A world class research centre
Influence of the Constitution Unit
Our research has had an impact in a number of different areas: most recently one of our reports gave rise to the new Cabinet Manual, and another to establish a Backbench Committee for parliamentary business. We have been influential in devolution, human rights and the courts. As the Guardian observed in their editorial In Praise of the Constitution Unit, ‘the Constitution Unit has evolved over the past 15 years from an observer of the constitutional process to an engaged player’.
Robert Hazell founded the Constitution Unit in 1995 to do detailed research and planning on constitutional reform in the UK. The Constitution Unit is the main research centre within UCL’s Department of Political Science. The Unit has published reports on every aspect of the UK’s constitutional reform programme: devolution in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions, reform of the House of Lords, electoral reform, parliamentary reform, the new Supreme Court, the conduct of referendums, freedom of information, the Human Rights Act.
The Unit has been closely involved with all these developments, and works closely with government, parliament and the judiciary. Our policy work has a sharply practical focus, is concise and clearly written, timely and relevant to policy makers and practitioners. Our funding has come from the academic research councils, charitable foundations, individual philanthropists, government and Parliament.
Much of our work over the years has had a comparative flavour, drawing lessons from arrangements in other countries for the UK. We have recently begun to develop a wider interest in comparative constitutions and constitution making in other countries. As part of this growing interest, the Unit added James Melton to its staff in 2012. He is part of the Comparative Constitutions Project (CCP), which has collected data on the contents of virtually every constitution written since 1789. In 2013, he, and his collaborators on the CCP, launched Constitute, an online tool for searching the world’s constitutional texts by topic.
The Unit has always been multi disciplinary, with researchers drawn mainly from politics, law and the public service. Retired senior civil servants have worked on research projects with us; our other volunteers are interns who join us for three months to support an individual project. Expressions of interest are always welcome.