UCL Faculty of Laws


Comparative Constitutional Law (LAWS0361)

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

The course aims to equip students with a solid understanding of the creation, contestation, and enforcement of constitutions. We will start with an examination of methodological questions such as why and what we compare and when do constitutional courts make recourse to comparative material. We will continue with a comparative exploration of institutional arrangements, models of rights protection, constitutional review mechanisms, and processes for constitutional reform. We will also consider the rise of authoritarianism and democratic backsliding and constitutional safeguards against them. The overall objective 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, Africa and the Middle East. We will look at both liberal democratic constitutions and what have been termed ‘authoritarian' and ‘hybrid’ constitutional systems. 

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

Please note that this module may be 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 
  • The constitutionalisation of the executive  
  • Models of constitutional rights entrenchment 
  • Key constitutional rights battles (abortion, same-sex marriage, elections etc.) 
  • 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 (e.g. the environment) 
  • Authoritarian rule of law 
  • Democratic backsliding and the erosion of liberal 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

Useful general references include: 

  • Michel Rosenfeld and András Sajó, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law (OUP 2012) 
  • Denis J. Galligan and Mila Versteeg, eds., Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions (CUP 2013) 
  • Ran Hirschl, Comparative Matters: The Renaissance of Comparative Constitutional Law (OUP 2014) 
  • Erin F. Delaney and Rosalind Dixon, eds., Comparative Judicial Review (Edward Elgar 2018) 
  • David Landau and ‎Hanna Lerner, eds., Comparative Constitution Making (Edward Elgar 2019) 
  • Xenophon Contiades and ‎Alkmene Fotiadou, eds., Routledge Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Change (Routledge 2020) 
  • David S. Law, Constitutionalism in Context (Cambridge University Press 2022) 

Key information

Module details
Credit value:45 credits (450 learning hours) 
Convenor:Silvia Suteu
Other Teachers:Berihun Gebeye, Ewan Smith
Teaching Delivery:20 x Face to Face Seminars 
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:TBD
Final Assessment:50% in-person exam, 50% 3,000 Word Essay