Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module LAW41730: Current Problems of International Law

Department: Law

LAW41730: Current Problems of International Law

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • Fundamentals of International Law (LAW52245)

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The course aims to provide an in-depth study of selected problems of international law, as well as the theory and philosophy of certain aspects of international law.


  • current legal problems such as the use of force and the law of armed conflict in certain regions of the world; powers of the UN Security Council and of the International Court of Justice;
  • selected issues of the Law of the Sea and environmental law;
  • self-determination; international terrorism;
  • Law of international organisations
  • normativity in international law;
  • protection of common interests by international law.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the course students should:
  • have developed a critical understanding of the fundamental problems of theory and philosophy of international law.
  • have an in-depth knowledge of the substantive rules of international law as seen in certain current legal problems.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • by the end of the course students should:
  • be able to identify the key issues pertinent to international law
  • be able to identify the institutions and their respective roles
  • be able to use the complex materials to critically evaluate the arguments of others
Key Skills:
  • ability to describe accurately and comprehensibly the arguments and analysis of other commentators
  • ability to evaluate critically the arguments of others

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Seminars allow for students to develop their in-depth knowledge of the theory and practice of international law and institutions by providing structured reading lists, which students use to prepare for seminar discussion. In discussion in seminars, students develop their abilities to think critically, evaluate arguments and to engage in debate over key issues. Through the reading and seminar discussions, students will develop their knowldge of international institutions and their roles.
  • Assessment by essay requires students to research questions relevant to the module and to develop written communication skills, in particular the structuring and presentation of critical argument, using academic literature and primary materials in international law (treaties, international judicial decisions and state practice).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 15 Weekly, interspersed with several reading weeks 2 30
Preparation and Reading 270
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One assignment of approximately 2000 words in Michaelmas Term.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University