GV4D7      Half Unit
Dilemmas of Equality

This information is for the 2020/21 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 3 groups. The deadline for applications is 17:00 on Tuesday 29 September 2020. You will be informed of the outcome by 17:00 on Wednesday 30 September 2020.

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.


This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 20 hours in the Michaelmas Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and seminars.

There will be a reading week in Week 6 of the MT 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%, 4500 words).

Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 21.1
Merit 67.8
Pass 11.1
Fail 0

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2019/20: 24

Average class size 2019/20: 12

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication