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Module SXL-3110:
Int. Law & Contemporary Issues

Module Facts

Run by School of Law

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1 & 2

Organiser: Prof Alison Mawhinney

Overall aims and purpose

The aim of this module is to provide undergraduate students with a broad and solid introduction to the area of International Law with a specific introduction to international human rights law, public international law, and international criminal law and other contemporary issues.

Course content

The aim of this module is to enhance students’ understanding about the international context of law. Students will begin with the building blocks, starting with some of the fundamental principles of Public International Law. On grasping these core principles students will be well placed to move forward to more sophisticated examination of some core topics of international human rights law, and international criminal law in the context of contemporary issues.

Assessment Criteria

C- to C+

C- to C+ • Knowledge of key areas/principles • Understands main areas • Limited evidence of background study • Answer focussed on question but also with some irrelevant material and weaknesses in structure • Arguments presented but lack coherence • Has several factual/computational errors • No original interpretation • Only major links between topics are described • Limited problem solving • Some weaknesses in presentation and accuracy


A- to A* • Comprehensive knowledge • Detailed understanding • Extensive background study • Highly focussed answer and well structured • Logically presented and defended arguments • No factual/computational errors • Original interpretation • New links between topics are developed • New approach to a problem • Excellent presentation with very accurate communication


D- to D+ • Knowledge of key areas/principles only • Weaknesses in understanding of main areas • Limited evidence of background study • Answer only poorly focussed on question and with some irrelevant material and poor structure • Arguments presented but lack coherence • Several factual/computational errors • No original interpretation • Only major links between topics are described • Limited problem solving • Many weaknesses in presentation and accuracy

E- FAIL:• Insufficient to fulfil the associated learning outcomes • Deficiencies in Knowledge even of key areas/principles • No evidence of understanding, even of main areas • No evidence of background study • Answer relies on tangential material and lacks a coherent structure • No arguments presented • Many factual/computational errors • No original interpretation • No links between topics are described • No attempt to solve problems • The presentation is very weak containing many inaccuracies


B- to B+ • Strong knowledge • Understands most but not all • Evidence of background study • Focussed answer with good structure • Arguments presented coherently • Mostly free of factual/computational errors • Some limited original interpretation • Well known links between topics are described • Problems addressed by existing methods/approaches • Good presentation with accurate communication

Learning outcomes

  1. Apply knowledge of international law to actual or hypothetical factual scenarios.

  2. Critically evaluate the key sources of international law and how these apply to specific situations

  3. Critically assess a broad and critical appreciation of the history, theory and practice of international law

  4. Critically assess a critical understanding of fundamental legal principles in public international law, international human rights law, international criminal law in the context of contemporary issues.

  5. Critically appraise the broader political, cultural and economic contexts in which international law operates.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
EXAM Examination of fundamental understanding 40
EXAM Exam on Application of Knowledge 60

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

private study either alone or within study groups - students will be given significant direction and advice by tutor and module leader with respect to private study topics and objectives


22 x 2 hour weekly seminars, taught using a blended learning approach


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • Develop the ability to interpret legal rules and employ techniques of legal reasoning competently and efficiently in order to offer a range of solutions and conclusions to actual or hypothetical complex legal problems, all supported by relevant academic literature, jurisprudence and legislative research. Such solutions will be clearly communicated and presented
  • Develop the ability to analyse complex legal issues, set against the background of the political, social, economic or cultural contexts in which they may arise
  • Develop those skills which are necessary for scholarship and research in legal subjects, namely the ability to identify relevant primary and secondary legal sources and to retrieve accurate legal information using paper and electronic sources


Resource implications for students

Most resources in the reading list will be drawn from sources already available to students through the library. Consideration will be given if a textbook is chosen to the cost of that textbook.

Reading list

A reading list is currently being developed.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: