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International, environmental and space law

This contemporary module confronts how international law has evolved and functions within the framework for global governance in a changing and evermore complex world. The module's dynamic approach focuses on two exciting areas of international law, international environmental and space law, to develop your understanding of international law as the law of global governance. You'll study humanity's impact on the global and outer space environment and the governance mechanisms designed to manage that impact. As we move towards tackling the global climate emergency, this module will give you the tools to evaluate the feasibility and fairness of that transition.

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

W260

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

The cutting-edge nature of this module means going beyond the law and crosses into the realm of global governance. Its cross-disciplinary nature means delving into areas of the social sciences as well as elements of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It aims to give you the foundations of how to think about the challenges of the twenty-first century and how to evaluate the possible solutions to those challenges. This means that the content of the module tackles what have become known as ‘wicked problems’.
 
Wicked problems are challenges that are difficult or impossible to solve. Unravelling wicked problems is at the core of addressing the challenges that humanity face in preserving both the terrestrial and space environments. Appropriately, this module focuses on international environmental law and space law as two instances where wicked problems are centre stage in global governance. The difficulties are immense: yet solving them might be the key to future human prosperity.
 
The cross-disciplinary framework of the module is reflected in the way that you are assessed. This means you’ll get the chance to use different ways of communicating the law, including drafting a podcast script and creating a policy brief intended for the UK parliament to effect change.

The module is divided into the following nine units, and they all highlight the issues of participation, fairness, and justice in the global order.

Unit 1
You'll learn about the foundations of the international system, the sources of international law, and the key actors.

Unit 2
The focus is on the Global North-South divide, beginning with the impact of colonialism and the acquisition of territory by European powers. It will highlight the inequalities of the international system and the challenges that face the Global South.

Unit 3
You'll focus on international governance through treaties exploring the governance of climate change from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to the Paris Climate change conference and beyond.

Unit 4
You'll explore the place of international courts in the international system and the change that they have brought to the way that the international system is governed. The unit will use transboundary pollution, rights of nature, and human rights litigation to explore global governance through international courts.

Unit 5
In this unit you'll learn about the proposed amendment to the Statute of the International Criminal Court, adding Ecocide as a new international crime. You'll also learn how to produce an environmental case study in the form of a script for a podcast.

Unit 6
You'll be introduced to the core concepts of the governance of outer space, from the Outer Space Treaty to the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) and more.

Unit 7
You'll look more specifically at planetary protection issues and nascent environmental issues such as space debris, examining the connections with terrestrial environmental issues and governance.

Unit 8
You'll examine the diversity of space actors (or lack of) – in the sense of the organisations, companies, and states engaged in space activities – and the people who comprise those entities.

Unit 9
You'll explore the governance of resource utilisation in the global commons, which includes outer space.
 

Vocational relevance

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 studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They will 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 is 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. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.

Assessment

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

Future availability

International, environmental and space law starts once a year – in February. This page describes the module that will start in February 2025. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2030.

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:

2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
End-of-module assessment


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 W260.

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 England fee Register
01 Feb 2025 Jul 2025 £1818.00

Registration closes 09/01/25 (places subject to availability)

Register
This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2030.

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 receive 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 2025. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 24/05/2024.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

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 and funded places are still available.

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’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • 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 Ventura 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 W260 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.