LAW AND CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL ISSUES - 2024/5

Module code: LAW2096

Module Overview

Societies, just like individuals, routinely face hard decisions about what they value and hope to achieve. What form of government should they have? How much say should people have in particular government decisions? For that matter, how much say should the government have in particular personal or family decisions? What balance should we strike between competing values such as freedom, equality, prosperity, and safety? Should we punish people who break the law, and if so, how? How should our society behave towards other societies? And what is the role of law in all this? 
Any serious attempt to answer questions like these requires engagement with key concepts in social and political philosophy – concepts like authority, democracy, liberty, rights, justice, and equality. In this module, students will carefully study and critically evaluate academic articles that focus on these concepts and the role that they play in controversial social and political debates. Students will also examine legal sources, such as statutes, treaties, and case judgments, that touch on these debates, and will critically evaluate these legal sources in light of the insights they have gleaned from their study of related scholarship. 

Module provider

School of Law

Module Leader

NEWHOUSE Marie (Schl of Law)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

JACs code: M240

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 75

Lecture Hours: 10

Seminar Hours: 20

Guided Learning: 40

Captured Content: 5

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

None

Module content


  • Democracy and legitimacy

  • The nature and limits of judicial authority

  • Rights and liberty

  • Liberal society and toleration

  • Equality under law and equality of opportunity

  • Public and private discrimination

  • Our obligation to obey the law and civil disobedience

  • Criminal justice and punishment

  • Justice and migration

  • Justice and injustice in war


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework 3,000 word summative essay 90
Oral exam or presentation Roundtable Seminar participation 10

Alternative Assessment

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Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:


  • Familiarity with some of the main issues and arguments in social and political philosophy, and with important legal cases and statutes related to these debates.

  • The ability to read complex scholarly texts, identify their main arguments, and then clearly and rigorously and reconstruct those arguments, orally and in writing.

  • The ability to competently interpret and then critically evaluate noteworthy legal sources, and to present that evaluation with rigour and clarity, orally and in writing.

  • The ability to undertake directed research using digital databases.



  Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:


  • Coursework (essay, 3,000 words), weighted at 90%

  • Roundtable Seminar Participation, weighted at 10%



Coursework is the primary method of assessment for this module in part because it permits further research, which will develop students’ digital skills and resilience. In contrast to an examination, the coursework assessment will permit substantive revision of students’ critical evaluations in light of Roundtable Seminar discussions and further reading and reflection on complex and challenging texts. Philosophical texts of the type that students will learn to engage in this module are often best grasped only after repeated readings over a period of days or weeks. In contrast to an exam, the coursework assessment will not require extensive memorization, which will enable students to focus their efforts primarily on the quality of their critical evaluations.

Roundtable seminar participation will be evaluated weekly, and every student who offers one short (2-3 sentences) prepared comment related to the readings will receive full credit of 10 marks (out of 100 possible) each week. There are 11 seminars, so each student can opt not to offer any comment during one seminar of their choice and still receive a maximum overall participation mark of 100%. Students who are unable to attend a Roundtable Seminar should contact the module convener to arrange an alternative oral assessment. The participation assessment is intended to enable students to demonstrate the ability to convey their ideas orally, an essential employability skill in law, to develop resilience by participating in friendly yet challenging debates, and to enhance their global and cultural intelligence through fruitful exchanges with peers from a variety of backgrounds.

 

 

Formative assessment: Coursework (1,500 words)

The formative assessment will enable students to receive feedback on their developing skills in textual interpretation and analysis as well as critical evaluation. They will also receive feedback on the clarity of their writing, which will enable improvements prior to the completion of the summative coursework assessment.

 Feedback: written, with additional verbal feedback available in office hours

Module aims

  • Familiarise themselves with some of the main issues and arguments engaged in the academic literature in social and political philosophy.
  • Build up the legal interpretation skills introduced in their first-year core modules by reading and developing a sophisticated understanding of a set of noteworthy legal sources, such as treaties, statutes, and case judgments, related to these debates.
  • Extend and adapt their existing legal reading skills to engage in close reading of complex scholarly texts, for the purpose of identifying and reconstructing their main theses.
  • Build up the writing skills introduced in Legal Systems by clearly and rigorously identifying and reconstructing the main thesis of scholarly texts, both orally and in writing.
  • Build up and deploy the critical evaluation skills taught in Public Law 1 and other first-year modules to critically evaluate legal sources in light of insights gained through study of academic texts.
  • Convey these critical evaluations with rigour and clarity, both orally and in writing.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Demonstrate the capacity to read and comprehend challenging philosophical texts relating to fundamental social issues KCPT
002 Critically evaluate noteworthy legal sources in light of some of the most prominent publications in social and political philosophy, both orally and in writing KCPT
003 Demonstrate a sophisticated awareness of the way in which specific features of legislation and case law often raise important philosophical questions KCPT
004 Demonstrate the ability to reason cogently and clearly about abstract issues, and to draw inferences about their potential practical implications KCPT
005 Demonstrate digital research skills by undertaking directed research in library databases such as JSTOR and Westlaw KCPT
006 Demonstrate the ability to interpret legal sources using principles of legal interpretation taught in first-year core modules. KCPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

Weekly 1-hour Lectures will support students by establishing baseline knowledge of key concepts and readings and thus ensure that students are prepared to make substantive contributions during the module’s weekly Roundtable Seminar. The Seminar format is designed to demystify seemingly intimidating texts and empower students to practice discussing, deploying, and challenging philosophical arguments, as well as orally presenting and defending their interpretations of legal sources. Students are expected to arrive at every 2-hour Roundtable Seminar prepared to make at least one substantive contribution to the class discussion and will be placed in a discussion queue to ensure that all voices are heard.

Lectures: 1 hour x 11 weeks

Seminars: 2 hours x 11 weeks

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

https://readinglists.surrey.ac.uk
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: LAW2096

Other information

The overall module strategy is designed to ensure that students achieve the stated module learning outcomes and develop competencies through their learning that will enhance the University’s core educational objectives of employability, digital capabilities, global and cultural intelligence, and resourcefulness and resilience.

Engagement with academic texts that discuss contentious social and political issues will enhance the global and cultural intelligence of students by exposing them to a variety of concepts and attitudes that may differ from those they have encountered in daily life. Students’ enhanced skills concerning the close reading and interpretation of legal sources will promote their future employability in law and adjacent fields, as will their improved ability to clearly and rigorously convey complex ideas, both orally and in writing. The module’s Roundtable Seminar format will enhance student resilience by building confidence with regard to oral communication as well as comfort with friendly argumentation. The module’s directed research requirement will enhance students’ digital skills by requiring familiarity with key scholarly and legal databases and will require the development of resourcefulness in the pursuit of relevant texts, attributes that also enhance employability.

Please note that this second-year interdisciplinary module builds on and extends several key skills introduced to students in their first year of legal study, such as:

  • Close reading and interpretation of legal sources, introduced in doctrinal modules such as Criminal Law and Contract Law.
  • The ability to clearly and rigorously summarise complex texts in writing, introduced in Legal Systems and in Public Law 1
  • The ability to communicate ideas orally, as introduced in Criminal Law 2
  • The extension of students’ acquired skills in legal reading and interpretation to scholarly texts in the area of social and political philosophy
  • Critical evaluation of the law, as introduced in all first-year modules, perhaps especially Public Law 1.

By enhancing students’ comfort with philosophical texts and critical evaluation, this module will also prepare students to achieve higher levels of mastery in third-year optional modules such as Jurisprudence 1 and 2.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Law LLB (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law (Law and Technology Pathway) LLB (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law (Philosophy, Politics and Law Pathway) LLB (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2024/5 academic year.