The Constitution Unit conducts timely, rigorous, independent research into constitutional change and its consequences. Our research has significant real-world impact, informing policy-makers engaged in constitutional reform both in the United Kingdom and around the world.
Constitutions change, and do so frequently. Contrary to popular perceptions of constitutional documents as static, roughly five national constitutions are completely rewritten every year, and another thirty are amended in some way. These numbers underestimate the true amount of constitutional change, however, because they do not take into account changes to constitutional conventions, judicial interpretation, and statute law. In the UK, which famously lacks a clearly-defined written constitution, these factors are of course crucially important.
The Constitution Unit was created in 1995 to aid policy-makers involved in changing their constitutions. Robert Hazell founded the Unit initially to conduct detailed research and planning on constitutional reform in the UK, and Unit members have conducted influential research on every aspect of that programme. Our publications include reports, books, and articles in both academic journals and mainstream media. We prioritise providing timely evidence to policy-makers, and our work has had substantial real-world impact. Unit members have thus helped the UK navigate an extraordinary period of constitutional reform. We continue to advise on future UK developments, but have expanded our role to also assess the effects of reforms that have taken place. Our recent interests particularly include parliament, elections and referendums, parties and politicians, the judiciary and the civil service.
Much of the Unit's work is focused on Britain – though it has always had a comparative flavour, in terms of learning from arrangements in other countries. But we are also involved in constitutional change outside the UK. This includes the Unit’s recent association with the Comparative Constitutions Project (CCP), which has collected data on virtually every constitution written since 1789.
The Unit is housed in UCL’s Department of Political Science, but collaborates with others all over the world drawn from politics, law and the public service. We frequently host visiting researchers, public servants taking research breaks, and others working as volunteers (from whom expressions of interest are always welcome.) We also have a blog, a regular newsletter and a lively events programme. Many of our previous events can be viewed online.