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MN50511: Business ethics

[Page last updated: 05 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: School of Management
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Semester 1
Assessment Summary: CW 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Coursework (CW 100%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Aims: This unit is an introduction to the fundamental decision-making frames used to determine right and wrong within business. The unit introduces students to the core ethical theories that underpin ethical decision making within business and how they can be used as tools to make business decisions. The unit uses controversial business issues, decisions and case studies to ground the ethical theory in practice, and demonstrate how managers make ethical or unethical decisions using the different ethical frames. As such, the unit provides students with an understanding of the key concepts, theories, and tools from within business ethics, and techniques on how to use them in their own careers within business. The unit highlights both the theoretical and practical nature of business ethics, and the complex nature of making ethical decisions in different contexts. The unit emphasises the need to be aware of and identify how particular ethical frames are used within business and how this affects the outcomes of decision making. It also emphasizes engagement with contemporary ethical issues to improve their awareness of and responses to existing business ethics issues. The unit therefore emphasizes holistic and critical thinking from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Learning Outcomes: Having studied the unit, students will be able to:
* Describe and summarize the main ethical theories and how they are used to make decisions within business
* Identify and interpret decisions made as a result of the frames covered in class
* Critically evaluate the impact of using each frame on the outcome of the decision made
* Provide case evidence to support outcomes of each ethical frame
* Construct coherent, well-planned, and sufficiently evidenced arguments to support thinking on business ethics
* Use knowledge of ethical frames to propose, evaluate, and critique the validity and scope of organisational responses to ethical issues.

Skills: Studying the unit will help students to develop the skills to:
* Effectively communicate and defend ideas concerned with ethical issues in writing (T, F, A)
* Apply ethical theories and approaches from multiple philosophical foundations to current business issues and challenges (T, F, A)
* Interpret data and evidence regarding ethical issues (T, F, A)
* Develop research skills through critical reading, data collection and the production of written work (F, A)
* Identify and use different sources of data such as internet resources (F).
* Discuss, evaluate and participate in debates relevant to business's impacts on the wider society, and develop a capacity for active and creative contributions to public debates concerned with ethical issues
* Utilize different ethical frames to make decisions on important issues in complex situations.

Content: Business ethics is a critical area for management and one that management schools have been repeatedly criticized for ignoring. Managers who either lack an understanding of business ethics or choose to ignore critical ethical issues during decision making have been credited as the key reason for most management problems. Business is therefore under ever increasing pressure to ensure decisions made in support of both business objectives and ethics. This course is designed to provide students with the knowledge and tools necessary for making good, ethical decisions, and to identify the impacts of the frame they choose.
The unit will explore the main philosophical approaches underpinning business ethics frames. Topics will form the spectrum from traditional approaches such as utilitarianism or duties based approaches such as the categorical imperative, to the alternative approaches such as feminist ethics or deep ecology. Contemporary issues and cases will be used to tie the theoretical and practical elements together for improved coherence and uptake by students. It will critically investigate the decisions of managers, the ethical frame used and the outcomes of the decisions, using examples of both ethical and unethical decision making to highlight the impact on outcomes for business and wider society.

Programme availability:

MN50511 is Compulsory on the following programmes:

School of Management

MN50511 is Optional on the following programmes:

School of Management


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
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