Competition law rules influence and govern a broad range of corporate practices. For example, competition authorities may take enforcement action against firms, which agree not to compete with each other and secretly fix prices (‘cartels’), or against firms that have the ability to influence market conditions and to exclude equally efficient competitors (Microsoft, Google). Competition authorities also have the power to block mergers and acquisitions that are likely to create market dominance or otherwise harm consumers. In order to assess the likely impact of business practices and to determine whether these are nefarious, benign or healthy, competition authorities and courts evaluate economic evidence and engage in economic analysis. This creates a strong link between economics and competition law.
In the last twenty years, Competition law has spread swiftly throughout the world, and to date more than 130 jurisdictions have enacted competition law statutes. These laws are generally based on the EU or US models or a hybrid of the two and are therefore, considerably similar in their form and substance. The Competition Law specialism at UCL will equip students to understand and address competition concerns in any jurisdiction.
The UCL Competition Law team also welcomes a number of PhD students and has one of the most active PhD programmes in competition law in the UK. The CLES offers an unparalleled competition law and economics educational environment, with frequent conferences bringing to UCL officials from a number of competition authorities around the world, business and technology experts and top-notch academics. Each year we organise more than 12 conferences in London and also other parts of the world. Our academics lead the major legal journals in the field and contribute to the global discussion in competition law, by leading multi-national competition law initiatives, for instance with regard to BRICS countries, as well as providing evidence and training to international organisations, courts and competition law authorities worldwide, and engaging with the civil society. The CLES organises short courses on Chinese competition law, Indian competition law, competition policy and the digital economy, competition law and IP rights, competition law and life sciences.
- What are the backgrounds or interests of students who normally select this specialism?
Students who study on the Competition Law specialism come from a variety of backgrounds and undertake the LLM for a range of reasons. Some of our students have recently completed their undergraduate studies, and are looking to develop more specialised knowledge in a subject area they particularly enjoyed and want to work in. Some have a non-competition law background and are looking to change the focus of their career. Others have been working in competition authorities overseas, in law firms, consultancy firms or in the judiciary and want to further develop their expertise in particular sub-fields so as to enhance their future career prospects.
- What do you think are the top three highlights of this specialism?
One of the highlights of the specialism is its cross-disciplinary nature (law, economics, information technology law, economic sociology, to name a few) and diversity of perspectives regarding the regulation of private economic power. This is both in respect of the subjects we offer on the Competition Law specialism, which is notable for its breadth and depth, and equally in respect of the profile of our students – who are curious, motivated and come from all around the world.
The second important highlight of the specialism is that it integrates technological developments in the understanding and teaching of competition law.
The third highlight of the specialism is the strength of the Competition Law teaching team. Students are offered the opportunity to be taught by world leading competition law scholars from UCL Faculty of Laws alongside guests including policy makers, practising lawyers and economists. In fact, UCL was one of the first institutions to involve economists in the delivery of competition law courses; a tradition initiated by Emeritus Professor of Competition Law, Valentine Korah, who held the first Chair in Competition Law at UCL Laws, and is one of the first women appointed to a Chair in Law in the UK. The above features contributed to the specialism being ranked top 10 in the world by the LLM Guide in 2021, as well as in previous years.
Finally, our students are part of the UCL Centre for Law, Economics and Society (CLES). Founded and led by Professor Ioannis Lianos, Chair of Global Competition Law and Public Policy at UCL Faculty of Laws, and since 2019, also the President of the Hellenic Competition Commission, the CLES is a vibrant community of leading competition law scholars that organises and is heavily involved in a number of public policy debates with students and visitors. It is also a diverse community enjoying a number of academic partnerships around the world. Additional activities are organised by the Jevons Institute for Competition Law and Economics, which constitutes a meeting point between academia and practice. After their LLM year, our students remain an important part of our community – our LLM alumni play important roles in our programmes and events and build a strong network of competition lawyers around the world.
- What do students who have studied this specialism usually go on to do?
We prepare students to work at an advanced level in competition law and policy in a range of roles - from the legal profession and government, to the policy sectors. Students will also develop skills and knowledge to prepare them for further research beyond the LLM.
- What books, podcasts, blogs or newspapers do you recommend to students interested in taking this specialism?
There are a number of blogs and newspapers which are particularly helpful in keeping students up to date with competition law issues, including The Economist, the Competition Policy International newsletter, the Concurrences database (to name a few). For an in-depth study of the subject see I Lianos, V Korah and P Siciliani, Competition Law – Analysis, Cases and Materials (OUP 2019).
Some of the most important competition law issues in recent years concern the use of personal data by digital platforms and the control by digital platforms of ecosystems. For an analysis see:
- What would you say to a student who is considering taking this specialism but hasn’t made up their mind yet?
Competition law and policy has proliferated around the world and deep knowledge of the subject has become increasingly important to our understanding of the dynamic forces at play in the modern digital economy. The extensive curriculum provides ample opportunities to grapple with the legal, regulatory, economic, political, institutional facets of competition law. We strive to balance theoretical discussions with real-world examples of the evolving implementation of competition law and policy, in particular focusing on how technology changes the way competition in markets work and how competition laws around the world evolve to take into account these new realities.