Every module offered by the Institute for Value Studies is open to all undergraduates at Winchester.

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Our Institute for Value Studies is an extra-departmental space where students and staff from the university's different departments can work together on fundamental questions about ethics, politics, art, religion and education.

The most important task of the Institute is to offer a series of team-taught modules open for all undergraduates. In each Value Studies module students have the opportunity to grapple with fundamental questions about values in an open, undogmatic and probing atmosphere. The modules are team-taught by staff from the various departments in the university who bring different kinds of expertise and experience to bear on questions of general human significance. The format is conversational and the spirit co-operative.

Why choose to study a Value Studies module?

  • First of all, because we deal with important stuff. Every module offered is focused on questions that engage us as human beings no matter what we decide to do for a living. Love, justice, beauty and other ideas about value are significant to us all
  • Our modules run in small conversational seminar groups of up to 12 students. In this context, every voice counts. Here you can think aloud and work with fellow students who also want to make up their minds about some of the fundamental questions we all grapple with
  • Challenge yourself intellectually by entering the world of conversation beyond your own department. You’ll learn alongside students from a variety of courses, and be taught by a module team from across the university who bring diverse perspectives to the conversation
  • Value Studies is recognised on your HEAR record, and, for many courses across the University, the module is worth 15 credits – check here to see if your course is one of them.

Interested in some thoughts from students who have taken one or more modules already? Check out the video below.


Optional modules

Eating Well: Food and Value in the 21st Century*

Convener: Elina Staikou

Module Codes: VA1009, VA2009, VA3009

Offered in Semester 1 

Without nourishing food human beings quickly wither and die. Yet eating is about more than fuelling our bodies. Our eating habits often go unexamined, but in this module, we will try to understand how eating is not only a natural need but also an activity ordered by aesthetic, cultural, moral, religious and political norms and ideals. We will take a close look at contemporary eating orders (and disorders) and consider how we do, could or should make decisions about what, how, where and with whom we eat. Sometimes serious conversation about such issues is rejected as trivial or evaded with the Latin dictum “de gustibus non est disputandum” (in matters of taste, there can be no discussion), but here we will take the delights of the table seriously and see where the conversation can go. Our seminars will take place in the company of texts and works of art by some of the thoughtful eaters who have struggled with questions about food before us and who might be able to help us eat well in the 21st century.

Displaced: Forced Migration and Refugees Today*

Convener: Wayne Veck

Module Codes: VA1011, VA2011, VA3011

Offered in Semester 1 

no one leaves home unless

home is the mouth of a shark

(Warsan Shire, Home) 

How are we to understand and to live with people who have been uprooted from their homes? This question has a claim on us all in a world where more than 60 million people live a life displaced. In this module, we will seek to understand the main causes of forced migration, the experience of displacement and attempts to address the current refugee crisis. Against this background, we will have a conversation about the values that should guide our lives with those displaced. Our engagement with the difficult questions facing us in this territory – about homelessness, nationhood, hospitality, compassion and human rights - will be enriched by texts and works of art by theorists from various disciplines, people who have worked in the field, and by those who have experienced displacement.


Convener: Adam Willows

Module Codes: VA1014, VA2014, VA3014

Offered in Semester 1

Freedom has a claim on us that few other ideals can match. It has inspired great art, significant events, and foundational laws. The beliefs and actions of people throughout history and today appear to testify that in freedom we find something worth seeking, celebrating and even dying for.

Yet despite the centrality of freedom to human life, it is not clear what it is, why it is worth caring about, and how to safeguard it - if we have it at all. In this module we will encounter thought about the value and kinds of freedom; ask how and why societies might protect particular freedoms; and consider individual experiences of freedom or its loss.

Along the way, we will encounter people and events who have shaped the way we think about freedom today and examine whether there are particular ways freedom is supported – or restricted - by the modern world.

Stories for Children*

Convener: Adam Willows

Module Codes: VA1016, VA2016, VA3016

Offered in Semester 1

Many of the most captivating children’s stories are loved across generations and by adults as well as children. Often, they deal with themes that seem important at any age. How to face danger and adversity; what a good friend is like; or why truth and goodness matter. In this module we will explore some much-loved children’s stories and the values that are at their heart. In each case we will ask what about the story makes it significant, and what kind of claims it invites us to consider.

Alongside our chosen stories, we will look at other influential thought on the same themes and examine shared insight or disagreement between texts. Together we will discuss how the stories we read can contribute to our understanding of particularly significant values.

Culture: High and Low*

Convener: Phil Stanier

Module Codes: VA1001, VA2001, VA3001

Offered in Semester 2

Ideas about 'culture' play a complex role in contemporary discussions about what matters in life. This module is designed to help students get a grip on this difficult concept and to introduce them to some of the fundamental questions that are being addressed when ideas about culture become central to our theoretical inquiries, practical projects and dramatic disagreements. To this end, we will study some of the thinkers who have shaped current usage and discuss issues that are particularly important today. The distinction between high and low, or highs and lows, runs like a red thread throughout the module and invites us to reflect on our basic assumptions about progress, decadence and hierarchy.

The Values of Nature*

Convener: Richard Gunton

Module Codes: VA1017, VA2017, VA3017

Offered in Semester 2

What is ‘nature’? What does it mean to care about, respect or follow nature? Should ‘nature’ in any sense of the term guide our sense of what is valuable? In this module, we will seek answers to these questions by studying different conceptions of nature. Our inquiries – focusing on both human and non-human nature – will invite us to engage with fundamental issues concerning especially ethics, health, education and ecology: Are human beings good by nature, or evil, or some kind of mixture? Is exposure to wild nature in some way good for us? What can we learn from people and cultures who seem to live close to nature? How might our views of nature help us understand and deal with climate change, the extinction of species or natural disasters? The module will be interesting to students from all disciplines who want to understand better one of the most complex and important concepts we live with today.

Other Animals: Contemporary Moral Frontiers*

Convener: Thomas Norgaard

Module Codes: VA1003, VA2003, VA3003

Offered in Semester 2

The relation between humans and other animals constitutes one of the frontiers of moral life today. Qualms about factory farming and meat-eating are widespread. So are worries about animal experimentation and zoos. In this module, these various moral anxieties provide starting points for a series of inquiries into the current lives of non-human animals and their relation to us humans. How, and to what extent, do we understand other animals? What do we owe other animals, wild and tame? Is it true, as the animal rights movement insists, that we stand in deeply flawed relations to the other animals? And if so, what should we do about it? How, in a (more) ideal world, would humans and other animals relate to one another? What, in other words, are the values that should guide our relations to the other animals in the future?

The Brain, Human Nature and Ethics*

Convener: Elina Staikou

Module Codes: VA1007, VA2007, VA3007

Offered in Semester 2

While many sciences investigate aspects of human nature, none seems to come as close to home as the study of the human brain. A growing number of books and documentaries on the brain suggest that neuroscience will sooner or later tell us who we really are. Some claim that mysteries like consciousness, the self and free will, which have (supposedly) eluded philosophy and religion for centuries, are about to be solved by scientific discoveries. Along with this knowledge (it is said) will come power to change who we are and how we behave: not only to treat neurological disorders, but also to modify and enhance our brain functions using drugs or other technologies. Maybe this knowledge will be used to influence customer choices in marketing, or to interrogate criminal suspects. We might be able to enhance our cognitive abilities, our mood, and our moral qualities. Perhaps we will be able to upload our minds to supercomputers and break free from the limits of our flesh-and-blood bodies altogether. This module will critically explore claims like these and the ambitions that go along with them, drawing on the work of neuroscientists, philosophers, theologians and others. For example: how much – and what – can neuroscience really tell us about what it is to be human? How feasible and how coherent are proposals for brain reading, cognitive enhancement or mind uploading? And even if such things can be done, should they? Is a cognitively enhanced or posthuman future one that we should hope for, or fear?

Cosmopolitanism: Political Values in the age of Globalization

Module Codes: VA2000, VA3000

The idea of the cosmopolites, "the world citizen", can be traced back to Diogenes of Sinope, a philosopher from the 4th century BC. In recent decades, this idea has become central in conversations about what it means to live responsibly in a globalized world. The term "cosmopolitanism" now typically stands for a set of values, beliefs, practices and hopes that point towards a better political order for an ever more densely populated and closely connected globe. Cosmopolitan ideas are controversial, however, and inspire complex debates among political thinkers about citizenship, nationalism, hospitality, justice, democratic governance, peace, international institution-building and education. The aim of this module is to help students develop a historically informed appreciation of these contemporary debates. To that end we will study some of the thinkers that helped shape the concept of cosmopolitanism, discuss the phenomenon of globalization, and read a number of contemporary contributions to the debate.

Ideals of Higher Education

Module Codes: VA2015, VA3015

What is the point of higher education? In this module, we will study and discuss some of the competing ideals that shape higher education today and turn it into a curricular battleground. What is research and where does the research ideal central to modern universities come from? Why is the notion of liberal education becoming more influential in the UK and continental Europe? And what is liberal education anyway? How did the so-called ‘culture wars’ in the United States shape higher education? What are the recent controversies about safe spaces, trigger warnings and free speech on campus most fundamentally about? These are some of the questions we will ask and seek answers to as we attempt to understand the world of higher education today.


Module Codes: VA2012, VA3012

Why do we play, and how is human play different from the play of animals? Which activities, endeavours, attitudes, shapes and designs would we be prepared to describe as playful? When is work playful, and what do we mean when we say that play is sometimes dead serious? The study of these old questions in all their guises, theoretical and artistic, seems especially important now in a “gameful” world in which “organizations, practices, products, and services are infused with elements from games and play” (Walz and Deterding). Do the new forms of play tied to electronic and digital media really amount to new ways of playing, even if sometimes “darker” ones? Can our own experiences with games, sports, and growing up help us to formulate questions about play and whether its meaning has shifted? What is play anyway?


Module Codes: VA2013, VA3013

While we ordinarily use the word “tragic” to refer to very sad events, in its full sense it refers to a specific kind of artwork and an entire way of looking at life. What makes an artwork or a worldview tragic? Is it possible to hold a tragic view of life today? Or is this view rooted in a kind of society (aristocratic), with its attendant values, or a kind of metaphysics (fatalistic)—neither of which are, presumably, ours? Beginning with readings from the flourishing of tragedy in ancient Greece, we will examine works of art and thought from different time periods and cultures (including non-Western). Special attention will be paid to the surprising re-emergence of tragic concerns in the American/Central-European film noir of the 1940s. We will conclude by considering the possible resurgence of tragedy in our time in the long-form television series (e.g., The Sopranos, The Wire).

4000 Years of Love

Module Codes: VA2005, VA3005

For most of us, love is a crucial value—a value that may even be synonymous with what it means to value anything at all. Yet this general truth raises a serious difficulty: not only is the potential range of objects of love bewilderingly vast, but what it even means “to love” is also a question. Love has been said to involve submission, possession, frustration, affection, attention, transgression, judgment, non-judgment, charity, chastity, sexuality, spirituality, mutuality, or reciprocity or its lack. The aim of this module is to examine many different, powerful ideas of love from ancient times to the present day (including non-Western cultures) and with different kinds of texts and art-objects (including philosophy, literature, psychology, film, and music).

*These modules are running in the 2019/20 academic year.

How to Register

The modules offered by the Institute for Value Studies are open to all undergraduates at Winchester. Many programmes allow students to take the modules for credit and everyone can have their participation recognized on the Higher Education Achievement Report.

If you wish to register for a module for HEAR recognition only (i.e. not for credit in your programme), please send an email to IVS@winchester.ac.uk 

There are limited spaces, but we accommodate as many as we can according to the first come, first served principle.

If you would like to take a module for credit (i.e. it will count towards the completion of your programme), please sign up online via MyRecord. Each module is worth 15 credits. Check the list below to see if your programme allows you to take the modules for credit. You can choose one module per year at the level(s) indicated and maximum two in the course of a degree.

Level 4 = First Year Undergraduate
Level 5 = Second Year Undergraduate
Level 6 = Third Year Undergraduate



Animal Welfare and Society

5, 6

Business Management*

5, 6

Choreography and Dance


Classical Studies


Creative Writing

5, 6

Creative and Professional Writing 

5, 6

Education Studies


Education Studies (Early Childhood)


Education Studies (Special and Inclusive Education)


Education Studies and Drama


Education Studies and English Literature


Education Studies and History


English Literature

4, 5, 6

English Literature and History


English with American Literature

4, 5, 6

English Literature with English Language

4, 5, 6

Global History and Politics




History and the Medieval World


History and the Modern World


Law (LLB)

5, 6

Liberal Arts


Philosophy, Politics and Economics

5, 6

Philosophy, Religion and Ethics

5, 6

Politics and Global Studies

5, 6

Psychological Science


Psychology BSc


Psychology and Child Development


Psychology and Cognition


Psychology and Criminology




Social Psychology


Theology, Religion and Ethics

5, 6

 *subject to approval.

What Winchester Students Say About Value Studies...

"The content was incredibly interesting..."

"The content of the module was extremely interesting (...) The module was also well-organised as each week we knew what to prepare and discuss."

"The tutor did a great job at allowing everyone to input their ideas and opinions and challenged us in the sense of discussion topics and broader thinking. Conversation was brilliant."

Contact us

Institute for Value Studies
The University of Winchester
SO22 4NR
Tel: +44 (0) 1962 826359