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Understanding law

This introduction to the creation and application of English law begins by asking ‘What is the law?’; teaches you to find, read, interpret and apply the law; and introduces the techniques of practical legal research. Ideal if you’re considering a legal career, it provides a brief overview of constitutional principles, criminal law, human rights, and the law of contract and tort. You will then study the terminology and sources of law, legal research and the workings of the European Union (EU) in depth. The other foundations of legal knowledge are covered by our modules W201, W300 and W301. The module deals principally with the law of England and Wales.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

This OU level 2 module forms a compulsory part of the LLB degree and is suitable for study by those who have taken Rules, rights and justice: an introduction to the law (W100) or those who have an interest in law and have experience of OU level 1 study.

At least a third of the module is devoted to EU law, reflecting its relevance both to businesses and to individuals. You will consider the supremacy of EU law, the single internal market, social policy, consumer protection and the freedom of movement of workers, goods and services. This is a dynamic and much debated area and you will explore the relevant legal principles, the reasons for their development and what changes may mean for the future.

The module has been designed to develop and raise your legal awareness and provide you with an in-depth knowledge of key aspects of the legal system in England and Wales, an understanding of legal methodology and the principles and methods of legal research.

In addition to knowledge and understanding, the module will provide you with an opportunity to develop subject specific and general study skills suitable for study at OU level 2. These include:

  • the ability to identify relevant facts and issues and apply legal principles in an orderly way
  • the ability to assimilate and organise extensive factual and legal material, and present a reasoned, coherent view
  • to evaluate and make critical judgement of the merits of particular arguments
  • assimilate and present arguments based on module manuals, standard text books and wider directed reading
  • appreciate and demonstrate the techniques of legal argument
  • access, comprehend and use paper based and online legal resources.

Professional recognition

If you are intending to use this module as part of the LLB, and you hope to enter the Legal Professions, you should read carefully the careers information on The Open University Law School website. There are different entry regulations into the legal professions in England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. You should read the information on the website as it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet these requirements.

Outside the UK

Please note that this module is only concerned with the law of England and Wales.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. There will be a study day on the use of a law library (including library exercises), which will be held at one of the College of Law’s five branches in Guildford, Birmingham, London, York and Chester. If you intend to gain a qualifying law degree, you should attend this day. We expect to offer group tutorials which may be face to face or, in some sparsely populated areas may be offered online. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module. Although you are not obliged to attend any of these, you are strongly encouraged to take part.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent  you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

You must complete all the assessment as it is an integral part of the teaching.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2014. We expect it to be available once a year, in October.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


The module is suitable for a broad range of students and will be a good choice if you:

  • have a general interest in the law or would like to increase your legal knowledge and understanding
  • would find some legal knowledge useful in your work
  • intend to study other areas of the law as part of a qualifying law degree.

If you already have a degree then you are not required to have studied law before, but this is an OU level 2 module. 

If you are new to study at university level, or are returning after some time, we recommend that you first study Rules, rights and justice: an introduction to the law (W100)

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.


Start End Fee
- - -

No current presentation - see Future availability

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2015.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or request a call back.

Note: Your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is based upon current details for  year 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015.
This information was provided on 24/10/2014.

What's included

Module books, other printed materials, and access to certain legal databases. Access to a website that offers online resources and module news.
The study materials are updated annually, but it may be necessary to update during your study of the module if there is a major (and unexpected) change to the law.

You will need

This module may offer online tutorials in the future, in which case you will need a headset with a microphone and earphones to take part.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

If you have a disability

The written study material is available in a comb-bound format and written transcripts are available for the audio-visual material. The study materials (excluding text books) may be available on CD-ROM in Adobe (PDF) format. Some components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. You will need to spend time using a personal computer and the internet.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.