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Study information

International Law and the United Kingdom

Module titleInternational Law and the United Kingdom
Module codeLAW2144
Academic year2021/2
Module staff

Professor Caroline Fournet ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The purpose of this module is to provide you with an introduction to international law and its growing significance for the United Kingdom. It will provide you with an opportunity to explore how the UK relies on international law to address global challenges, ranging from counter-terrorism to climate change, but how it also uses international law as an instrument to advance the national interest. The module first examines the relationship between English law and international law, before turning to discuss how international law serves as a framework for international competition and for the pursuit of shared objectives. We will explore these themes by taking a problem-oriented approach. Teaching on the module relies on specific cases, incidents or current challenges to illustrate the operation of international law in a particular field. This approach will enable you to study a wide range of topics, such as the legal status of diplomats, the threat posed by disinformation and cyber operations, the permissibility of humanitarian intervention, the treatment of refugees, the role of the United Nations, and the workings of international trade.

There are no pre-requisites for this course. The module may be taken by students who wish to study other international law modules in their third year. However, it is not necessary to take this module as a pre-requiste in order to enrol on third year international law modules. Students will be expected to attend relevant seminars convened by the Exeter Centre for International Law.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module is designed to provide you with an understanding of the key features of the international legal order and the role that international law plays in enabling and constraining the UK’s action on the international stage. It will enable you to discover the effect that international rules have in English law and their impact on government decision-making. The problem-oriented approach will allow you to study certain specific legal and policy challenges in greater detail and to benefit directly from the research undertaken by members of the teaching team in this area. Overall, the module will complement your knowledge of English and European law by equipping you with a better understanding of the role of law in international affairs.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. demonstrate a critical understanding of the key features of the international legal order, the relationship between international law and English law, and the impact of international law on the United Kingdom.
  • 2. demonstrate critical understanding and detailed knowledge of the operation and impact of international law in certain selected areas of study.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. demonstrate a critical understanding of the role of law and legal argument as a constraining and enabling factor for political decision-making.
  • 4. apply legal knowledge to complex problems and apply judgement when presented with competing policy imperatives.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 5. prepare analytically compelling work that relies on diverse primary and secondary sources, employs appropriate interpretative techniques and presents a nuanced line of argument.
  • 6. engage in debate effectively and to develop complex arguments and opinions with limited guidance.

Syllabus plan

The following syllabus plan is indicative and may be subject to change, including in response to current developments. Some topics may be delivered by guest lecturers.

A rules-based international order

  • introduction to the course
  • the UK and a rules-based international order

International law in the domestic setting

  • the effect of treaties and custom in English law
  • exercising jurisdiction
  • foreign States in English courts
  • judicial review of foreign policy

Security, Conflict and Competition

  • collective security and self-defence
  • counter-terrorism
  • nuclear deterrence
  • cyber operations
  • humanitarian intervention
  • competition in the gray zone

International cooperation, values and commons

  • membership in international organizations
  • promoting human rights
  • making law at the global level
  • climate change and the environment
  • protecting cultural property
  • law of the sea
  • managing international trade

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 2222 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching 63 x 2 hour seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching 2Exeter Centre for International Law seminar
Guided independent study60reading and lecture preparation
Guided independent study40summative assessment preparation
Guided independent study 14formative assessment preparation
Guided independent study 6seminar preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Problem-based essay1,200 words1-6written feedback

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
Problem-based essay 1003,750 words1-6Written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Problem-based essayProblem-based essay (3,750 words)1-6August\September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

J. Hunt, Foreign Secretary's speech at the United States Institute For Peace, 21 August 2018 (

R. Reichold, Do Ministers have to comply with international law? Court of Appeal looks at legal challenge, 20 November 2018 (Law of Nations blog).

M. Weller, An International Use of Force in Salisbury?, 14 March 2018 (EJIL Talk blog).

J. Klabbers, International Law (2nd edn, 2017).

V. Lowe, International Law: A Very Short Introduction (2007).

Key words search

international law

Credit value15
Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date