Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module LAW44715: Fundamentals of International Law

Department: Law

LAW44715: Fundamentals of International Law

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.
Tied to


  • None


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The aim of this course is to provide an overview view of the fundamental principles of public international law. The course aims to provide a platform for further study of, or research into, the more specialized aspects of public international law. The course will be taught in such a way that it will enable students to acquire a proper grounding in the basic principles, features and institutions of the international legal system, and provide an opportunity to explore more advanced problems concerning these basic principles, features and institutions of the international legal system.


  • The Nature and Theory of International Law.
  • Sources of International Law.
  • The Law of Treaties.
  • State Responsibility.
  • International Legal Personality (including statehood and recognition of states).
  • Jurisdiction and Immunities from Jurisdiction.
  • State Responsibility.
  • The Relationship between International Law and Domestic Law.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • have an understanding of the structure, features and fundamental characteristics of the international legal system;
  • have an understanding of the role international law plays in the ordering of international society.
  • synthesize and critically analyse the core doctrines of international law
Subject-specific Skills:
  • be able to explain the way in which rules and principles of international law are made and develop;
  • be able to identify the key participants in the international legal system and be able to explain the status and the roles that these participants play within that system;
  • be able to recognise international legal problems and be able to construct arguments as to how these problems may be resolved;
  • be able to interpret, critically analyse, and synthesise relevant legal materials and literature;
  • be able to demonstrate knowledge of the methods by which international law is implemented
Key Skills:
  • Students will be able to demonstrate developed research and writing skills, including the ability to work independently and to take responsibility for their own learning.
  • Students will be able to research questions of international law using the entire range of sources recognised within the international legal system. They will be able to find and use materials to construct valid international legal arguments. They will be able to construct written arguments. They will be able to work independently and think critically.

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

  • Lectures designed to provide a structure for the course and to introduce basic principles and features of the international legal system. A reading list (which will include essential reading and optional reading) will be distributed at least two weeks in advance of each lecture. Reading lists will include primary and secondary sources.
  • Seminars which will provide opportunity for the exploration and discussion of more complex issues and ideas. Having completed the assigned reading for each lecture, students will be asked to prepare answers to questions which will form the basis of discussion in seminars (those questions will be distributed two weeks in advance of each seminar).
  • Written work (formative and summative) which requires a demonstration of students' analytical, problem-solving and communication skills.
  • Feedback on formative and summative assessments to be provided in accordance with Law School feedback policies.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 8 Weekly 1 hour 8
Seminars 8 Weekly 1 hour 8
Preparation and Reading 134
Total 150

Summative Assessment

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

Formative Assessment:

Formative essay 1500 words

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