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Law: the individual and the state

This module builds on the knowledge and skills developed in Understanding law (W200) and examines a further two Foundations of Legal Knowledge: public law and criminal law. Public law considers the relationship between citizen and state; the structure of state institutions; how government action may be challenged (judicial review); the legal values that determine a citizen’s rights and duties; and an outline of civil liberties law. Criminal law considers criminal liability in the context of particular criminal offences; the requirements of specific defences; areas where criminal law is considered flawed; and proposals for reform. 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 9 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 is for students who already have a good knowledge of the English legal system and method building on the knowledge and skills developed in Rules, rights and justice: an introduction to law (W100) and Understanding law (W200). It covers two of the Foundations of Legal Knowledge: (1) Public Law (sometimes known as Constitutional and Administrative Law) and (2) Criminal Law. The module is split equally between these two areas.

The module will enable you to:

  • understand how public power can be subjected to law; the role of fundamental values; how the power of institutions can be defined; how the law defines the state and allocates power within the UK
  • understand how procedure can be an element of control; how conflicts between institutions are resolved; how conflicts between the state and individuals are resolved; how the law defines and protects human rights
  • understand how a legal approach to analysis of public power differs from other approaches (historical or political)
  • understand the limits of legal controls on public power (political and social context)
  • understand the principles of criminal law; what conduct and state of mind must be proved for a person to be convicted of a criminal offence
  • define the elements of particular crimes such as murder, burglary and theft
  • understand the requirements of defences including infancy, insanity, duress, intoxication, loss of control and diminished responsibility
  • be able to apply the legal concepts you encounter to factual scenarios, developing your skills of analysis and problem solving
  • acquire the confidence to reflect critically on the current state of the law, appreciating that in many areas the criminal law is widely felt to be flawed or inconsistent; and be aware of proposals for reform.

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
  • assimilate and organise extensive factual and legal material, and present a reasoned, coherent and personal view
  • 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 be allocated a tutor who will give you guidance on your work, and will offer academic support wherever he or she can. Your tutor will assess and give feedback on your module assignments. 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 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 then 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


This module will be a good choice if you have taken Understanding law (W200) and intend to obtain a qualifying law degree or if you have studied the law before, and want to develop your understanding of public and criminal law. This could be either out of general interest or because some legal knowledge would be useful in your work.

The module assumes that you already have a grounding in the English legal system and up-to-date awareness (though no in detail) of the Foundations of Legal Knowledge (e.g. criminal law, law of obligations (contract and tort)). If you haven’t studied for some time, we strongly advise you to take Rules, rights and justice: an introduction to the law (W100) before starting this module. If you haven’t studied law before, we strongly advise you to take Understanding law (W200) first.

This is an OU level 2 module and so builds on your OU level 1 study or equivalent work at another university. If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 Not yet available

Registration opens on 12/03/15

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.

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 01/11/2014.

What's included

Module books, other printed materials and access to certain legal databases. Access to a website that offers online resources and course 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 course 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.