Lantern on path in rural mountain settingGreg Artus, Scott Biagi and Michael Weatherburn teach business ethics to BSc and MSc Chemical Engineers

Providing teaching in ethics, grounded in philosophy and in relevant case studies, is at the heart of a bespoke course forChemical Engineering students. Andreas Kogelbauer of the Chemical Engineering department approached Greg Artus, who lectures in philosophy, business ethics and research ethics, to design and deliver a business ethics module tailored to the needs of Chemical Engineering first-year students. The brief was to design a course that gave first-year students a basic grasp of some of the ethical dilemmas that young Chemical Engineers may face. It also needed to provide them with some of the tools they may find useful to navigate ethical issues, not only in the workplace, but more generally in the engineering world. With this in mind, Greg Artus (lecturer in philosophy on Imperial Horizons), Scott Biagi (lecturer in philosophy) and Michael Weatherburn (Horizons Field Leader: Humanities and Social Sciences) put together seven sessions comprising lectures, tutorial discussions and analyses of case studies.

Factory by railwayThe aim is to give students an introduction to ‘ethical literacy’; i.e. a basic grasp of the structure of morally difficult business situations and an introduction to some ethical theories that may help them resolve dilemmas. The course also encourages students to explore and discuss some of the more general moral issues of business such as the ethics of various economic systems, the problems of intellectual property rights, environmental ethics and corporate social responsibility. The main thrustof the course is to give students the opportunity to discuss and think about ethical dilemmas in business so that when they eventually enter the workplace they will not be taken by surprise. They will have had a chance to think about where they stand on some morally contentious issues in their chosen field. The course is assessed through an essay which encourages critical analysis and helps to improve students’ writing skills.

Quotes from students

"The lecturers clearly invest a lot of time and effort into delivering this course and this is something I and most other members of my cohort recognise. The content is well thought out and presented in a thought provoking manner. The use of case studies in the lectures helps a fair amount. The lecturers are also very enthusiastic, which is nice. The broad scope of the essay prompts is also very much appreciated. I actually quite enjoyed taking the time to write my essay."
"Really enjoyed the content. It is the only module I have directly applied to my outside life already in the sense the content helped me to have an ethical debate and discussion with a client and go onto secure a deal off the back of it. So well done for teaching me about the works of [Milton] Friedman, etc."
"This module is a nice change to the others that we do, and also quite important in my opinion, given many Imperial Chemical Engineers will find themselves in positions of power in the future, they will have to have the ability to make ethical decisions. I also really liked how often discussion was opened up the to the class."
"I enjoyed thinking differently in this module compared to all the other modules I take. I think it's extremely useful both now and later on to learn to think in different ways."
"Although daunting at first, this module provides a very unique challenge... students definitely benefit."