Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)


Department: Law


Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap 32 Location Durham


  • Introduction to English Law and Legal Method (LAW 1121) and Contract Law (LAW 1071) and EU Constitutional Law (LAW 1061) and Trusts and Equity (LAW 2211)


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To build on foundations laid in Contract Law and Trust Law as they apply to pension rights of employees and former employees and their survivors arising under work place pension schemes and the investment of pension scheme assets;
  • To develop an understanding of the main areas of the legislative and regulatory regimes applicable to UK pension schemes and the protection of members' rights through the study of selected topics;
  • It is intended that students should acquire sufficient knowledge of these areas to provide them with a useful source both for future practice and for the pension rights which they will acquire in the future;
  • To seek to develop students' facility in handling of 'black letter law' areas, and, in particular, ability to comprehend and apply UK legislation (and EU legislation to the extent it remains applicable to the UK) applicable to pensions law and to analyse and reason from decided UK and, to the extent applicable, CJEU cases on that legislation.


  • A selection of topics drawn from the following indicative areas:
  • Key pensions law concepts;
  • How pension rights from workplace pension schemes fit into the employment contract;
  • Overview of the legislative and regulatory regime for pension rights;
  • Overview of the role and powers of the Pensions Regulator;
  • Constraints on employer powers to change pension rights;
  • Protection of accrued pension rights and future service pension rights;
  • Dispute resolution for members' rights arising under occupational pension schemes;
  • The role of the Pensions Ombudsman and its powers;
  • he role of the Pension Protection Fund where employers become insolvent;
  • The law on equal treatment and non-discrimination, as it applies in relation to pension rights, on grounds of gender;
  • Pension scheme trustee companies compared to individual pension scheme trustees in terms of personal liability for directors of such a company compared to individual pension scheme trustees;
  • The duties of pension scheme trustees when investing scheme assets;
  • The extent to which environmental, social and governance factors may or must be taken into account when investing pension scheme assets;
  • How defined benefit pension schemes are funded;
  • Some key pensions issues in corporate transactions (share sales and asset sales). .

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge of how rights under workplace pension schemes fit into the employment contract, the law protecting those rights and the main structure of the legal and regulatory framework applicable to workplace pensions in England and Wales;
  • Knowledge of the way in which laws against discrimination on grounds of gender operate in relation to pension schemes;
  • An understanding of the influence and impact of EU law and CJEU judgments, to the extent they remain applicable, on employers and pension scheme trustees and pension scheme members;
  • Knowledge of the duties of pension scheme trustees when investing scheme assets;
  • A high-level understanding of the legal framework for funding defined benefit pension schemes;
  • An understanding of how pensions law operates in practice in the commercial world.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Apply the existing law to given factual scenarios and advise accordingly;
  • Analyse and evaluate the existing law in terms of its legal and commercial context.
Key Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Apply the existing law to given factual scenarios and advise accordingly;
  • Analyse and evaluate the existing law in terms of its legal and commercial context.

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

  • The course will be taught as a series of 6 two-hour Seminars. Students will be expected to engage in pre-Seminar reading in preparation. The core principles of the subject will be conveyed by Seminars. Additional reading will be set to enable students to investigate some more complex aspects of the law within the scope of the module. Seminars will be used with a view to ensuring that the reading has been understood and to develop subject knowledge and subject skills as outlined above. A formative essay will be used to develop both subject skills and communication skills.
  • Summative assessment comprises one summative essay of 3000 words. Students are given a choice of questions on which to write their summative essays. The summative essay tests the ability to focus on relevant legal issues and organise knowledge and argument appropriate to questions raised. The summative essay questions will provide the means for students to demonstrate the acquisition of subject knowledge and the development of their problem solving skills.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 6 Normally weekly during Michaelmas Term 2hrs 12
Preparation and reading 88

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
summative essay 3,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

1 written essay of about 1,500 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