Key Information

Subject: Social Science/Law

Credit level: SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate)

Credits: 20 SCQF/10 ECTS/4 US (Read more about credit study)

Eligibility: 1 year of undergraduate study and aged 18 or above

Language requirements: Evidence of language ability equivalent to IELTS 6.5 (with a minimum of 5.5 in each component) or above

Start date: 05 July 2021

Length: 4 weeks

Contact hours: 56

Course fee: £3,388

Application deadline: 16 May 2021 (Midnight - BST)

Course Description

This course provides students with an introductory overview of international law as an academic discipline. The course explores public international law, which regulates relations between various actors including states and international organisations.  Students will learn about essential concepts such as the nature of international law, its sources, the law of treaties, its relationship with national laws, and its subjects. In addition, the course will critically assess the effectiveness of international law and offer legal reflections on issues such as the role of international institutions (particularly the United Nations) and the use of force in international relations.  The first part of the course will provide students with foundational knowledge of the main concepts of public international law, including its definition, its nature, the relevant sources, who is subject to it, and its relationship with domestic laws. 

The second part will focus on the role of international institutions, including the UN system and its effectiveness in countering challenges of public international law. Students will reflect on the involvement of the UN in particular case studies. 

In the third part, students will learn about the general legal framework of the use of force. The use of force will be taught in the context of jus ad bellum and jus in bello. Students will be encouraged to offer independent thought on recent select examples of the use of force. 

The fourth part will provide students with an overview of other areas of international law, such as the law of the sea, technology, international environmental law, and international criminal law.

By the end of the course, students should have developed a good understanding of the fundamentals of public international law and be familiar with basic international legal concepts.


Week one: An introductory overview of Public International Law

  • Introduction to the course

  • The nature and sources of PIL: The law of treaties

  • The sources of PIL: Customary international law; general principles of law; judicial decisions; writings of publicists

  • The sources of PIL: Resolutions and decisions of international organisations; international law and its relationship to national law

  • Personality, statehood and recognition

Week two: Challenges to the institutions of International Law: The role of the United Nations

  • UN: History, structure and membership

  • UN: General Assembly and Security Council

  • Peaceful settlement

  • Human rights and the UN: Progress and challenges

  • Migration and the UN: A complex and emerging issue

Week three: Use of force: Jus ad bellum and jus in bello

  • Use of force: The legal regime governing the use of force

  • Use of force: Peace enforcement and peacekeeping

  • Law of armed conflicts: Scope of application

  • War on terror: A question of jus ad bellum and jus in bello

Week four: Selected developed areas of International Law

  • Law of the sea: An example of perfection?

  • Technology and international law: New challenges 

  • International environmental law: Is the environment sufficiently protected?

  • Complexity and efficiency of international criminal law

  • Summary and conclusion

University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh University, one of the world's top universities, is a famous public research university in the UK. It is located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Founded in 1583, it is the sixth oldest university in English speaking countries.