Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Law


Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • Introduction to English Law and Legal Method (LAW 1121) and Contract Law (LAW 1071) and Commercial Law (LAW 2241).


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide a general introduction to the major English private international law rules and principles relating to the resolution of cross-border commercial disputes and the way in which English courts interact with courts in other jurisdictions in dealing with these disputes;
  • To provide some comparative analysis of the private international law rules in English common law with the relevant rules and practice in EU law and other common law jurisdictions;
  • To develop research skills on, and contextual awareness of, the debates concerning the regulation of cross-border commercial activities in the international legal order.


  • The module will cover a selection of topics from the following list:
  • Key issues and concepts in private international law (characterisation, ascertainment of foreign law in English courts, public policy etc) and how it functions in the resolution of cross-border commercial disputes;
  • Overlapping jurisdictions of courts of different countries, the circumstances under which an English court obtains inherent jurisdiction over a case and how it determines whether to exercise the jurisdiction or not;
  • English choice of law rules in specified areas (contracts, the transfer of property inter vivos in commercial dealings, matters involving corporations etc);
  • Effects of foreign judgments and orders in English courts (mechanism for the recognition and enforcement of judgments from Member States of the European Union (EU), or from other jurisdictions);
  • Comparative analysis - the discussion of the above issues will include some comparative analysis of the relevant approaches adopted in EU law and other common law jurisdictions.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of the module, students will:
  • have the awareness of how private international law issues may arise in practice;
  • understand the relevant legal rules and principles relating to the resolution of cross-border commercial disputes in English courts;
  • understand the factors shaping the development of private international law rules in England and other jurisdictions.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the private international law rules as would be applied by English courts;
  • Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the significance of private international law in the wider commercial context.
Key Skills:
  • Students should be able to demonstrate developed research and writing skills, including the ability to work independently and to take responsibility for their own learning.

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

  • The teaching of this module will be by way of seminars supported by targeted reading assignments before each session. The readings are selected from both primary and secondary sources. The seminars will work from a basic level of doctrinal knowledge. Building on that foundation, they will then discuss more complicated and practical issues. This will encourage students to learn the material and develop the ability to discuss it and understand how each aspect of the reading fits in with relevant debates.
  • Formative assignment is used both to develop problem-solving skills, the ability to engage in sustained evaluation of ideas and issues in private international law, and the ability to evaluate the law in a critical and contextual way.
  • Summative assessment comprises one summative essay of 2000 words, which will provide the means for students to demonstrate the acquisition of subject knowledge and the development of their problem-solving skills.
  • Students will be supported and encouraged in the development of their research and writing skills.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

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

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
summative essay 2,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One written essay of 500-800 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