Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
International Law
Academic Year
Semester 1
Exclusive (Any Acad Year)
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Due to Covid-19 students should refer to the module Blackboard pages for assessment details

Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Open Book Exam  50%
Semester Assessment 2500 word essay  50%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Resit missed or failed Open Book Exam  50%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit failed or missing 2500 word essay  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Have an insight into, and understanding of, the salient features of the international legal system, in particular its distinctive law-making process and methods of securing compliance.

2. Explore the interaction of law and other forces at the international level and to develop an appreciation of the limits of law as a means of resolving international problems.

3. The coursework and examination are designed to encourage and enable the students to demonstrate their command of the principles and techniques of International Law.

Brief description

The study of International Law provides the student with the tools to understand the legal foundations for many of the most important events featured on daily news programmes.

International Law has traditionally been concerned with the legal relations between sovereign States and although such States remain the most significant actors on the international stage, the subject expanded considerably during the twentieth century to encompass the activities of international organisations - especially the United Nations and regional organisations such as the European Community - and also to some extent the position of individuals and non-governmental organisations. In a situation of fast-changing international relations it is also a highly topical field of law with a rapidly evolving content.

A study of international law, in addition, provides insight into the relation between different types of legal order, especially the interaction of international and municipal law. Much international law of both a global and a regional character is not translated into national legislation and some areas of national law are more easily understood when it is appreciated that they represent an implementation of international obligations.

The first part of this module comprises an introduction to the nature and working methods of the international legal system. The sources, subjects and methodology of international law differ from those found in most national (municipal) systems, and a study of the operation of the international legal system supplies illuminating comparisons for students of law generally. Stress is laid upon the way in which international law may work effectively in the absence of a compulsory judicial system and types of sanction commonly found in municipal systems. The study of international law alongside a system such as English Law is therefore also an exercise in jurisprudence.

The second part of the module builds upon this foundation by examining in greater depth selected areas of substantive law. The approach at this stage of the course is thematic, relating legal rules to contemporary issues of international concern, such as the use of force, the preservation of the environment, the world economic order, and the legal control of terrorism and other criminal activities that cross national boundaries.

The module is offered as an elective for both students of law and students in other degree schemes.


​The course is taught through lectures and seminars. The lectures are intended to provide a framework for more detailed study of the subject and point towards critical analyses. Seminars provide the opportunity for discussion and analysis of the subject in greater detail. Further research into the subject is encouraged through the assessed written assignment.

Subjects covered:

1. The nature of international law

2. The United Nations system
  • Personality under international law
  • The concept of personality in different legal systems
  • States as legal persons: the concept of statehood
  • The role of recognition in the creation of statehood
  • The personality of international organisations
  • The personality of individuals at the international level
3. Sources of international law and the international law-making process
  • Treaties: types of treaties and the treaty-making process
  • Custom: the requirements of custom and its nature as a source of law
  • General principles of law
  • Subsidiary sources: precedent and legal writing
  • Resolutions of the UN General Assembly
  • Problems in the development of international law
4. State sovereignty
  • The concept of state sovereignty: the distinction between sovereignty and other legal regimes in international law
  • The principles of non-intervention and the sovereign equality states
  • Methods of acquiring sovereignty over territory
  • The relevance of the principle of self-determination
5. The settlement of disputes in international law
  • Different methods of dispute resolution employed at the international level
  • The role of force in dispute settlement
  • The use of United Nations procedures
  • Dispute settlement in the context of the European Communities
6. Jurisdiction and immunity from jurisdiction
  • The bases of jurisdiction
  • Sovereign immunity
  • Diplomatic immunity
  • 7. The basic principles of state responsibility
  • The use of force
  • Force in self-defence
8. Force under the authority of the Security Council
  • International criminal law
9. The protection of the basic rights of individuals and groups under international law

10, Basic problems arising from state sovereignty and questions of legal personality
  • The major systems of protection, global and regional, established since 1945
  • Problems of standard-setting and enforcement
  • Detailed consideration of the system set up under the European Convention on Human Rights and comparison with other regional systems
11. The relationship between international and municipal (state) law
  • 'Monist' and 'Dualist' approaches to this question
  • The extent to which international law is part of the United Kingdom legal system
30 x 1 hour lectures
6 x 1 hour seminars

Student workload:
200 hours

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Seminar discussions will develop individual and group presentation and oral argument.
Improving own Learning and Performance Seminar participation and exam preparation will develop different aspects of personal academic development, from understanding and referencing sources through to the dissemination of ideas to others orally, and via written communication skills.
Information Technology Library and research skills are fundamental to preparation for seminars, the essay and exam.
Personal Development and Career planning Recommended topic for any considering working for regional and international organisations
Problem solving Preparation for seminars and exams will involve problem scenarios for students to tackle.
Research skills These skills will be developed through preparation for seminars, essay and the exam.
Subject Specific Skills Reading and understanding relevant materials in the field of Human Rights Law
Team work Group activities and discussion in seminars


This module is at CQFW Level 5