LAW5331 - Comparative constitution and rights - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Postgraduate - Unit

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



Quota applies

The unit can be taken by a maximum of 45 students (due to limited facilities and method of teaching).

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.


On completion of this subject, students should:

  1. be able to apply detailed knowledge and advanced 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 complex problems relating to the issues identified in the synopsis;
  3. be able to demonstrate sophisticated legal research and writing, and legal argument skills by undertaking systematic and creative research into legal policy, rules and procedures and comparative perspectives relating to constitutional law and individual rights;
  4. have developed advanced 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.

Short paper (1,500 words): 20%

Research assignment (4,500 words): 60%

Participation: 10%

Presentation: 10%

Workload requirements

Students enrolled in this unit will be provided with 36 contact hours of seminars per semester whether intensive, semi-intensive, or semester-long offering. Students will be expected to do reading set for class, and to undertake additional research and reading applicable to a 6 credit point unit.

Chief examiner(s)


LAW5007 Principles of constitutional law or its equivalent