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Public law

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This module introduces you to the basics of UK constitutional, administrative and human rights law from the perspectives of the four UK nations. 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. Alongside this, you'll develop your ability to carry out independent legal research, formulate legal arguments and understand others’ perspectives.

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 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 learn how to carry out your own research into UK public law. You will study three blocks of content. 

The first block introduces the module, its unique elements, and gives you a guide on how to study the module. 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 routes and you'll study one of these.
Route A explores 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, especially in light of the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Route B imagines what the UK constitution might look like in the future, in light of its historical evolution and the challenges it faces today. It begins by exploring the differing constitutional histories of the four nations of the UK to understand its present challenges. It goes 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 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 colonial 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 over time 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.

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

Preparatory work

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

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
  • 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 (10.15 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.

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 above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

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.

Future availability

Public law starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2022. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2029.

Course work includes:

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