EQUL40070 Human Rights Law and Equality

Academic Year 2023/2024

Drawing on the insights of critical legal theorists, this module explores the role of human rights law in effecting positive social change. It also examines the relationship between the legal system and other contexts in which inequalities are both generated and challenged. The module focuses on how human rights law operates at the national level, paying particular regard to judicial interpretation of the rights set out in the written constitutions of various states (e.g. Brazil, Canada, India, Ireland, South Africa and the United States).

Part 1 of the course first explores the origins and functions of human rights law it then addresses the place of legal systems in the architecture of liberal democracies and the role accorded human rights law in constitutional schemes of governance. Using socio-economic rights as an exemplar, major debates about the role of judicial review are flagged and overarching trends in case law are highlighted. Critical and socio-legal perspectives on law and human rights are the subject of Part 2. In effect we will query the potential and limits of human rights law from the vantage points of scholars and activists that are concerned with various forms of inequalities. Throughout this Part we will encounter writing that seeks to disrupt law's claim to objectivity, neutrality and impartiality while offering alternative accounts of justice within the legal arena.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of the module, students should be able to:1. Demonstrate advanced understanding of critical legal theory. 2. Explain current debates about the role of human rights law in tackling inequalities and the place of legal systems in the architecture of liberal democracies. 3. Apply their knowledge and understanding of critical legal theory to a broader, interdisciplinary context. 4. Make informed judgements about the role of law in promoting or inhibiting positive social change. 5. Reflect on the wider value and limits of human rights discourse. 6. Communicate their conclusions about human rights law, and the knowledge and rationale underpinning these, to specialist and non-specialist audiences clearly and unambiguously. 7. Have the learning skills to be able to continue to study the interrelationship between human rights law and equality in a largely self-directed or autonomous manner.

Indicative Module Content:

Human rights
Socio-economic rights
Critical legal theory
Public interest litigation
Social justice

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Lectures are combined with task-based learning and structured group work. There is a strong emphasis throughout the module on critical and reflective thinking. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Requirements:

This module is optional for students on the MSc in Equality Studies and on several cognate graduate programmes.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment: 2,500 word paper or 10-minute presentation Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Assignment: 2,500-word paper or 10-minute presentation Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Individual feedback is provided to students on their assignments, using a rubric based on the grading criteria. Grading criteria are set out in the Assessment Guidelines, which are provided at the start of the trimester.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Tues 16:00 - 17:50