MA programmes: Christian Spirituality East and West, Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Contemporary Faith and Belief in the Global Context.

 (Nb. not all modules run every year)

For more information about this course please visit the Cambridge Theological Federation MA in Contemporary Ethics or contact the programme leader Dr Anna Abram on

Apply for a course starting in September 2024

Frequently Asked Questions – MA Courses

About our MAs
All our MAs are ecumenical. They are run jointly by tutors from across the Cambridge Theological Federation from a variety of theological backgrounds (Catholic, Orthodox, Methodist, Anglican, Jewish etc.).

We have four MA pathways: Christian Spirituality East and West, Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Contemporary Ethics, and Contemporary Faith and Belief in the Global Context.

What kind of students take our MAs?
Students come from a diverse range of backgrounds and include: returning learners, career change, professionals seeking development.

What will you learn on our MAs?
You will become a subject specialist but you will also learn about different methodological approaches that underpin each of our theology MAs, meaning that you will be equipped to take options outside of your specific field if you want.

How are the MAs course taught?
The MAs are delivered flexibly, and students can choose between a mixture of classroom and online/directed study (blended learning), and taking the MA through distance learning.

Some modules are delivered weekly, others are taught in intensive blocks.

How are the MAs structured?
Each MA consists of four taught modules (compulsory and optional) and a dissertation (15,000). It is normally taken over two years part-time.

What are the entry requirements?
Students normally require a good first degree (minimum 2:1) or equivalent experience. If you are unsure, contact us to find out if you are eligible.

Can I try out one of the modules to see if the MA is for me?
Most of our modules are also available for paying ‘guests’ to audit (numbers limited).
One module can also be taken as an affiliate student – which means the credit can be integrated into the MA when you enrol.

Who validates the MAs and how do I apply?
The course is validated by Anglia Ruskin University and students apply to study with us directly through the Anglia Ruskin website (see links below under each MA).

How much does it cost?
Full details can be found on the Cambridge Theological Federation website:

Who should I contact if I want to talk about this more before I apply?
For more information or to apply for this course please email Dr Sean Ryan