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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Study ethics and improve your ability to make good decisions.

Ethics is the study of morality, our rights and responsibilities, and how we can lead a good life. This course will help you gain insight into how some decisions which are made might be considered right or not.

Ethics can appear a very "impractical" area of study to some; but an understanding of "ethics" becomes critical when attempting to make important and often controversial decisions about issues such as social equity, or even how to manage limited resources - whether financial, environmental or people.




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Understanding Ethics is Important in many Professions; from legal and security services to business, religion, welfare and health.
  • When you understand and can present a convincing ethical argument, your ability to operate in many professions is enhanced.
  • Be more decisive and more effective, and in many professions, your employability and career prospects can be significantly enhanced.
  • Course Duration: 100 hours of self paced study.  Start at any time and study when you want to.

Studying an ethics course is essential for many professionals, and extremely valuable for others.

  • This ethics course will increase your understanding of the theories of ethics, philosophy, an ethical society, virtues, morals and much more.
    Gain an insight into how modern ethics developed.
  • Look at practical applications of ethics in the workplace - health, business and other areas.
  • Build your capacity and confidence to make better decisions, for work, home or play.

There are 9 lessons in this course:

1. Overview and Introductory Ethics

  • Who invented ethics – What are its origins?
  • Ethics and Philosophy.
  • Current Ethical Theories.
  • Divine Command Theory of Ethics.
  • The Theory of Forms Theory of Ethics.
  • Theory of Relative Ethics.
  • The Three Areas of Ethics.
  • What determines your own Ethics/ Sense of Morality?

2. Arguing an Ethical Position – An Overview of Meta Ethics

  • Metaethical Theories.
  • Expressivism Theories (Non-Cognitive).

3. Accommodating Varying Viewpoints

  • Different Ethical Viewpoints.
  • Ethical Dilemmas.

4. Virtues and Morality

  • Developmental Model of Virtue Ethics.
  • Morality.

5. Reasons for Ethical Decisions

  • The Theories in More Detail.
  • The Principle of Double Effect.

6. The Social Contract

  • Principle of Self-Interest.
  • Theories of Social Contract.
  • Twentieth Century Social Contract Theory.

7. Applied Ethics A - An Individual’s Rights

  • Basic Human Rights.
  • The Underpinning Values of Human Rights.
  • Categories of Human Rights.
  • Human Rights Breaches.
  • Applied Ethics A.

8. Applied Ethics B - An Ethical Society

  • What Is An Ethical Society?
  • Applied Ethics B.
  • Case Study: African Caribbean People and Schizophrenia.

9. Applied Ethics C - Ethics in Work and Business

  • Why do Organisations Need Ethics?
  • Applied Ethics C - Organisations and Professions.
  • Benefits of Ethics in Healthcare.

At the end of each lesson there is an assignment for submission to the school.  This will be marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.



  • Understand the scope, nature and language of ethics.
  • Demonstrate a capacity to argue varying viewpoints about ethics.
  • Discuss how conflicting points of view might be rationalized in ethics.
  • Discuss the virtues found or lacking in different people and groups of people.
  • Identify how and why different people will choose to adopt one ethical position rather than another.
  • Explain the social contract.
  • Explain how ethics can be applied to determine and manage the rights of individuals.
  • Explain how ethics can be applied to better manage the effective functioning of human societies.
  • Explain how ethics can be applied by people in the work they do, on a daily basis and throughout an entire career.

How Much Have You thought About Ethics?
Ethical philosophy began in the classical period of ancient Greece (480-323 BC) with the work of Socrates and Plato who aimed to determine the basis of what makes a good life and how humans may achieve it.
The works of Aristotle (384-322 BC) further developed man’s understanding of ethics. There are three writings by Aristotle on ethics which survive today. These are “Nicomachean Ethics”, “Eudemian Ethics” and “Magna Moralia”. Aristotle’s ethical position is that the good of the individual is secondary to the good of society.
Other historical ethical works include: 
  • Epic of Gilgamesh – a poem from Mesopotamia, about the friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu, and following the death of Enkidu; Gilgamesh’s long, perilous journey in search of the secret to eternal life.
  • “Instruction of Amenemope” – a literary work from Egypt that encourages ethical attributes including modesty, generosity, self-control and honesty; and discourages attributes such as pride, impetuosity, fraud, self-advancement and perjury.
It is apparent then that philosophical approaches to ethics emerged in different societies and cultures around the world. Leading thinkers have laid the foundations for what they regard to be acceptable ways for people to behave.


Current Ethical Theory
In Western society there are three main theories that underpin modern ethical thinking:

1. Divine Command Theory of Ethics
The Divine Command Theory of Ethics suggests that ethics are derived from God and whatever God commands is good, hence ethical. This is a typical Judaeo, Christian and Islamic concept. The theory proposes that a behaviour or action is “morally good” if it is commanded by God. Therefore, what is “moral” is determined by the commands of God. It follows that if we follow His commands, we are moral. If God says “Thou Shalt Not Kill”, then to follow this command is to be moral.

2. The Theory of Forms Theory of Ethics
The Theory of Forms Theory of Ethics suggests that there is a “form” or “standard” which is apart from God. This form is an absolute “code of ethics” or morality, inherent to the physical universe and applicable to everything that exists. This theory was originally proposed by Plato.
Plato split existence into two realms:
  • The Transcendent Realm of Forms.
  • The Material Realm.

Plato argued that humans are able to access the realm of forms through their minds and reasoning. He stated that there is a subdivision of the human soul that enables them to have access to the world in an unchanging way; so that they are invulnerable to the changes and pain of the material world. We are able to detach ourselves from the material world, our bodies, and therefore concern ourselves with the forms. In doing so this helps us to solve the "Ethical Problem".

Also, by splitting existence into realms, it also solves the problem of change and permanence. We are able to perceive the world as different, with different objects, through using our minds. It is the material world, which we perceive with our senses that is changing. The realm of forms, which is perceived through our mind represents that which is permanent.

What then is a form? A form is an abstract quality or property. For example, if you look at a ball. It is round, red, weighs 5 kilograms, etc. But if you only consider the roundness of the ball, then you are thinking of the form of roundness. Plato would argue that this property would exist separately from the ball. Therefore, any round object could also have the same form of roundness and would exist separately to the object itself.

To see what the form is and how it is different from the material object itself, we realise the forms are transcendent, so do not exist in time and space. The object (a ball in this case) exists only in a particular place and time, whereas the form of “roundness” does not exist in a particular place and time.

How does this relate to ethics? Plato argued that all objects in the world are copies of the forms and that the forms are the causes of what exists in the world. We describe objects and things by their properties. Plato explained this concept using a metaphor of the sun. The sun gives out light that allows us to see objects. The form of “Good” allows us to provide order and intelligence to allow us to know objects. So “Good” allows us to find order and structure in all things.

3. Theory of Relative Ethics
The Theory of Relative Ethics is also known as 'Moral Relativism'. The theory suggests that moral behaviour is relative to the attitude and context of the individual; and as such there can never be an “absolute” morality. Relativism assumes there is no universal standard by which we can judge morality. Ethics and morality are viewed as relative. What is correct for one society may be wrong for another.

Moral relativism argues that in different cultures and peoples, only some people will disagree on what is moral or immoral. Moral relativism goes on to claim that these disagreements show that no one person is objectively right or wrong, and so we should tolerate the behaviour of others even if we as individuals disagree as to how moral it is. Moral relativism has been criticised and debated for thousands of years, from the times of Ancient Greece and India. The theory holds that different cultures will have different moral standards.


So... why should I take this course? 
  • An understanding of ethics could be very useful for your career if you work in business, health or anywhere where you might work with people or animals.
  • Gain an insight into ethical theories, but also how ethical theories are applied in the real world.





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Meet some of our academics

Tracey Jones (psychology)B.Sc. (Hons) (Psychology), M.Soc.Sc (social work), DipSW (social work), PGCE (Education), PGD (Learning Disability Studies) Tracey began studying psychology in 1990. She has a wide range of experience within the psychology and social work field, particularly working with people with learning disabilities. She is also qualified as a teacher and now teaches psychology and social work related subjects. She has been a book reviewer for the British Journal of Social Work and has also written many textbooks, blogs, articles and ebooks on psychology, writing, sociology, child development and more. She has had also several short stories published.

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