UCL Health Humanities Centre


MA Philosophy, Politics and Economics of Health

Hardly a week goes by in the UK without some new controversy regarding the distribution of health resources. Phrases like ‘postcode lottery’, and the notion of a QALY, or quality adjusted life year, are part of everyday discussion of health resource allocation. Questions about the pros and cons of privatising elements of service provision are hugely controversial and raise strong passions. There are all questions and issues in the Philosophy, Politics and Economics of Health.

Aims of the programme

The programme aims to equip students to play an informed role in debates concerning distributive justice and health. It will explore the central ethical, economic and political problems facing health policy in the UK and abroad, especially in relation to social justice. Hence the course will cover relevant areas of moral and political theory, economics, and political and historical analysis, to allow students to come to a wide understanding of background issues, history and constraints, in order to be able to make a positive contribution to current debates.

The course will be of interest to those wishing to specialise in this area, with a background in medicine, in social science or philosophy. It will also be of interest to those already working in the health service, whether in a managerial, policy or medical role. The course is available in full-time, part-time and flexible study.

For comments from students on the course click here, and to apply, go here.

Programme Structure

The programme is composed of courses to a value of 180 units. All students must take:

  1. Core Module
  2. Health Policy and Reform
  3. Key Principles of Health Economics
  4. Dissertation

Details of core modules

  • Philosophy Politics and Economics of Health (15 credits). This module examines some central ethical, economic and political problems facing health policy in the UK and abroad, especially in relation to social justice. Topics covered include: the allocation of scarce healthcare resources; the appropriate role of the state in protecting and promoting health (e.g. obesity and public policy); health inequalities and inequities; screening and risk; and special challenges posed by infectious diseases.
  • Health Policy and Reform (15 credits). This module provides a comparative examination of health reform. It enables students to analyse different kinds of health systems and reforms, and their likely health, financial and political effects consequences. The main aims of the module are: to enable students to describe and analyse health systems in terms of basic financial, organisational, political, professional and health parameters; to review the impact of common types of health reforms, taking into account the domestic environment; to identify factors likely to affect health systems in the future (e.g. demographic and technological change; globalisation).
  • Key Principles of Health Economics (15 credits). This course introduces key concepts in health economics using the foundations of economic theory, and then applies that theory to health and health markets.  It enables participants to understand how demand and supply interact, how markets work and why they fail, and to identify the main methods of health financing. Students also learn how to critically use economic evaluation evidence (cost effectiveness, cost utility and cost benefit analyses).
  • Dissertation (60 credits). All students do a extended dissertation (up to 12,000 words) on a topic of their choosing. Recent dissertation topics include: the Human Right to Health, the Ethics of Health Nudges, Dementia and Personhood, Access to Essential Medicines, and the Ethics of Polio Eradication.


Plus courses to a further value of 75 credits, from a range of approved options in Philosophy, Political Science, Economics, Epidemiology, Science and Technology Studies and Medicine. Examples of approved courses include: 

  • PHILGA04 Global Justice and Health
  • PHILGA36 Research in Philosophy, Justice and Health
  • PHILGA09 General Philosophy: Moral and Political Philosophy
  • PHILGA10 General Philosophy: Epistemology and Metaphysics
  • PHILGA25 Normative Ethics
  • PHILGA33 Graduate Studies in Moral Philosophy
  • All other Masters level modules in Philosophy
  • MEDCG005 Ethics and Regulation of Research
  • PUBLG037 Public Ethics
  • PUBLGL08 Contemporary Political Philosophy 1
  • PUBLGL09 Contemporary Political Philosophy 2
  • PUBLG081 Global Ethics
  • PUBLG054 Political Economy of Development
  • PUBLG084 Social Value and Public Policy, Health and the Environment
  • EPIDGS42 Health inequalities over the lifecourse
  • CIHDG041 Economic evaluation in healthcare
  • CIHD3003 Conflict, Humanitarianism and Health
  • CIHDG043 Death, Dying and Consequences
  • CIHDG011 Disability and Development
  • CIHDG039 Global Health and Development: Emerging Policy Debates
  • ANTHGD12 Medical Anthropology
  • LAWSG142 Law and Governance of Global Health
  • LAWSG068 Comparative Human Rights Law
  • LAWSG068A Comparative Human Rights Law
  • ECONG052 Ethics in Welfare Economics.
  • HPSCGA20 Medieval Science and Medicine in Global Perspective
  • HPSCGA47 Responsible Science and Innovation
  • HPSCGA23 Science, Art and Philosophy
  • HPSCGA26 Models and Facts in Science
  • HPSCGA27 Causality, Mechanism and Evidence in Science
  • HPSCGA29 Disease in History
  • HPSCGA46 Science, Technology, and Identity
  • ANTHGD12 Medical Anthropology

Teaching staff on the core and optional modules include:

For further details, please contact Dr James Wilson.