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MA Legal and Political Theory


About this programme

The programme explores the moral quality of the decisions citizens and professionals take, and the justice of the legal and political structures within which they operate. 

Among the policy issues addressed are the character and limits of a multicultural society, the obligations of rich to poor countries, the morality of the war on terror, the rights and wrongs of animal experimentation, the feasibility of global citizenship, and the advisability of judicial review.

Programme Summary
Structure
Further Information

Programme introduction

Founded by Jeremy Bentham and counting Mahatma Gandhi among its alumni, UCL pioneered the application of legal and political theory to illuminate the ethical dilemmas of public life. It remains a leading international centre for postgraduate teaching and research at the cutting edge of work in the field. The MA in Legal and Political Theory draws on three areas of excellence at UCL, each supported by a group of world class scholars: jurisprudence (John Tasioulas, George Letsas, Philip Schoffield, Stephen Guest from Laws),  philosophy (Jo Wolff, Véronique Munoz-Dardé, Mike Otsuka from Philosophy) and political theory and human rights ((Richard Bellamy, Cécile Laborde, Saladin Meckled-Garcia, Emily McTernan, Avia Pasternak and Albert Weale) from Political Science). The result is a unique mix of politics, law and philosophy, centred on the normative evaluation of public policy at both the domestic and international levels."

Legal and Political Theory Forum

UCL Legal and Political Theory Forum is an annual event, organised and run by students on the MA Legal and Political Theory course at UCL. It provides an opportunity for distinguished academics, politicians and others working in the public policy field to consider some of the philosophical issues underlying current debates in public policy Go to site »

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The MA in Legal and Political Theory provides students with the key analytical skills to study the ethical dimensions of politics and public policy. The programme explores the moral quality of the decisions citizens and professionals take, and the justice of the legal and political structures within which they operate. Among the policy issues addressed are the character and limits of a multicultural society, the obligations of rich to poor countries, the morality of the war on terror, the rights and wrongs of animal experimentation, the feasibility of global citizenship, and the advisability of judicial review. The MA also features frequent research seminars, where the best current work on legal and political theory is presented by eminent guest speakers from around the world.

Past students on the programme have been awarded prestigious scholarships such as AHRC and UCL graduate studentships.

The main strengths of the MA are

  • Specialist expertise in a range of key political theory approaches, notably:
  • ethics and contemporary political philosophy
  • legal theory and jurisprudence
  • egalitarianism and theories of social justice
  • human rights
  • theories of democracy and citizenship
  • liberalism, republicanism, multiculturalism
  • utilitarianism
  • history of modern political ideas
  • European political thought
  • 'Wednesday Seminars'. The Autumn Term seminars in political theory, and the Spring Term Colloquium in Legal Philosophy offer students an unrivalled opportunity to meet and engage with some of the leading figures in the field and to discuss their latest . Seminars bridge the gap between academic research and broader understanding of key issues concerning society and politics; attendance is compulsory for MA students and papers are discussed in advance of seminars through Peer-Assisted Learning Sessions.
  • Core course on 'Applied Methods in Political Theory', providing students with key research skills, exposure to, and practice of, a range of political theory methods, development of written and oral skills. It provides a good training for the 10,000-word dissertation which make 30% of the degree.
  • Interdisciplinary research culture of the School of Public Policy, the centre of expertise in political science at UCL, with particular strengths in public policy, constitutional issues, European politics and international relations.
  • Strong input from such established UCL departments and institutions as Law, Philosophy, the Bentham Project, Economics, History, and European Studies.

Our aim is to provide a challenging intellectual atmosphere for postgraduate study, along with the best possible support for individual students. The School of Public Policy is a research-oriented institution where the particular needs and interests of postgraduate students are well catered for. SPP provides an ideal environment to pursue doctoral research, and the MA is an excellent foundation for further research in political theory.

General aims of the degree

  • to raise critical awareness of major issues in legal and political theory;
  • to inculcate the ability to discuss, in an informed, coherent and critical way, issues of political thought;
  • to develop the confidence to think creatively;
  • to improve the transferable skills of coherent and rational argument and the written and oral expression of ideas.

Specific objectives: by the end of the programme students should

  • be able to expound and criticise important ideas of selected modern political theorists;
  • be able to articulate and justify a considered and coherent position on issues concerning the relationship between politics, law and society;
  • demonstrate systematic reading, clarity of expression, ability to develop an argument in support of a position, anticipate and answer objections to that position, through the production of a dissertation of not more than 10,000 words which will demonstrate a capacity for beginning doctoral research