Teaching programmes

Please also see the Human Rights page on the main Oxford Law Faculty site for other information about these courses.


European Human Rights Law

The objective of the course is to provide a thorough grounding in the application of the European Convention on Human Rights. The primary aim is to introduce students to the substance of Convention rights and to their interpretation and enforcement, including the relevant jurisprudence of the European Court on Human Rights. This will include an analysis of general principles as well as broad themes arising from the interpretation and limits of several specific Convention rights (such as fair trial, protection of private life, and non-discrimination). Other European conventions and institutions will be referred to when relevant. By the end of the course, students will: have a sound understanding of the significance of human rights and civil liberties, and their theoretical dimensions, in Europe; be familiar with and able to apply the relevant provisions of the ECHR to practical problems concerning a range of the rights and liberties; have a knowledge and understanding of the European Human Rights system as a whole and the place of the Convention in that system; and have an understanding of the institutional procedural requirements for bringing human rights claims under the ECHR. Teaching will take place over Michaelmas and Hilary Terms, and will consist of a combination of lectures, seminars, classes and tutorials.

Labour Law

Issues in labour law affect most people during their working lives. What rights does a worker have if he or she is dismissed? Is there a right to strike? What can the law do about discrimination? This is a rapidly changing field, particularly in the past decade, which has witnessed a transformation in labour law. Most major industrial disputes are now fought out in the courts rather than on the shop-floor, in stark contrast with the traditional view that strikes are best resolved by the parties themselves. Of growing importance is the impact of EU law on British labour law, particularly in the field of discrimination. Labour law will be of considerable interest to anyone who is concerned with the interaction between law, politics and society. All British governments in recent decades have regarded policies on labour law as central to their political programmes.

Labour Law is also useful in practice. Many young barristers acquire invaluable experience by appearing before employment tribunals; and most solicitors’ firms, whether in the City or elsewhere, require specialists in employment law. It remains truer than ever that “the law governing labour relations is one of the centrally important branches of the law – the legal basis on which the very large majority of people earn their living. No-one should be qualified as a lawyer – professionally or academically – who has not mastered its principles.” (Kahn-Freund).

The course covers the law concerning individual employment law (including discrimination law), as well as trade unions, industrial action and collective bargaining. The student is not expected to acquire a detailed knowledge of the whole of this relatively large and complex field, but to pick out the central themes, and integrate them into a wider social and theoretical context.



Comparative Equality Law

The right to equality is ubiquitous in human rights instruments in jurisdictions throughout the world. Yet the meaning of equality and non-discrimination are contested. Is equality formal or substantive, and if the latter, what does substantive equality entail? Which groups should be protected from discrimination and how do we decide? How do we capture conceptualisations of equality in legal terms and when should equality give way to other priorities, such as conflicting freedoms or cost? The aim of this course is examine these and other key issues through the prism of comparative law. Given the growing exchange of ideas across different jurisdictions, the comparative technique is a valuable analytic tool to illuminate this field. At the same time, the course pays attention to the importance of social, legal and historical context to the development of legal concepts and their impact.

The first half of the course approaches the subject thematically, while the second half of the course addresses individual grounds, ending with a consideration of remedial structures. Theory is integrated throughout the course, and the relationship between grounds of discrimination and other human rights is explored. The course will be predominantly based on materials from the US, Canada, South Africa, India, the UK, EU, and ECHR, although some materials from other Commonwealth countries or individual European countries will be included. International human rights instruments are also examined. Employment related discrimination is generally dealt with in the International and European Employment Law course. The course does not require previous knowledge of equality or discrimination law.

Comparative Human Rights

The course involves a study of human rights drawing on legal materials primarily (though not exclusively) from the United Kingdom, the United States, the Commonwealth and Europe. The course considers the meaning of particular human rights and their significance in theory and in practice, and the approaches taken by the legal institutions designed to protect them at the national and European regional levels, including those of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Union. A number of specific substantive issues (most notably, freedom of speech and protection from discrimination) are studied in depth to illustrate the complex interplay between theory, legal concepts and procedure, and between legal and non-legal sources of protection.

Criminal Justice and Human Rights

This course will look at the development of human rights principles in relation to the criminal justice system, looking in detail at the interaction between human rights discourse and the theory and practice of criminal justice. The focus will be upon the European Convention of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998, in relation to the criminal justice system of England and Wales, but further comparative material from other jurisdictions will be drawn upon where relevant. After beginning with a critical look at human rights discourse, the course will adopt the method of detail – taking a number of discrete topics and examining each of them in terms of the theoretical underpinnings of the particular right, the human rights reasoning adopted by the courts, and the implications for criminal justice policy. Among the rights thus examined will be the privilege against self-incrimination, the right to privacy in relation to surveillance, and the protection of personal liberty with respect to imprisonment. The course will end by drawing out specific themes relating to human rights and anti-terrorist measures, and more generally the interface between human rights and security concerns.

International and European Employment Law

This course has the aim of providing a general understanding of international labour or employment law. For this purpose, the course compares and contrasts international labour standards with those of the EU, particularly by examining the interaction between the international labour standards which have been developed and maintained by the International Labour Organisation and those of the EU’s laws and policies.

Recent decades have witnessed a series of transformations of the aims of the European Union. The founding assumption in the Treaty of Rome that economic integration would naturally bring about social development has been abandoned. The Treaty of Amsterdam included a proper legal basis for EU employment law and strengthened and expanded EU equality law. The Treaty of Lisbon elevated the status of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, with its extensive social and labour rights content. Yet, the social dimension of the EU remains contested, and arguably subordinated, to policies designed to maximize the competitiveness and flexibility of the European labour market, in particular in order to create employment under the European Employment Strategy. Meanwhile, significant evolutions have also occurred in the policies and strategies of the ILO itself; and all these evolutions now have to respond to a growing sense of economic and social crisis which is both European and global.

This course aims to develop a critical perspective whereby students can assess these developments against the background of international labour rights and labour standards, including those of the International Labour Organisation and the Council of Europe (both ECHR and European Social Charter and Revised European Social Charter). It will begin with an examination of the development of the roles of the ILO and the EU in employment law from a historical, theoretical and institutional perspective, and proceed to focus on particular rights and issues, most notably, the right to collective bargaining and action and strike; the right to participate in enterprise governance; the right to job security and ‘fair and just working conditions’; and the right to equality in employment across various grounds, in particular sex, race, age, disability, sexual orientation and religion. These rights will be studied in depth to illustrate the complex interplay between the EU and international norms, and between various forms and sources of protection.

MSt in International Human Rights Law

The Law Faculty and Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education jointly provide a part-time graduate degree offered over 22 months. For further details see the course page on the Continuing Education site.