Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)


Department: Law


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2022/23 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Introduction to English Law and Legal Method (LAW 1121) and EU Constitutional Law (LAW 1061), The Individual and the State (LAW 1081), UK Constitutional Law (LAW 1091), OR, at the discretion of Chair of Board of Studies or delegate, a suitable module or combination of modules from another Department.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To develop an advanced understanding of specialized aspects of the constitutional law of various jurisdictions (such as Australia, South Africa, the United States etc.) on six special topics of constitutional law. These topics will include: Bills of Rights, the separation of powers, federalism, democracy and the like. The course is designed to provide detailed insights into constitutional orders other than that of the United Kingdom, and their solutions to particular legal and political problems. It will refer to the United Kingdom constitutional law as the main comparator.


  • The ideas of comparative constitutional law, and 'constitutionalism';
  • Constitutional design;
  • Constitutional interpretation;
  • Democracy, including second chambers & bicameralism;
  • Bills of Rights and statutory mechanisms of rights protection (e.g. in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand);
  • Minority rights;
  • Federalism and Regionalism;
  • Separating Powers;
  • Judicial Review and the powers of the judiciary;
  • Foreign Affairs;
  • The interplay between international law (and international constitutional law) and national laws;
  • Comparative Administrative Law.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will have:
  • An advanced knowledge of the intellectual topography of selected issues in comparative constitutional law;
  • A demonstrably detailed understanding of certain core issues;
  • A thorough knowledge of secondary literature and debates surrounding key issues.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • interpret and critically evaluate relevant constitutional provisions within foreign and domestic law, general principles and theoretical approaches;
  • identify key reasoning tools employed by constitutional courts in resolving public law issues and be capable of applying these to new situations and legal provisions;
  • appreciate how cultural, social and historical factors affect legal approaches to key public law problems
Key Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • demonstrate an ability to understand, synthesise and critically analyse a wide variety of complex issues, drawing on a detailed knowledge of comparative and theoretical materials;
  • develop expertise in conducting research into materials from a variety of national and international sources acknowledging the role of differing political and societal conditions as appropriate;
  • evaluate the arguments and analysis of other commentators;
  • write in a clear and structured way and to put forward ideas in a scholarly manner;
  • demonstrate an ability to explore complex issues creatively in writing.

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

  • The course will be taught through a series of twelve two-hour seminars. This format is calculated to encourage pre-session reading and preparation followed by in-depth discussion. Each of six topics will be taught in two seminars, but all of the topics will be cross-referenced by the teaching team and themes will be developed. The assessment will be through a summatively assessed paper with a formatively assessed draft, followed by an unseen exam at the end of the year. The exam will feature at least two questions designed to cut across topics and ensure that students have attained the required substantive knowledge and analytical skills. The formative and summative papers, based on student choice of one of the topics taught, will ensure that students have met the research, analysis, and communication objectives.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 12 fortnightly 2 hours 24
Preparation and reading 176

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written examination 2 hours 100%
Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
summative essay 4000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One 2,000 word essay.

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