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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Law


Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2021/22


  • None


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • LAW42230 (International Human Rights Law: 30 credits)


  • To provide students with:
  • an introduction to the structures and objectives of the mechanisms for the protection of human rights within the international legal system at a global level, in order to arrive at;
  • an advanced understanding of the impact of human rights law on commercial practice and vice versa.


  • The course provides an intensive introduction to international human rights law and a critical assessment of the ability of human rights law to address corporate human rights impacts. The international human rights treaties and mechanisms will be introduced, with a specific focus on treatment of corporate harms. Jurisprudence, committee reports, and periodic reviews of international and regional treaties and treaty bodies on corporate human rights harms are covered.
  • Development: The course considers state obligations relating to development. It considers tensions that arise between Development and other human rights protections. Key international documents on development are considered. Critical assessment of how to resolve tension between development and human rights protection considered.
  • The human rights accountability of transnational corporations: This includes engagement with conceptual problems arising in public international law, and human rights norms in holding transnational corporations accountable. The merits and limitations of a treaty on business and human rights is analysed. Human rights and public international law dimensions of transnational corporate accountability are assessed through examination of Domestic litigation eg, US, Canada, UK. The course includes critical engagement with the human rights of corporations themselves.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • detailed knowledge and understanding of the structures and objectives of the mechanisms for the protection of human rights within the international legal system;
  • detailed knowledge and understanding of selected topics of particular relevance to commercial lawyers; a critical understanding of the effectiveness of international law as a means of protecting human rights given the legal, political, economic, social and cultural context in which it operates.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • the ability to engage in independent analysis of a range of primary legal materials;
  • the ability to critically evaluate the views of legal commentators drawn from a range of disciplines and to adopt and defend a reasoned position on the issues explored;
  • the ability to engage in independent research on complex legal problems.
Key Skills:
  • ability to describe accurately and comprehensibly the arguments and analysis of other commentators, ability to evaluate critically the arguments of others

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students will learn enough of the fundamentals of international law to know how human rights are understood in international law, how the protection of human rights is provided for, and why it takes the form it does. Within each segment of the module, the students will be faced with case-studies to see how the general principles apply in practice.
  • The course will begin with a one hour presentation. Thereafter each two-hour session will begin with a discussion of the previous week’s presentation, followed by the introduction afterwards of a new topic for discussion the following week. This type of hybrid presentation / discussion seminar places emphasis on full class participation to explore particular topics in depth and to encourage students to develop confidence in formulating and articulating their own ideas and perspectives on the issues.
  • The formative assessment will consist of one essay of no more than 1500 words. The summative assessment will consist of an essay of no more than 3000 words, and tests the ability to focus on one or more key issues, to organise content knowledge and to develop logical argumentation based on further independent reading.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 1 per week during Epiphany 2 x 1hr / 7 x 2 hrs 16
Preparation and Reading 134
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

1500 word assessment.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University