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Study information

Dignity, Democracy and the Law

Module titleDignity, Democracy and the Law
Module codeLAWM145
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Catherine Dupre (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Arising out of some of the darkest periods of history and experiences of dehumanisation, human dignity has become a rallying cry of resistance to oppression and the hallmark of democracy in Europe since 1945. This module provides you with a multi-layered study of these two complex concepts and their interconnections, essential for understanding social and political developments today. The module focusses on Europe, specifically the Council of Europe and the European Union, as this is the region in which human dignity was first developed and has significantly shaped human rights law and democracy. This module will enable you to develop a unique knowledge combining foundational legal texts and theories with the latest international scholarship, including therefore non-European perspectives. The summative assessment is designed to give you the opportunity to develop your key critical thinking and writing skills, as well as to encourage you to start taking part in the wider scholarly discussions.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module closely follows political developments and international discussion on human dignity, human rights and democracy. Drawing on the module convenor’s internationally recognised research in this field, it aims to provide you with a cutting edge, research-enriched learning opportunity. By studying the connections between human dignity and democracy from a range of perspectives in an interactive and discursive pedagogical environment, this module seeks to enable you to make sense of some of the current challenges to democracy and human rights. It will equip you with essential knowledge on key human rights instruments and their interconnections. Finally, as set out in the ILOs below, the module is designed to train you to develop independent research and writing skills to professional standards.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. demonstrate detailed knowledge of, and an ability to evaluate critically, a wide range of theoretical issues at the intersection of human dignity, human rights and democracy;
  • 2. demonstrate a deep and systematic knowledge of, and an ability to evaluate critically, a wide range of issues raised by the reliance on human dignity and human rights in treaty law and related case law.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. use a wide range of sources and materials, including case law from different courts, theoretical and substantive academic commentaries, statutes, constitutions and treaties, in a critical and constructive way;
  • 4. demonstrate flexible and innovative ability to analyse complex legal problems, identify the relative significance of applicable rules and principles, and select appropriate methods for critically evaluating them.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. demonstrate independent thinking and ability to construct critical argument effectively, confidently and autonomously;
  • 6. work independently and manage time efficiently in preparing for module activities and assessment;
  • 7. demonstrate confident ability to interact effectively and proactively with a team/learning group, to share information and ideas and to manage disagreement in a professional and constructive manner.

Syllabus plan

Please note that this syllabus will be adjusted every year to reflect developments in law, politics and relevant scholarship. The module’s delivery is based on introductory seminars framing the issues and a number of case-studies selected among those listed below.


Framing seminars include some of the following:

  • Human dignity as foundation of human rights and democracy after 1945 (UDHR)
  • Human dignity, ‘democratic society’ and ‘civilisation’ (ECHR)
  • Human dignity as first foundational value of the EU (Treaty of Lisbon)
  • Human dignity, social justice and democracy
  • Human dignity, peace and democracy


Case studies include some of the following:

  • Human dignity, poverty and democracy (case study)
  • Human dignity, women’s rights and democracy (case study)
  • Human dignity, future generations and democracy (case study)
  • Human dignity, slavery and democracy (case study)
  • Hungary: from the 1989 Constitution to the 2011 Fundamental Law (case study)

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities1510 x 1.5 hour weekly interactive seminars Initially, the lecturer will lead the seminars, with students expected to become gradually more involved in defining the seminars’ focus and in leading them.
Guided independent study10010 x 10 hours: seminar preparation
Guided independent study35Reflection, research, and the preparation of formative and summative assessments.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay skeleton plan and draft introduction1000 words1-7Individual written feedback and general comments to the whole cohort as relevant.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1002000 words1-7Written comments on the feedback sheet, with the opportunity for an individual meeting with the lecturer for further oral feedback.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay (2000 words)Essay (2000 words)1-7August/September re-assessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • A Barak, Human Dignity: The Constitutional Value and the Constitutional Right (CUP, 2015) 
  • P Becchi and K Mathis (eds), Handbook of Human Dignity in Europe (Springer, 2019) 
  • D Bedford, C Dupré, G Halmai and P Kapotas (eds), Human Dignity and Democracy in Europe: Identity, Citizenship and Solidarity (E Elgar, 2021) 
  • E Daly, Dignity Rights: Courts, Constitutions and the Worth of the Human Person (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013) 
  • E Daly and J May, Advanced Introduction to Human Dignity (E Elgar, 2020) 
  • C Dupré, Importing the Law in Post-Communist Transitions, The Hungarian Constitutional Court and the Right to Human Dignity?(Hart, 2003) 
  • C Dupré, The Age of Dignity: Human Rights and Constitutionalism in Europe (Hart, 2015) 
  • M Düwell et al (eds), The Cambridge Handbook of Human Dignity (CUP, 2014) 
  • P Gilabert, Human dignity and social justice (CUP 2023)
  • D Grimm, A Kemmerer and C Möllers (eds), Human Dignity in Context (Nomos/Hart, 2018) 
  • G Kateb?Human Dignity (Harvard University Press, 2011) 
  • C McCrudden (ed), Understanding Dignity (OUP 2013) 

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Primary legal materials (e.g treaties, constitutions, case law etc ….) as available on official websites

Key words search

Human rights; justice; social justice; democracy

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date