Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
LA10110 or LA30110 or LA15710
Mutually Exclusive
GF16220 & LA16220
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture Two one-hour lectures per week
Lecture One two-hour lecture per week
Seminars / Tutorials Six one-hour seminars during the semester


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Assignment: A written assignment of 1,000 words required in week 9  33%
Semester Exam 1.5 Hours   (no materials permitted)  67%
Supplementary Assessment 1.5 Hours   Resit: By retaking the failed element (ie written assignment or examination or both, as applicable)  100%

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:
Explain how the British constitutional system works and be able to discuss proposals for reform;
Analyse the existing system and evaluate strengths and weaknesses;
Deal with constitutional legal materials in a critical and analytical manner;
Identify problems in the constitutional system and apply their knowledge in suggesting possible solutions (for example, with reference to comparative material);
Apply legal principles to factual situations in order to suggest possible outcomes to cases;
Identify and appreciate the constitutional law implications of general developments in law and politics, and demonstrate understanding of the relationship between UK constitutional law and European / international law as well as the interaction between central and devolved elements of the constitution stet.
These outcomes will be assessed through examination and written work assignment which have a mix of essay and problem questions and involve having to deal with primary constitutional materials.

In addition to these intellectual skills, students will be able to demonstrate:
Good time-management skills in preparing for seminars and submitting work on time;
The ability to carry out independent research for which credit will be given in the assessments
The ability to locate and use relevant hard-copy and electronic sources: seminars will require preparation using material from websites.
Ability to work in groups: some of the seminars will run as workshops in which students work in small groups and organise a short presentation together.

Brief description

The United Kingdom is unusual in that it does not have a written constitution. What this means, why it is the case and whether it makes a difference in practice are among the questions which we look at in this course which seeks to introduce students to the study of constitutional law in general and to the basic doctrines of the British Constitution in particular.

It is true that, on the whole, the British Constitution has developed in a gradual way but this does not mean that it has not undergone dramatic change over the years. Indeed, some of the most profound changes have taken place relatively recently with the United Kingdom's accession to the European Community in 1973. More recently still, there have been lively debates on the reform of the House of Lords, on devolution and on human rights. The way in which the Constitution has adapted and accommodated changing circumstances is an important theme of the course. Recent legislation on human rights and on devolution, with particular reference to the National Assembly for Wales, will be examined in detail.

Another important issue which the course examines is the extent to which there are limits on the powers of the Government and Parliament. Is it really true that "Parliament has the right to make any law whatever?" Comparisons will be drawn with the constitutions of other states to explore how constitutions attempt to prevent the abuse of power and we will consider whether similar guarantees exist within the British system.

Students may no doubt be aware of the ongoing debate which takes place in relation to certain institutions of the constitution. How should the House of Lords be reformed? What role should the Monarch play in the constitutional system? How much power should be transferred from Westminster to the devolved legislatures? Throughout the course we will examine those aspects of the Constitution which have been the subject of calls for change and we will consider the proposals for reform which have been advanced by various bodies.


This module aims to introduce students to principles of constitutional law in general and to the British constitutional system in particular to a level which satisfies professional exemption requirements, to encourage independent and critical thought and analysis, to promote skills of group work and to develop skills of independent reading and research.


Teaching will be through lectures (30) and seminars/workshops (6). The lectures will provide an introduction to each topic and course handouts will indicate further reading. Seminars are smaller groups designed to discuss particular issues in more detail. Workshops also focus on specialised topics and aim to promote group work among students. In addition to these elements students should expect to spend a significant proportion of their time in the library preparing for seminars and following up the reading indicated on the hand-outs.


1. General introduction to constitutional law
2. Sources of the British Constitution
3. The doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty
4. The rule of law
5. Separartion of powers
6. The territorial structure of the United Kingdom and devolution
7. Law-marking institutions and processes
8. Executive power and accountability
9. The protection of human rights in the United Kingdom [much of this topic will be covered in seminars rather than in lectures].

Reading List

Recommended Consultation
Turpin, Colin. (2007.) British government and the constitution :text and materials /Colin Turpin, Adam Tomkins. 6th ed. Cambridge University Press Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6