GV4D7      Half Unit
Dilemmas of Equality

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Sarah Goff


This course is available on the MSc in Gender, MSc in Gender, Development and Globalisation, MSc in Gender, Policy and Inequalities, MSc in Human Rights, MSc in Human Rights and Politics, MSc in Inequalities and Social Science and MSc in Political Theory. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped at 2 groups. The deadline for applications is 17:00 on Tuesday 1 October 2019. You will be informed of the outcome by 17:00 on Wednesday 2 October 2019.

Course content

The course starts with the general questions of why equality matters and what is to be equalized. It then introduces some of the major debates in the contemporary egalitarian literature: equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome; luck egalitarianism versus relational equality; and social equality versus global equality. Throughout the course, and particularly in the latter half, we consider concrete social problems and dilemmas faced by those who are committed to the ideal of equality. Topics covered this year include discrimination, and policies that aim to reduce inequalities between social groups.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

There will be a reading week in Week 6 of the LT for private study and assessment preparation.

Formative coursework

Students will submit a short formative essay (up to 1500 words) and will be given feedback on this before submitting their assessed coursework.

Indicative reading

Samantha Brennan, 'Feminist Ethics and Everyday Inequalities' Hypatia 24, 2009;  Derek Parfit, 'Equality and Priority' Ratio 10, 1997;  Ronald Dworkin, Sovereign Virtue: the Theory and Practice of Equality (Harvard University Press, 2000); Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (Oxford University Press, 1999); Elizabeth Anderson, 'What is the Point of Equality?' Ethics 109, 1999;  Harry Frankfurt, ‘The Moral Irrelevance of Equality’ Public Affairs Quarterly (2000); and Deborah Hellman, When is Discrimination Wrong? (Harvard University Press, 2011).


Essay (100%, 5000 words).

Student performance results

(2015/16 - 2017/18 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 19
Merit 68.3
Pass 11.1
Fail 1.6

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2018/19: 29

Average class size 2018/19: 15

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication