BASS Sociology and Criminology / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:

Course unit fact file
Unit code LAWS20101
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Law
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course is designed to introduce students to some of the major authors and issues within the Anglo-American jurisprudential tradition.  We will begin by examining some theoretical questions about the nature of law, the relationship between law and morality, and the role of the courts.  We will then take a look at the idea of justice – which will involve the study of various issues within political and moral philosophy – in order to begin to provide answers to questions of what a just society would look like, how law might help ensure justice, and how legal systems and individual laws might be evaluated in terms of their promotion of justice, rights, and liberty.  Issues to be examined include methods of moral reasoning, the nature of rights, the meaning of liberty, the problem of economic inequality and the demands of distributive justice. We will go on to look at questions to do with structural injustices of other sorts, and how the law should deal with them.


- To encourage the development of skills in reasoning and analysis as applied to law through the use of non-doctrinal materials.
- To introduce students to basic theoretical perspectives on the creation and application of law, and its relationship with concepts such as justice and rights.
- To provide students with an awareness of principles underpinning legal doctrine, and of the ways in which those principles can conflict.
- To engage students in reflection upon the question of what makes for a valid system of binding laws, and upon the distinction between a just and an unjust legal system.

Learning outcomes

- An ability to engage in and cultivate reasoned legal and philosophical arguments, by way of both written presentation and (in seminars) oral argument.

- An ability to produce (by a specified deadline) concise and appropriately structured discursive essays addressing a key jurisprudential issue, with accurate and appropriate use of sources.
- An ability to undertake independent online and library-based research.
- An ability to carry out literature reviews, formulate theses and summarise legal and ethical perspectives.
- An ability to interpret others’ arguments, and to address their strongest and weakest points in a disinterested manner.

- An ability to put textual evidence to work in the independent development of arguments.

- An ability to think clearly, to identify and assess competing principles impartially, and to identify and solve legal and ethical problems.
- An ability to discuss such problems orally and to articulate relevant conclusions.


Teaching and learning methods

30 hours of lectures, five hours of (fortnightly) seminars and 10 hours of (weekly) direction and feedback drop in sessions.

The lectures will be traditionally led.

Seminars will involve open discussion of 2-3 pre-circulated problem questions, giving students the opportunity to apply many of the principles covered in the lectures.



Coursework only – 1 essay of 1500 words, weighed at 20%; 1 essay of 3000 words, due in January, weighed at 80%


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Recommended reading

None required, but students may find it helpful to consult Nigel Simmonds' Central Issues in Jurisprundence (4th ed. 2013) to get a sense of some of the issues that will be covered in the course.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 30
Seminars 5
Tutorials 10

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Iain Brassington Unit coordinator

Additional notes


This course is compulsory for students on the LLB; but it is available as an option to all students in the Faculty. 

Pre-requisites: None for Law School students and other students at the discretion of the course director.

This course is not available to incoming study abroad students.

See Law School timetable


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