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The University of Southampton

IFYP0020 Understanding Law

Module Overview

This modules provides you with the basic understanding of the nature and function of the legal system of England and Wales.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The legal system in England and Wales;
  • The key sources of law, including the interpretation and application of these sources.
  • The key features of the substantive law of contract, crime, tort, land, the UK constitution and the EU.
  • Critical legal thinking and argument.
  • The policy underpinning the law and its impact on society.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Think logically clearly and critically; construct arguments clearly and coherently in writing and orally through tutorial discussion.
  • Think critically and contribute to informed debate about the legal, political and social issues arising in the context of the key topics covered.
  • Analyse and extract the essence of judicial decisions appreciate and understand the political and social dimension of the cases, contribute to informed discussion of the issues arising in the seminars, apply the issues in writing
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Think critically and contribute to informed debate concerning problematic political, legal and social issues.
  • Extract and analyse relevant issues from a range of written material.
  • Communicate arguments clearly and coherently both orally and in writing.
  • Write clearly and coherently under limited time pressure.
  • Manage your time effectively.


An overview of the Legal System in England and Wales • Civil and criminal systems and court structure. • Legal terminology and classification. Legal Sources • Case law and its application. • Understanding and interpreting statutes. Constitutional Law • The UK constitution; consequences of an unwritten constitution. • Separation of powers: legislative, executive and judiciary. • Case study: Jackson. • Moot submission of oral arguments. Criminal Law • The elements of a crime. • Sentencing and punishment. • Case study: Brown. • The judicial decision making process • Dissenting judgements.• Law of Contract • Elements of a contract. • Case study: Ruxley Electronics. Tort • Tort of negligence. • Case study: Donoghue v Stevenson. • Case study: McFarlane v Tayside Health Authority. Land Law • Buying and selling land. • Case Study: Chhokar v Chhokar. European Union Law • Key Principles of Community Law. • Institutions of the European Community. • Case study: Bosman Revision Session • Going over key cases.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be taught through one one-hour lecture per week and one two-hour seminar per week. Preparation for and participation in the seminars will develop: • Knowledge of the substantive principles and rules relating to the key topics covered. • Ability to manage and access a diverse range of source material. • Ability critically to evaluate those sources and to participate constructively in discussions concerning them. • Ability to comment critically on legal issues and to think logically and present compelling and coherent arguments. • Time management and basic legal research skills.

Independent Study114
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

J. Holland, and J. Webb (2006). Learning Legal Rules. 

C.Barnard, J.O’Sullivan & G. virgo (2007). What About Law?. 


Assessment Strategy

The summative essay will develop your ability to: • Apply diverse sources of legal material. • Think critically and present your evaluation of those sources in a clear and coherent manner. The summative examination will develop your ability to: • Bring together a wide range of written material and to focus and organise your thoughts and arguments in an analytically coherent manner under time pressure


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 30%
Open Book Exam 70%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal

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