This article reports on a study designed to investigate undergraduate student expectations, experiences and learning outcomes of a new unit 'Introduction to Bioscience Ethics' taught in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. The present paper was one of a series of presentations given (Paris, May 2000) by members of the IUBS Bioethics Committee at the International Symposium 'BioEd 2000: The Challenges of the Next Century'. Of interest were the values students placed on this unit in terms of information gained, practical understanding obtained, and challenge experienced about the social consequences of contemporary science and technology, and the consequent ethical responsibilities. Despite its methodological limitations, the study suggested that students actively engaged with the subject matter and preferred learning environments that supported and contested their understanding of concepts relevant to bioscience ethics and bioethics. In particular, students saw problem-based learning as effective because research findings and ethical dilemmas could be discussed with peers in a non-judgemental and collegial atmosphere. On the basis of our evidence, and because courses of this nature assist students to better face dilemmas that arise from the application of science and technology, we suggest that they, along with more traditional science courses, should become part of the science university curriculum.