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Public law

This module introduces you to the fundamentals of UK constitutional, administrative and human rights law from various perspectives, including critical, geographical and historical. It explores the past, present and future of the UK constitution to enable you to gain an understanding of historical and contemporary issues affecting the relationship between the citizen and the state in the UK. Two central themes run through the module: human rights, and the perspectives of the four UK nations. Alongside this, you'll develop your ability to carry out independent legal research, formulate legal arguments and understand others’ perspectives.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

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

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Module

Module code

W211

Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
30

Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
Level of Study
OU SCQF FHEQ
2 9 5

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

This module covers important aspects of the relationship between the state and the individual in the UK from the perspectives of the four UK nations: Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. It focuses on understanding the geographical scope and historical development of the UK Constitution, key current constitutional issues, and how the future of the UK Constitution may look. Throughout the module, you'll develop a range of skills, including how to carry out your own research into UK public law. You will study three blocks of content. 

The first block introduces the module and its unique elements and guides you in studying it. The following two units then introduce the past and present of the UK Constitution and the fundamental principles of UK constitutional law. The final unit introduces two key themes of the module: the perspectives of the four UK nations; and human rights and civil liberties within the constitution.

The second block is divided into two streams and you'll study one of these.
You can explore the power the state has to act over individuals, and the freedoms and rights individuals have in relation to the state. It starts by considering whether and how the UK state and devolved governments are accountable to the people, then examines contemporary human rights issues. You'll look at how the state can maintain the rule of law when responding to an emergency situation, such as the coronavirus pandemic, and investigate the growing power of the executive branch, through the use of secondary legislation and Henry VIII clauses.

Alternatively, you'll imagine what the UK Constitution might look like in the future in light of its historical evolution and the challenges it faces today. This begins by exploring the differing constitutional histories of the four nations of the UK to understand its present challenges. You'll go on to consider how human rights can best be protected in constitutions and may be used to tackle emerging issues in the constitution. You'll also look at how to reshape the Union itself and examine the impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union on the structure of the constitution.

The final block builds on everything learned so far to examine a number of aspects of constitutional and administrative law. It begins by exploring the imperial history of the UK and its impact on the current constitution. You'll then consider what sort of underlying values should found a constitution and how constitutions evolve to respond to changing societies. You'll study the treatment of minority and outsider groups in the constitution and consider the relationship between individuals, democracy and the constitution. You'll conclude by examining aspects of administrative law, including the nature and impact of law-making by administrative bodies and role of judicial review and the courts in the UK Constitution.

Vocational relevance

United Kingdom public law and the skills developed throughout this module form a compulsory part of any career path into legal practice. The subject knowledge and skills will help to prepare you for any career in law.

If you intend to study this module as part of the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and hope to enter the legal professions, you should read our Careers in Law information. There are different entry requirements into the legal professions in England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland. It is your responsibility to ensure you meet these requirements.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Recordings of online tutorials will typically be made available to students. While you’re not obliged to attend any of these tutorial events, you are strongly encouraged to take part. You will also have a selection of additional online tutorials focussing on library and research skills.

Assessment

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

This module also uses assessment builder activities (ABAs). These are intended to support the development of research and related skills as you progress through the module and spread the assessed workload more evenly throughout the module. They involve completing tasks that form part of tutor-marked assignment (TMA) credit by an interim deadline before the main TMA deadline. ABAs may require you to post work to your tutor group forum and reply to posts submitted by other students.

Future availability

Public law starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2029.

Regulations

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

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
No examination


Entry requirements

If you are new to study at university level or are returning after some time, we recommend that you first study an OU level 1 law module such as Criminal law and the courts (W111) or Civil justice and tort law (W112), unless you are a graduate entry student.

If you are studying this module as part of the Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (LLB) (R81) or Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (graduate entry) (LLB) (R82), then you will need to have studied or be studying on a concurrent presentation of Public law (W211) before enrolling on W212.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

You might find the following resources useful in preparation for this module:

Register

Start End Fee
- - -

No current presentation - see Future availability

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2029.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

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 monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Joint loan applications

If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

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

Employer sponsorship

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

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module 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 module.  

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, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

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


Please 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 fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2024. Fees normally increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 21/02/2024.

Can you study an Access module for free?

In order to qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a personal income of less than £25,000 (or receive qualifying benefits)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above, or completed 30 credits or more of OU study

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069 or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

You will be provided with the module textbook Public Law 3rd edition (Stanton and Prescott) and have access to a module website, which includes:

  • an eBook version of the module textbook
  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • a downloadable Research handbook to support the development of your research skills
  • electronic versions of books to support your studies
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access and tutor support.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Monterey or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying W211 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.