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 Jeff King
Intercollegiate teaching: No
Teaching Method: 10 x two-hour seminars
Who may enrol: LLM students, Other UCL Masters students
Prerequisites: Students will ideally have some acquaintance with legal and political theory.
Barred module combinations: None
Core module for specialism: Public Law, Jurisprudence and Legal Theory
Practice Assessment: to be confirmed
Assessment method for Masters students: 2-hour unseen written examination
Module Overview

Module summary

This module provides an in-depth examination of the normative dimensions of the design and interpretation of national constitutions. Should there be a special procedure for designing and adopting constitutions? Should there be special accommodation of national minorities or legislative quotas for women and ethnic minorities? Should constitutions be suspended in times of national emergency? Should judges balance complex policy matters? Should the state be secular? Should constitutions include social rights? These questions and others are examined by reference to leading works in political and constitutional theory. The module is a good companion course for Comparative Constitutional Law and Jurisprudence.

The seminars will focus on getting students to develop theoretically nuanced views on these issues, and to defend them in debate; to understand the connections between theory and practice; to understand the purpose of constitutions, the role of constitutional design, and the appropriate role for judges as interpreters of constitutions.

Module syllabus

1. The Nature and Functions of Constitutions
2. The Process of Constitutional Design
3. Political Representation in Legislatures
4. Recognition and Group Rights
5. The Legitimacy of Judicial Review I: Liberal Constraints vs. Representation Reinforcement
6. The Legitimacy of Judicial Review II: The Case Against Judicial Review
7. Constitutionalism and National Emergencies
8. The Limitation of Rights (Proportionality & Balancing)
9. Public Reason, State-Neutrality and Secularity
10. Constitutionalism and Social Justice

Recommended materials

To be indicated in class.

Preliminary reading

Theoretically grounded students could examine L. Alexander (ed), Constitutions: Philosophical Foundations (Cambridge University Press, 1998).
For an introduction to or refresher in jurisprudence, read N. Simmonds, Central Issues in Jurisprudence 3rd Edn (Sweet & Maxwell, 2008) (esp. on Hart and Dworkin, about whom basic knowledge will be presumed).
For the same in political philosophy, read A. Swift, Political Philosophy: A Beginner’s Guide for Students and Politicians (Polity Press, 2001) or W. Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy 2nd Edn (OUP, 2002) chs. 2, 3, 7.

Other information

Each week of the seminar handout lists two or three items of "essential reading". These should be read before the seminar and will be discussed during the seminar in depth. The handout also contains a list of "further reading". Some of this may be discussed or mentioned in the seminar, but on the assumption that it has not been read by everyone.

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.