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LAWS3129 Advanced Public Law

Module Overview

Public law is of the highest importance to individuals, defining the institutions which exercise the power of the state, and setting the rules which govern their interaction in relation to each other and to individuals. Though one of the defining characteristics of the United Kingdom’s constitutional order is its long heritage and remarkable stability, the last two decades have seen a number of significant changes in the constitutional sphere. An appreciation of the way in which public law has adapted in order to meet these changing circumstances, as well as the forces which are driving its further development, is of the highest importance to achieving a clear understanding of the nature of the state and the individual’s position in relation to it. This module will communicate a picture of modern public law through the examination of those topics which are most relevant to its recent and on-going development. It addresses key areas which have driven constitutional development in recent years, such as the legal and constitutional crisis surrounding Brexit.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Build upon the knowledge of public law that you acquired within the compulsory first-year Public Law 1 module and compulsory second year Public Law 2 module by considering key topics in greater depth and in their theoretical context and by addressing central issues of public law that will be new to you. • Provide you with the knowledge necessary to appreciate the recent development and current status of the United Kingdom’s constitutional order and the practical and political considerations which have driven that development. • Encourage you to consider questions of public law in their political and theoretical context in order to achieve the fullest possible understanding of what is at stake in the constitution.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The key ideas of the United Kingdom constitution and their theoretical bases.
  • The substantive difficulties and disputes which have driven the development of public law rules in recent times and the manner in which the courts have dealt with them.
  • The manner in which political and legal actors interact within the constitutional order and the manner in which this interaction drives the development of the constitution.
  • The theoretical perspectives which stand as the background to public law disagreements and which underpin particular contributions to these debates.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate the substantive rules and processes which make up the constitutional order according to their own professed logic and according to a number of important theoretical positions.
  • Comment upon the interaction of law and politics within constitutional orders and evaluate the contribution each makes to development of public law.
  • Critically evaluate the manner in which constitutional actors have responded to a changed political context in recent years.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Read and understand complex texts.
  • Critically evaluate others’ arguments.
  • Develop and present a written argument with appropriate evidence.
  • Effectively research, organise and manage an independent project using available primary and secondary, electronic and paper sources.
  • Evaluate the material obtained from primary and secondary, elec


Public law regulates the governmental structures of the state and their relationship with the individual. It comprises both constitutional law, establishing which powers exist and how they are divided between the three branches of state, and administrative law which governs the possibility of challenging the legality of action taken by the executive and, at times, the legislature. The United Kingdom’s constitution is famous for its unwritten and uncodified nature, its long history and organic development, and the presence of a legislature which is unlimited by any fundamental law. This module allows students to develop a sophisticated understanding of contemporary public law by engaging with key developments and challenges, and by connecting back to existing constitutional principles and assessing their aptness in dealing with what are testing times. The following is an indicative list of topics that may be covered in the module: • The overall constitutional framework: Is the UK constitution fit for purpose? How might it be reformed? Should it now be codified? • Brexit and the constitution: What are the advantages and disadvantages of holding referendums on constitutional questions? Is there a breakdown in party politics and, if so, what are the implications for political constitutionalism (i.e. political means of holding government to account)? • The doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty: What are the doctrine’s origins? Is the orthodox view of parliamentary sovereignty accurate today? Has it ever been accurate? Is parliamentary sovereignty appealing? • Constitutional decay: What does a “healthy” constitution look like? Can constitutions decay over time? Is this (at risk of) happening in the UK? • Judicial review: How can judicial review of executive or administrative action best be justified? Should judicial review be expanded or curtailed? • Terrorism and the constitution: What do we mean by terrorism? How is terrorism addressed in the light of the constitution’s claimed commitment to the rule of law and human rights? How should it be addressed?

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Weekly seminars of two hours’ duration, discussing primary materials and appropriate secondary texts. Learning activities include: • Directed Reading (as per distributed reading lists). • (Management of) independent research (for coursework). • Preparing and writing formative coursework and self-reflection of that process. • Preparing and writing summative coursework. • Preparation and delivery of oral presentation. • Class discussion (including small group work).

Wider reading or practice10
Preparation for scheduled sessions68
Completion of assessment task50
Total study time150





MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (5000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (5000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (5000 words) 100%
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