International Ethics and Global Justice


Explore the ethical issues arising from an unequal world with borders. Information, goods and people are travelling further, faster and in larger quantities than ever before. Are our existing institutions and practices still up to the job? What about our theories of justice? 

According to the cosmopolitan, justice applies on a global basis. This is very different to our current world of states with vastly different levels of wealth. Cosmopolitanism implies the need for much more generous actions to help the poorest in the world, which would presumably mean less assistance for the poorer members of wealthy societies. 

The course will consider some of the arguments for a cosmopolitan approach, and the attempts of philosophers to justify the state-based status quo. Does nationalism justify partiality within a state? Or perhaps the importance of sharing the state as an institution can justify the partiality without invoking potentially controversial national ties?

In the second half of the course we will move on to consider several international important policy issues such as trade, aid and taxation. Should wealthy states do more to assist the poorest people in the world? We will bring in the views of economists and others to consider the difficult trade-offs between different aims such as helping the poorest in the world, effectiveness and formal sovereignty.

Borders also raise questions of territory, migration, migrant rights, and policies of assimilation or multiculturalism. Some political philosophers have argued that it is unfair or unjustifiable to refuse people entry. We will consider the arguments for border liberalism and for maintaining the status quo.  

A final important question is what states owe to migrants once they arrive. Should economic migrants have the same economic rights as citizens? How quickly should they be able to apply for citizenship? Again, economists often take a different view to philosophers on these points and we will consider the arguments. 

Taking account of economic theories and factors, this course considers ethical arguments about these crucial and hotly contested issues.

Programme details

Course begins: 17th April 2023

No Class on 1st, 8th and 29th May due to UK Public Bank Holidays

Week 0: Orientation. (17th April)

Week 1:  Introductions, methods and the dilemmas of global justice. (24th April)

Week 2:  Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism. (15th May)

Week 3:  Rawls’ Law of Peoples: why are some societies poorer than others?  (22nd May)

Week 4:  Is global poverty caused by International Organisations?  (5th June)

Week 5:  Do institutions create the ties of justice? (12th June)

Week 6:  Trade policy: Is free trade better for all? (19th June)

Week 7:  Aid policy: what do rich countries owe poor countries? (26th June)

Week 8:  Does taxation need to go global? (3rd July)

Week 9:  The state, territoriality and citizenship: Do states have a right to keep people out? (10th July)

Week 10:  What do states owe to immigrants? (17th July)


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £238.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Doug Bamford

Doug Bamford received his PhD in Political Philosophy at the University of Warwick in 2013. He is author of Rethinking Taxation (Searching Finance, 2014) and several papers (including articles in the Journal of Applied Philosophy and Moral Philosophy and Politics). Several of these works consider questions of international taxation. He blogs at Doug Bamford's Tax Appeal.

Course aims

1. To introduce students to the main contemporary theories of international justice and political economy, and to apply them to live policy issues.

2. To give students good knowledge and understanding of the main positions available on the above issues and some of the key arguments for and against them.

3. To give students practice in the analysis and critical assessment of arguments.

Course Objectives

1. To distinguish empirical and normative premises and their role in arguments about global justice.

2. The ability to critically engage with arguments about global justice.

3. Present and defend their own views on these issues both verbally and in writing.

Teaching methods

Students will be provided with pre-recorded talks each week and will be asked to read one or two relevant selections each week before the weekly live session. Live sessions, at the time advertised, will provide an opportunity to ask questions and for class discussion on the topic.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1. have a knowledge and understanding of the political philosophies and how they apply to policy;

2. have learnt how to offer arguments for and against the main positions introduced and have learnt skills in the analysis and critical assessment of arguments;

3. have gained confidence in expressing ideas in open debate.

Assessment methods

Coursework will consist of

either one essay of 1500 words

or two or three smaller essays totalling this amount.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


Each course will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)