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: 30 credits (12 ECTS)
Module Convenor: Dr Alex Mills
Other Teachers: Dr Kimberley Trapp


International law has a range of ‘specialist’ fields or subjects which are taught as modules in the UCL LLM programme – including, among numerous examples, international criminal law, international human rights law, international environmental law, and international investment law. But international law also has a ‘general’ part, which applies across all of these specialisms. Any international lawyer must understand not only their specialist area of practice, but also the general international law framework which gives their subject its foundations and within which the specialist subject areas operate.

This module provides an overview and analysis of the core general rules and principles of international law. It does not require previous knowledge of international law, but it will examine the material in more depth and with a more critical perspective than undergraduate treatments, and with a focus on the key contemporary problems and issues. It also seeks to examine broader themes in the development of international law – for example, the extent to which international law is modelled on the idea of ‘private law’ between sovereign states (including, for example, treaties as inter-state contracts), and the extent to which it is an emerging legal system, reliant also on public law ideas (including, for example, the role of peremptory norms as fundamental principles, or the debate about whether international law is undergoing ‘constitutionalisation’). The module will benefit any student who would like to develop further their understanding of international law’s core principles, including particularly students taking one or more of the specialist modules in international law who would like to enhance their knowledge of general international law.


Topics will include:

  • International personality – who are the ‘subjects’ or ‘actors’ recognised in international law? What ‘personality’ is possessed by international organisations, corporations, or natural persons?
  • Statehood and self-determination – what rules determine the status of entities whose statehood is disputed, such as Kosovo? What role is played by recognition or non-recognition by other states, or by claims of self-determination?
  • Sources of international law – what rules govern the formation and identification of the sources of international law, including treaties, customary international law, general principles of law, and peremptory norms? To what extent are the sources of international law based on the consent of each individual sovereign state, and to what extent does international law recognise collective or majoritarian law-making processes?
  • State responsibility – when is a state responsible for a breach of international law, and what consequences follow from such a breach? To what extent do the rules on state responsibility recognise collective community interests, beyond the interests of directly affected states?
  • The jurisdiction of states – what are the limits on the regulatory powers of states? When can states assert authority outside their territory? When are states obliged to exercise jurisdiction under international law, including under the international minimum standard of treatment of foreign nationals, and under evolving individual rights of access to justice?
  • The immunities of states and their agents – what immunities are states and their agents entitled to before foreign courts? How can these immunities be reconciled with the rights of access to justice of individual victims of torture or other human rights breaches by foreign states?
  • The constitutionalisation and fragmentation of international law – to what extent is international law engaged in these two (apparently contradictory) processes, under which the law is gaining a more formal public and institutional structure, but also fragmenting into more distinct and less coherent specialisms?

Background Reading (optional):

Students who have not previously studied public international law, or who wish to refresh their memories on the subject, may wish to read:

  • Dixon, M, Textbook on International Law (OUP, 6th edn, 2007)
  • Klabbers, J, International Law (CUP, 2013)
  • Lowe, V, International Law (OUP, 2007)

There is no set book for the module. Reading will include case law, articles, and chapters from a number of the leading texts, including:

  • Crawford, J, Brownlie’s Principles of Public International Law (OUP, 8th edn, 2012)
  • Crawford, J, and Koskenniemi, M, The Cambridge Companion to International Law (CUP, 2012)
  • Evans, M (ed.), International Law (OUP, 4th edn, 2014)
  • Shaw, M, International Law (CUP, 6th edn, 2008)

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have made their module selections upon enrolment in September.

Delivery and enrolment
Lectures/Seminars: 20 x 2-hour seminars
Tutorials: None
Previous module enrolments: Small – less than 15 students
Who may enrol: LLM students
Prerequisities: None
Barred module combinations: None
Core Module for LLM specialism: International Law
Final Assessment: 3-hour unseen written examination
Practice Assessment: Opportunity for feedback on one optional practice essay per term


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.