LAW4165 - Comparative constitutions and rights - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Unit guides



  • Trimester 2 2017 (Day)


The unit will cover a series of topics arising in the comparative study of constitutional systems, mostly in the western-liberal tradition. Comparative constitutional law is a rapidly expanding and maturing field, embedded in a context of global spread of democratic models in the last half-century and the expansion of international human rights. The variety of constitutional models prevailing today will be examined and critiqued (among them the French system), including the structure of government (how countries are governed and political power is organised) and frameworks of human rights protection (how constitutions in democratic countries contribute to the effective protection of human rights).

Special attention will be devoted to issues such as:

  • Constitutional stability and change in democratic regimes: aims, means, consequences of constitutional stability; constitutional customs, even contra legem; breach or disputable use of constitutional rules; means, usefulness and dangers of constitutional reviews; the "constitutional clean slate" (the choice of a democratically elected Constituent Assembly to produce an entirely new text).
  • Constitutions and religions: the place of religion in constitutional texts; the weight of religion in constitutional development as well as in constitutional and statutory interpretation.
  • Constitutions and minorities: reconciling majority and minority rights
  • Constitutions as a social/political project: Constitutions as guidelines for future public policy and development of human rights.


Upon completion of this unit, students should:

  1. be able to apply knowledge and understanding of the various alternatives in the institutional design of the principal constitutional organs, and the advantages and disadvantages of each; as well as of the role of constitutions as a framework for protection of human rights in selected constitutional systems;
  2. be able to formulate, investigate and critically consider key problems relating to the issues identified in the synopsis;
  3. have further developed legal research and writing, and legal argument skills by undertaking systematic research into legal policy, rules and procedures and comparative perspectives relating to constitutional law and individual rights;
  4. have developed skills of oral presentation, and participation in an interactive learning context, in relation to issues of legal policy, rules and arguments from the field of comparative constitutional law.


Malaysia attendance requirement: Students who fail to attend at least 80% of the classes in this unit (ie who miss 3 or more classes) will receive a result of 0 N for the unit. Students who are unable to meet this requirement due to severe illness or other exceptional circumstances must make an application for in-semester special consideration with supporting documentation.

  1. Short paper (1,000 words): 20%
  2. Take-home exam (3,000 words): 60%
  3. Participation: 10%
  4. Presentation: 10%

Workload requirements

Students are required to attend 36 hours of lectures over the duration of this semi-intensive unit.

The unit timetable link below is not applicable to this unit.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)


LAW1100 OR LAW1101 and LAW1102 or LAW1104; LAW3200 or LAW3201