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MA Legal and Political Theory

The study of the ethical dimensions of public policy

MA Legal and Political Theory

This programme at a glance

Programme title
MA in Legal and Political Theory
Provides students with the key analytical skills to study the ethical dimensions of politics and public policy.
12 months (full-time) or 24 months (part-time)

Please see fees tab.

Application deadline

28 July 2017

Programme Director
Dr Nick Martin

Programme introduction

Ronald Dworkin - an obituary

It is with great sadness that the Department received the news of the death of Ronald Dworkin. Read more »

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

The programme is made up of the following elements, to total 180 credits:

1.   You are required to take the following three compulsory modules:

These seminars are an integral component of the course and all students are required to attend. The seminars - which become the Colloquia in the second term - take place on alternate  Wednesdays. Seminars bridge the gap between academic research and broader understanding of key issues concerning society and politics.  Click here for seminar programme

Peer Assisted Learning (P.A.L.) sessions. All members of the MA programme are required to attend these student-only discussions held before the Seminars. They give students the opportunity to discuss that week's paper amongst themselves under the supervision of a member of teaching staff. The aim of the sessions is to prepare students to participate fully in the SPP seminars themselves.

  • Dissertation - 10,000 words (60)

2.   Choose two or three modules worth a total of 45 credits from the following (the other modules remain options to choose in step 3):

3.   Choose one 15 credit module (the following is a list of all courses available within the department):

at the School of Public Policy

Students may take graduate modules from cognate subjects available elsewhere in UCL but must seek approval from the Programme Director in the first instance.

UK/EU students (Full-time) Overseas students (Full-time) UK/EU students (Part-time) Overseas students (Part-time)
MSc Public Policy £12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MSc European Public Policy £12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MSc International Public Policy £12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MSc Democracy and Comparative Politics
£12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MA Human Rights £12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MA Legal and Political Theory £12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MSc Global Governance and Ethics £12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MSc Security Studies £12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MPA Public Administration and Management
£17,190 £24,140 £8,470 £12,020

Please note: Part-time fees are per year. Subsequent years’ fees may be subject to increase. Any annual increase in fees will not exceed 5% per year.

For the Executive MPA in Global Public Policy and Management fees, please visit the EMPA page. The fees for this programme are quoted in US dollars and are set by and payable to NYU Wagner. 

MSc International Public Policy

Entry to all of our programmes is competitive so please apply early to increase your chances of success. This is particularly the case on our larger Masters programmes in Public Policy, International Public Policy, Security Studies and Human Rights. Candidates applying for these programmes are strongly advised to submit applications as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

Please note that all closing dates are final. We are unable to accept any further applications after these dates.

Applications for Masters 2017/18

We are now accepting applications.

Closing date: 28 July 2017

For further details and to apply online:

Applications for the Executive MPA

Applications for the Executive MPA in Global Public Policy and Management are managed by NYU Wagner. The deadline is TBC. For more information on the programme and entry requirements, please click here.

Applications for the Doctoral programme

Closing Date: June 2017

Related links

Frequently asked questions

Contact us

School of Public Policy,
The Rubin Building,
29/31 Tavistock Square,
London, WC1H 9QU.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 4999,
Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 4978,

Postgraduate enquiries

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 4982/4950

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Page last modified on 12 feb 13 16:48

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