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Frequently Asked Questions


Do I have to be a Trinity student to take ES&L?

No. You can be a student at any of the other colleges on the St. George campus and still take the program.

What can I do with a major program in ES&L?

Since 1988, ES&L has served as a significant part of an undergraduate degree in preparation for further studies or careers in such fields as the law, public policy, philosophy, political science, and criminology.

ES&L allows undergraduates to explore issues in ethics, society and law, and to do so by means of an explicitly interdisciplinary approach in a small and intimate program with excellent colleagues. We are based at Trinity College.

Many of the issues at the intersection of ethics, society and law that we study are crucial contemporary issues. Students are required to cover core areas in each stream, but are also allowed to select their own areas of focus from many optional courses.

Each year, a number of students choose ES&L in order to explore the study of the law and see if they are genuinely interested in law school as a post-graduate option.

Majors commonly doubled with ES&L include Political Science, Philosophy and Criminology.

So ES&L is not a 'pre-law' program?

Right, ES&L is not designed for “pre-law” students in particular. However, many of the students in ES&L do go on to law schools.

What if my first request to enroll in the program is unsuccessful?

In recent years, ES&L has had 250-275 requests in the first round each spring, and about 100 more requests in the second round each summer. There are only about 70 new spots available in the program each year. Thus the program’s cut-off in the required courses does float up into the B+ range.

Achieving the threshold average in the relevant courses does not ensure invitation to the program, as is stated in the ES&L entry in the Faculty of Arts & Science Calendar.

Students who are not successful in their first request are certainly welcome to apply in subsequent rounds or years, and in the interim to take courses (that are not restricted to ES&L students) that count in the program. Such students may also want to consider requesting minors in Philosophy or Political Science, for example, to get priority in (and to take) POL and PHL courses that count in the program.

The program is becoming increasingly popular and competitive. Each interested student should assess carefully the likelihood of achieving a competitive average in the courses required for entry; if there are concerns about achieving the average, a “plan B” would be a good idea.

The cut-offs cannot be predicted with certainty. They depend on the number and quality of requests in each round.

The online Faculty of Arts & Science Calendar stipulates the relevant base requirements.

If I have already taken some ES&L courses before enrolling in the program, can I count them as program credits?

Yes. For example, if you take PHL 273H (Environmental Ethics) before enrolling in the program, you can count it as a program credit.

If I enroll in ES&L and in another major program or in two additional minor programs, and if I take a course that can be used to satisfy a requirement in two of these programs, can I count the course for credit in both programs or in only one?

You may use the course to satisfy requirements in both programs provided that your programs (two majors or one major and two minors) include at least twelve different courses (FCEs). Please consult the Degree Requirements section of the Faculty of Arts & Science Calendar and your College Registrar for further information on double-counting courses.

What about prerequisites for courses in ES&L?

Many upper-year courses in the program have prerequisites determined by their home departments or colleges, and many of these prerequisites are not ES&L courses. Thus students need to plan ahead and make sure their program of study fulfills the prerequisite requirements for the courses they wish to take in upper years.

Although the ES&L program does not have any 100-level requirements, there are upper-year courses in the program that have 100-level prerequisites. You need to make yourself aware of these prerequisites and plan accordingly.



Is there anything special I need to know about being in a program in which most of the courses are listed from a number of other departments and colleges?

Yes. First, the chief benefits of being in such a program are flexibility and inter-disciplinarity. The options available to you have been drawn from many departments and colleges in the Faculty of Arts & Science.

Second, this means that many of the courses do not give priority to ES&L students. Thus you need to plan ahead carefully, and enroll in courses as soon as your enrollment period is open. It would also be advisable to have alternative selections in mind when enrolling. Students may want to consider requesting minors in Philosophy or Political Science, for example, temporarily to get priority in (and to take) POL and PHL courses that count in the program.

Third, many upper-year courses in the program have prerequisites determined by their home departments or programs, and many of those prerequisites are not ES&L courses; thus you need to plan ahead and make sure your program of study fulfills the prerequisite requirements for the courses you wish to take in upper years.

Where can I find a list of courses available in ES&L?

Please see the official course list and descriptions on the Faculty of Arts & Science Calendar. The lists, divided into required courses and streams A, B, C, and D. If you notice a change in the status of a course offering that should be recorded on our web pages, please email artsdean@trinity.toronto.ca.

May I substitute a different course for one of the courses in the program?

With the permission of the ES&L Program Director, you may substitute courses not listed in the program for a maximum of two of the program’s optional courses (FCEs).There are some 80 optional courses listed in ES&L; unless you have a relevant timetable conflict or some other special circumstance making it necessary that you look for a substitute, we do not normally grant substitution credits.

If such circumstances are the case, please send the Director (1) a brief email note clearly explaining the necessity for the substitution credit, as well as the following information: (2a) the full calendar course description (with web address), (2b) the departmental description for the course (if any, and web address), and (2c) the course website and description for the course (if any). Potential substitution credits should have official calendar descriptions that indicate content directly relevant to the study of ethics, society or law. The Director’s decision will be based largely on whether or not, in his or her judgment, the course(s) would be suitable for inclusion in the program. 

If I find a course (not listed in ES&L) that I think would be a suitable course for the program, what can I do?

You should tell the ES&L Program Director.  

What if I do not have a prerequisite for an ES&L course I want to take?

This would normally mean you would not be eligible to take the course. If, however, you think you have equivalent preparation, you should speak with the instructor.

What role does TRN 303H1 (Ethics and Society) play in the ES&L program?

TRN 303H1 Ethics and Society, like PHL271H1 (Law and Morality) and TRN412H1 (Seminar in Ethics, Society & Law), is one of ES&L’s core required courses. In addition to its focus on the intersection of ethics and society, TRN 303H1 includes two other important elements:

  • Students are asked to complete essay assignments that give them practice writing a research paper of the sort they will be required to complete in TRN412H1. This measure enables compliance with the protocol in the Degree Objectives Guidelines that “preparatory experiences for [a fourth-year integrative inquiry-based activity] should occur at earlier stages in the program.”
  • Students are asked to complete a component on interpreting and evaluating quantitative data in the context of ethical reasoning about social issues. This component of the course provides an introductory treatment of a selection of specific topics such as polling, sampling, graphs, correlations and causal claims. The course includes an assignment requiring the interpretation, evaluation, and use of quantitative data in an ethical examination of (one or more aspects of) a selected social issue.

What role does TRN407Y (Community Research Partnerships in Ethics) play in the ES&L program?

Typically in mid-July a selection of senior ES&L majors with the highest cGPAs are invited to join the Community Research Partnerships in Ethics course. The course is challenging and the number of projects is limited. It is unlikely the cut-off would go below a cGPA of about 3.50 in any given year. The course is administered either by the director of the Ethics, Society & Law Program, or a CRPE Project Coordinator, and is supported by the Centre for Ethics. Each student project is supervised by a University of Toronto faculty member.

In 2017-2018, CRPE students worked with non-profit organizations on research projects that addressed challenging issues in community health, human rights, social justice and the environment. Click here to learn about their CRPE experience and the impact of their research.

What role does TRN412H (Capstone Seminar) play in the ES&L program?

Its role is to integrate the program by examining selected topics and readings related to the themes of ethics, society and law in the format of a senior seminar. The course is restricted to students in their final year of registration in the program.

TRN412H1 requires a major research paper in which students conduct an inquiry into a selected social issue with ethical and legal aspects. The inquiry is expected to be integrative in at least two ways: it must integrate material covered in the seminar with the student’s research on the chosen topic, and it must integrate material from each of the program’s general thematic categories (“ethics,” “society,” and “law”).

The inquiry is expected to involve “the (independent) framing and investigation of nontrivial questions,” and it is desirable (but not necessary) to require group activity allowing students “to interact with one another in a way that facilitates discussion of their investigations” (Degree Objectives Guidelines). (A group-activity approach of this nature was adopted in 2010-2011 by the instructor of a section of TRN412H1. He required the students to post one-page abstracts of their research papers on the Blackboard website for the course so as to share their research results with one another.)

What role does TRN 425Y (Law Workshops) play in the ES&L program?

Typically in mid-July a selection of senior ES&L majors with the highest cGPAs are invited to join the Law Workshops course. The course is challenging and seating is limited. It is unlikely the cut-off would go below a cGPA of about 3.50 in any given year. Students attend workshops in the Faculty of Law, meet with an instructor for related instruction and discussion, and complete related assignments.

Contact Us:

Program Information: artsdean@trinity.utoronto.ca

Office Hours:

Prof. John Duncan
Wednesdays 11 am to 1 pm

Prof. Simone Davis:
Wednesdays 1:30 pm to 3 pm, or by appointment

Associate Director, Ethics, Society & Law Program; TRN303H Ethics and Society; TRN321H1 Selected Topics in Ethics, Society, and Law; TRN171Y1 Ethics and the Public Sphere
Director, Ethics, Society and Law Program ; TRN203H1 Society, its Limits and Possibilities; TRN303H1 Ethics and Society; TRN409H1 Selected Topics in International Studies: The Afghanistan War: Critical Issues
Administrative Assistant for the Dean of Arts, Trinity College