LLM Programme

The taught modules offered on the LLM programme vary from year to year. Please check the full list of taught modules list for details of modules running in specific academic years. We make every effort to ensure that every module will be offered, but modules are subject to change and cancellation. You are therefore advised to check this site regularly for further updates throughout the year preceding entry to the LLM programme.

Credit value: 15 credits (6 ECTS)
Module Convenor:
Dr Ingrid Boccardi
Intercollegiate teaching: No
Teaching Method:10 x two-hour seminars
Who may enrol: LLM students, Other UCL Masters students
Prerequisites: None
Barred module combinations: None
Core module for specialism: International Law, Criminal Justice, Family and Social Welfare, Human Rights, European Union Law, Public Law
Practice Assessment: Individual appointments to discuss outline of course essay – feedback on detailed table of contents for course project
Assessment method for Masters students: 3,000 word coursework essay
Module Overview

Module summary

The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees is now 60 years old. At the end of 2010, UNHCR reported that the number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution stood at 43.7 million worldwide with a marked upward trend since 2005. Against this background, international debates continue regarding the nature of the protection that refugees should be granted, the role of the international community, and the obligations of receiving countries towards refugees.
This module will provide a critical understanding of both the international and European regime of refugee protection. The first part of the module will cover the international legal framework for refugee protection, its main challenges and shortcomings. A review of key jurisprudence within international, regional, and national courts will provide an understanding of how refugee and asylum law is interpreted and implemented. Main areas of discussion will include international criteria for the attainment, exclusion and withdrawal of refugee status, the development of the non-refoulement principle, and the changing role of UNHCR. Subsequent seminars will explore the concept of complementary protection offered by other instruments of international law and the European Convention of Human Rights.

The second half of the module will focus on the development of a Common European Asylum System by the European Union. The EU is the only example worldwide where a large number of countries are in the process of harmonising their national interpretation of international refugee protection obligations. Thus, the EU offers valuable insights in the difficulties that prevent a coherent application of refugee protection instruments. Where appropriate, comparisons will be drawn with other regions worldwide. Finally, the module will consider whether the 1951 Refugee Convention is still capable of adequately catering for refugee movements in the 21st century.

By the end of the module, you should be in a position to:

  • have assimilated the main principles of the international and European refugee regime and their applications in different contexts
  • be familiar with the political, economic and human rights issues related to refugee studies
  • master the understanding and application of the European refugee regime and of EU asylum instruments
  • be able to critically evaluate the policies and values inherent in Refugee Law and have developed an individual reform perspective

Module syllabus

Refugee Law in Context: the Evolution of International Refugee Protection and the Institutional Framework - Norms and actors

WEEKS 2 and 3
The definition of ‘refugee’ and the notion of ‘Protection’

The evolving role and mandate of UNHCR – IDPs – new situations of displacement
Cessation and exclusion of refugee status

The non-refoulement principle, complementary protection and Human Rights

European Protection of refugees – the ECHR and other regional instruments

WEEKS 7, 8 and 9
The development of the EU competence on migration and the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) - Externalisation of asylum: Interception, interdiction and extraterritoriality issues in EU policy

Refugee protection and Human Rights: asylum, durable solutions and the reform of the international refugee system

Recommended materials

Goodwin-Gill G. and McAdam J., The Refugee in International Law 3rd edition (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 2007)

Preliminary reading

Rosemary Byrne ed, The Refugee Law Reader: Cases, Documents, and Materials (5th ed Budapest – Dublin – 2009) which is available at http://www.refugeelawreader.org/

Other information

The module will consist of a weekly two-hour seminar. Detailed hand-outs containing each week’s topic, questions for discussion and the relevant reading list will be placed on Moodle (virtual learning environment). Students are expected to familiarise themselves with the topic in advance and contribute to discussions in the seminars.

Prizes for this module: There are currently no prizes available for this module.


The application process for the 2015-16 academic session is now open.

Please note, for the 2015-16 intake, we are not accepting the TOEFL test. If you have an English condition to meet, you must take one of the alternative tests listed here instead.