Inequality and Public Policy

Subject PPMN90038 (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2014.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 2 hour seminar each week for 12 weeks
Total Time Commitment:

120 Hours


Admission into 102EU Master of Arts in Professional and Applied Ethics or MC-EMA Executive master of Arts or 344AB Master of Public Policy and Management or another Masters by Coursework programme at the University of Melbourne with coordinator approval. Exceptions may be made for students at honours level, who may enrol with the approval of both their discipline coordinator and the subject coordinator.

Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:

Subject Overview:

This subject examines the way in which egalitarian political philosophy offers moral guidance in a variety of policy-making contexts. After examining some philosophical treatments of the fundamental, abstract value of equality, our attention will turn to more specific ways in such philosophical theorising can influence public policy: How should a concern for equality guide policy about education, unemployment, and other important public services? Should unemployed people have their benefits cut if they refuse to take a job they don't want? Does affirmative action make society fairer, or discriminate against hard-working high achievers? Do private schools allow rich people to buy an unfair advantage for their children? General concepts to be discussed include egalitarian concerns about stigmatisation, shame, social integration, and oppression – as well as how policy might seek to address them.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who complete this subject will:

  • Understand important philosophical analyses of the value of equality and its role in guiding the study of distributive justice.
  • Be able to interpret these analyses so as to critically assess the case for and against policy proposals in areas such as education, unemployment, and religious toleration.
  • Appreciate the relation between egalitarian thought and attempts to use public policies to address problems of stigmatisation, status hierarchy, unfairness, and others.

A 1000 word critical review of a week’s readings,20% due at the end of week 3 and a 4000 word research essay 80% (due in the examination period.

Hurdle Requirement: Students are required to attend a minimum of 75% of classes in order to pass this subject. Regular participation in class is required. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 2% per working day. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

Subject readings will be available online

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On successful completion of this subject, students will have:

  • Understood how work in political philosophy aims to specify the outlines of an egalitarian society.
  • Understood how this work bears on the evaluation of a range of policy proposals that might promote or suppress equality in various respects.
  • Gained an exposure to interdisciplinary research.
  • Enhanced their research, writing and communication skills.
Links to further information:
Related Course(s): Master of Public Administration
Master of Public Administration (Enhanced)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: 100 Point Master of Arts in Professional and Applied Ethics
100 Point Master of Public Policy and Management
150 Point Master of Public Policy and Management
150 point program - full time over 18 months
200 Point Master of Public Policy and Management
200 point program - full time over 18 months
200 point program - full time over 24 months
200 points Master of Arts in Professional and Applied Ethics

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