UCL Faculty of Laws


Comparative Constitutional Law (LAWS0311)

This module will introduce students to the comparative study of constitutions, constitution-making and constitutional change

We will start with an examination of methodological questions such as why and what we compare and when constitutional courts make recourse to comparative material. We will continue with a comparative exploration of institutional arrangements, models of rights protection, and mechanisms for constitutional reform. The overall aim of the course is to go beyond doctrine and draw out the thorniest questions in constitutional scholarship in practice today.

Readings will cover both influential jurisdictions such as the US, the UK, France, Germany, India, and South Africa, and what are often considered jurisdictions at the periphery, from Eastern and Central Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. We will look at both liberal democratic constitutions and what has been termed ‘authoritarian' and 'illiberal' constitutionalism.

Running themes throughout the course will include: the interplay between constitutional law and politics and between constitutional and international law, tensions between constitutionalism and democracy, constitutions as documents enshrining fundamental values versus entrenching political compromise, and constitutions as the basis for the empowerment versus the suppression of citizens.

The weekly seminars are highly participatory. There will be occasional optional film screenings, as well as expert guest speakers coming from the practical world of constitution-building assistance.

Module syllabus

This module is subject to change.

Topics covered will include:

  • Comparative constitutional law methodology
  • Constitution-making: experts, citizens, international actors
  • Comparing territorial structures: unitary, federal and mixed states; secession
  • Comparing systems of government: presidentialism, parliamentarism and semi-presidentialism
  • Comparing rights protection: varieties of rights entrenchment
  • Constitutions and the transnational: global constitutional values
  • Constitutions and their others: women, indigenous people, minority groups
  • Constitutional change: amendment, replacement, revolution
  • Constitutional enforcement and states of emergency
  • The constitutionalisation of new subjects and new spheres
  • The rise of populism and ‘illiberal’ constitutionalism

Recommended materials

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

Preliminary reading

Optional readings include:

  • Ran Hirschl, Comparative Matters: The Renaissance of Comparative Constitutional Law (OUP, 2014)
  • Michel Rosenfeld and András Sajó (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law (OUP, 2012)
  • Mark Tushnet, Thomas Fleiner, and Cheryl Saunders (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Constitutional Law(Routledge, 2013)
  • Vicky Jackson, Constitutional Engagement in a Transnational Era (OUP, 2013)

Key information

Module details
Credit value:22.5 credits (225 learning hours)
Convenor:Silvia Suteu
Other Teachers:None
Teaching Delivery:Teaching for all LLM modules in 2020-21 will be delivered through a combination of pre-recorded and synchronous live teaching
Who may enrol:LLM Students Only
Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:LLM in Human Rights Law; 
LLM in Public Law; 
Practice Assessment:TBC
Final Assessment:3,000 word Essay