Director's Note

Graduate studies form the cornerstone of any research-led University. Since 2003, the University of Crete has been home to the Bioethics Graduate Programme, an outcome of joint academic activity between the Department of Philosophy and Social Studies, the Department of Medicine, the Department of Biology and the Department of Sociology. It constitutes an educational novelty, since it is the first time that a network of academic departments in the humanities, the social sciences and the life sciences come together to conduct training and research in a pioneering and fast growing field of enquiry. The Programme provides an optimal setting for pursuing the academic study of Bioethics.

Bioethics, as a field of inquiry, has emerged from a pressing concern for a critical re-evaluation of criteria of action in the era of biotechnology. Its subject matter is primarily the normative investigation of moral challenges resulting from developments in the life sciences and biotechnology. From an epistemological point of view, it forms the ground for the rapprochement of the two “cultures”: that of the natural and medical sciences on the one hand, and the humanities and social sciences on the other. The aim is to work out a critical understanding of the relation between the bio-medical sciences and ethics, not merely from the standpoint of an ethics of science and technology but also that of a social and political ethics. To the extent that it invokes normative investigation, its methodology draws fundamentally from the theoretical framework of moral philosophy. At the same time, it is informed by the findings of the life sciences, environmental sciences and social sciences, which form the empirical basis for bioethical normative reasoning.

The subtle methodological and epistemological problematic of Bioethics is reflected in the Graduate Programme. During the five years of its existence, it has developed a network of research and educational links with Universities, research institutes and individual researchers in Greece and abroad, achieving the best possible synergies in all major sub-fields of the subject. It has, thus, developed into a world class centre for graduate educational research in South-Eastern Europe.

The Programme contains two tracks, one leading to the degree of Master of Arts, the second to that of Doctor of Philosophy. The curriculum of the M.A. Programme is designed for students with educational background in a variety of academic disciplines (philosophy and the humanities, biology, medical sciences, law and the social sciences). It addresses both basic scientists and researchers as well as individuals employed in medicine and health-related professions (physicians, nurses, social workers, physical or occupational therapists, etc.), those employed as attorneys and those involved in the study or practice of law, also legislators, legislative staff and policy oriented personnel. Its structure is interdisciplinary, intergrating courses from philosophy, biology, medicine, sociology and law. It is designed to establish both a general level of expertise in all major sub-fields of Bioethics and also deepen students’ exposure to a variety of special areas through the selection of electives and the M.A. thesis topic.

Among its areas of emphasis are the philosophical/normative foundations of Bioethics, its bio-scientific background, its sociological, political and legal dimensions, while a substantial part of student training concerns basic methods of moral reasoning and argumentation for the analysis and evaluation of ethical issues in clinical contexts and health care policy. Specific research areas address bioethical problems in the environmental sciences, research ethics and the regulation of biomedical research, priority setting and resource allocation in public health policy. Students are expected to take an active part in all academic activities, including research seminars, invited lectures, workshops and conferences organised by the Programme. They, thereby, acquire solid theoretical knowledge and practical skills necessary for high quality scientific expertise and a successful professional career.

The M.A. in Bioethics is a unique “value-added” degree, as it offers graduates the opportunity to broaden their career prospects in an number of new fields, such as ethics committees or institutional review boards in agencies or organisations where they are already employed, or to provide ethics consultation and find positions at government agencies, regulatory bodies, medical associations and, generally, offer bioethics related consulting work. It also provides an indispensible qualification for those wishing to read for the Ph.D. degree and take an academic career path.

Rethymno Autumn 2008

Stavroula Tsinorema,
Director of Studies