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LLM in International Law

The LLM in International Law is designed for those wishing to specialise in public international law and provides you with the opportunity to study the fundamentals of international law and international relations at an advanced level.

Students studying in the library

The programme encourages and supports the development of independent thinking and research skills to prepare students for a career in international law or international organisations. Courses will cover the theoretical basis for the development of international law, as well as exploring real-life examples and case studies on how rules and principles are applied in practice.

The vast majority of students will have a first degree in law or international relations. Previous knowledge of international law is not a prerequisite, but those unfamiliar with the subject are advised to take Fundamental Issues in International Law as one of their options.

Philippe Leroy-Beaulieu, LLM in International Law, 2017
I had the opportunity to develop a broad and solid knowledge of International Law, while being supported throughout this journey by extraordinary academics.
Philippe Leroy-Beaulieu
LLM in International Law, 2017

International law is an important discipline that provides the framework for cooperation in many fields of international relations, including:

  • Peace and security
  • Trade and investment
  • Environmental protection
  • Telecommunications
  • Air travel
  • Maritime navigation

A qualification in international law opens up opportunities for jobs in a wide range of sectors, including working for government foreign ministries, international organisations, and non-governmental organisations or consultancies involved in international affairs.

Graduates of the LLM in International Law talk about their experiences on this video playlist of interviews.

The University of Edinburgh has been one of the leading centres for teaching and research in Public International Law since 1707.

Today, Edinburgh Law School has a dynamic team of research-active international legal experts who are at the cutting-edge of their discipline, providing fresh insights and informed commentary on key international legal developments, from treaty negotiation to dispute settlement.

Our staff are often directly involved in shaping the international legal framework, either as legal counsel, legal advisers, or consultants. This work directly informs teaching on the LLM in International Law, which will give you a knowledge and understanding of both the law on the books and the law in practice.

The School hosts a range of events throughout the year, including public lectures and conferences attracting high-profile speakers and delegates.

Through the recently launched Edinburgh Centre for International and Global Law (ECIGL), leading scholars, judges, practitioners and other experts, will be invited to share their experience of international law through lectures, seminars and workshops.

Visit the ECIGL website

Contact us

If you have any questions about applying to the LLM in International Law please don't hesitate to contact us.

This programme can be taken full-time over one year, or part-time over two years (due to current UKVI regulations, the part-time programme is only available to UK and EU students).

The programme offers a range of specialised courses on issues of contemporary significance that reflect the research interests of members of staff. There is no compulsory course on the programme, which means that you have a large degree of flexibility as to the subjects you may study.

The programme consists of 180 credits, comprising taught courses worth 120 credits (60 credits per semester) and a 10,000 word dissertation worth 60 credits. Full programme details are available on the University Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study website.

View full programme information for the LLM in International Law

Courses shown below are scheduled to run in the 2019/20 academic year and listed for illustrative purposes. Depending on demand, space on specific courses may be limited. 

You must take between 80 and 120 credits of the following courses

  • Fundamental Issues in International Law (40 credits, full-year course)

    This is a course aimed at introducing students to fundamental debates about the nature of international law and the international legal order today, and its relationship to states, markets, conflict, justice and human rights. The course is historical, conceptual, theoretical and legal. It introduces students to key ideas and arguments about where the international legal order is coming from and where it is going, what its building blocks are, and how those components are changing. A theme uniting the course is the extent to which the international legal order is shifting from a classical jus inter gentes to something else: a law of global governance, a global administrative law, a law of rights and regulation, or some combination.

  • International Environmental Law (40 credits, full-year course)

    The principal aim of this course is to give students an understanding of contemporary developments in international law with regard to the protection of the environment and the sustainable utilisation of natural resources. Particular attention will be paid throughout the course to the processes of international law-making, regulation and institutional management.

  • International Investment Law (20 credits)

    This course will give an introduction to the major themes and issues of international investment law. The focus of study is the rules contained in the network of more than 3000 bilateral and multilateral treaties on investment protection, as well as the growing number of decisions by arbitral tribunals in this field. Students will analyse the substantive principles of investment law, such as most-favoured nation treatment, fair and equitable treatment, and the rules relating to expropriation. They will also study mechanisms for dispute settlement in the context of investment disputes, particularly investor-state arbitration. Throughout the course, students will consider the extent to which international investment law draws an appropriate balance between investment protection on the one hand and the ability of states to regulate on key public policy issues on the other hand. Students will also look at the challenges of developing a coherent regime of investment rules.

  • International Law of the Sea (20 credits)

    The aim of the course is to introduce students to the contemporary challenges in the regulation of the world's seas and oceans. The focus of the course is on the legal framework contained in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and related instruments. Students will be introduced to the various zones of maritime jurisdiction created under the 1982 Convention, including the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone, the high seas, the continental shelf, and the International Seabed Area, as well as to questions of maritime delimitation. Students will also study the role of international institutions in the development of the law of the sea and how states have tackled new issues that have arisen since the conclusion of the 1982 Convention. Finally, the course will cover the settlement of maritime disputes through the compulsory dispute settlement provisions of the 1982 Convention.

  • International Criminal Law (40 credits)

    This course focuses on the study of selected foundational aspects of international and transnational criminal law and international co-operation in the administration of justice.

  • Inter-state Conflict and Humanitarian Law (20 credits)

    The course will comprise the study of conflict in international law. It will be concerned with the law relating to the resort to armed force by states. The law relating to self-defence will be studied. There will also be a focus on humanitarian law, in particular, on the law relating to entitlement to combatant status, on the law regulating the conduct of hostilities between opposing forces and the law on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. In addition, there will be a study of post-conflict issues.

  • International Law of the Marine Environment (20 credits)

    This course will focus on the environmental provisions of the 1982 Convention on Law of the Sea and related agreements, including the UN Fish Stocks Agreement and IMO treaties, as well as biodiversity-related agreements. Selected topics will address protection of the marine environment, conservation of marine ecosystems and biodiversity, sustainable fishing, preservation of marine mammals, regulation of pollution from ships and land-based sources, freedom of marine scientific research, liability for damage to the marine environment, and the role of the UN, IMO, FAO and CBD in ocean governance.

  • International Climate Change Law (20 credits)

    This course seeks to give students an in-depth and interdisciplinary insight into the major legal instruments of international climate change law, including the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol and the emerging mechanisms. Students are expected to have a sound knowledge of public international law. A familiarity with basic economics and international relations theory is also helpful but not essential.

  • Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (20 credits)

    This course will examine the role of human rights in intra-state conflict and in peace processes. In particular it will examine how peace processes and agreements deal with power-sharing arrangements, transitional justice mechanisms, gender equality, and return of refugees. The course will examine the moral, political and practical dilemmas in dealing with these issues, and consider the extent to which human rights law provides useful guidance and requirements, or hinders conflict resolution efforts. The course will also touch on the overlapping requirements of international humanitarian law and international criminal law.

  • International Human Rights Law (20 credits)

    This course will focus on the international law of human rights, primarily through looking at the U.N. system including Charter and Treaty bodies as well as looking at the links between International human rights law and other related fields such as International Humanitarian law and International Criminal law.

  • Human Rights Law in Europe (20 credits)

    This course will look at the protection of human rights in Europe through a primary focus of the law of the European Convention on Human Rights. The course will also look at some other human rights instruments of the Council of Europe as well as human rights protection in the EU system.

  • International and European Media Law (20 credits)

    This course will examine the impact of International and European law on, firstly, the structure of media markets and, secondly, the content of media services. The course will start with a discussion of the nature of the media, the media 'value chain', and the relationship between media freedom, freedom of expression and other human rights. It will examine the various international organisations competent in the media field and the regulatory strategies that are being adopted to deal with media convergence and globalisation. In relation to structural matters, consideration will be given to consolidation of media ownership and state funding of the media, in particular public service broadcasting. In relation to content controls, the course will examine attempts to create a more equitable flow of media content and concerns over 'media imperialism', the regulatory problems posed by pornography and hate speech and the balance to be struck between freedom of the media and privacy.
    You will attain a good understanding of the interplay between domestic and international law in this field, as well as the role of soft law and self or private regulation. They will be encouraged to think about the future role of law and regulation in a rapidly changing media environment.

  • WTO Law 1 (20 credits)

    The aim of the course is to provide students with an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the multilateral trading system. The course will cover the institutional and the substantive law of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which since its establishment in 1995 has played a central role in, among other things, promoting the two underlying principles of non-discrimination and trade liberalisation. After analysing theoretical and practical arguments for and against free trade and the role of institutions in international trade, the course will then focus on the institutional structure and decision-making process of the WTO, including its unique system of the settlement of trade disputes. Students will then explore the key legal disciplines relating to international trade in goods (GATT) and services (GATS), particularly the principle of non-discrimination and market-access rules. In addition, the course will address the central issue of technical barriers to trade.

  • WTO Law 2 (20 credits)

    The aim of this course is to allow students with a particular interest in global economic governance to explore a greater diversity of topics than is possible in one term only. It will focus on more specialised - but highly significant - issues of WTO law such as subsidies, trade remedies and anti-dumping. It will also cover the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the principle of special and differential treatment of developing countries. In addition, however, there is a much greater emphasis in this course (as compared to WTO Law 1) on addressing cross-cutting and contemporary issues of contemporary trade governance. These will vary from year to year, but may include: international economic law after the crisis; the 'new regionalism'; the relationship between trade, investment and finance; the emergence of new developmentalism and its prospects; and the aesthetics of expertise in international economic governance.

  • Theories of the International Legal Order (20 credits)

    This course aims to provide students with an introduction to key positions and authors in the theory of international law. At the heart of the course is the question, what is the nature of the obligation created by international law and how do we understand its claim to authority? What are the foundations of the effectiveness if any of international law as a legal order? In attempting to answer these questions, we will examine works by, among others, Grotius, Vattel, Kelsen, Schmitt, Hart, Morgenthau, Koskenniemi and authors writing from within contemporary debates in international relations. Students doing the course will improve their literacy and their conceptual and analytical agility, and be encouraged to think about how these theoretical texts can (or cannot) shed light on specific problems in international law.

  • Genocide and the Law (20 credits)

    In this course, students will learn about and debate the legal elements of genocide. That includes the protected groups, the particular position of specific genocidal intent and incitement to genocide. Another important aspect is the responsibility of States for genocide as an internationally wrongful act, questions therefore of the attribution of the acts of persons to the State and of the prevention of genocide play an important role here.

You will have the option to take between 0 and 40 credits of courses from different subject areas offered by the Law School, depending on availability and with the express permission of the Programme Director. Depending on demand, space on courses outside the core courses may be limited.

Full programme details, including core and optional courses is available on the University Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study website.

View full programme information for the LLM in International Law


Having successfully completed 120 credit points of courses within the LLM, you will be ready to move onto a single piece of independent and in-depth research. The 10,000 word dissertation allows you to focus on a preferred topic from within the field of international law, normally based on a subject you have studied in one of your courses during programme.

You will be assigned an academic dissertation supervisor who will provide you with support and guidance while you prepare and write your dissertation.

The dissertation is a challenging but rewarding endeavour, asking you to demonstrate a comprehensive grasp of the relevant literature and an ability to engage critically with a range of sources, drawing on the skills and knowledge you have developed during the course of the programme. Students are encouraged to show originality and evidence of independent thinking, whether in terms of the material used, or the manner in which it is presented.

The dissertation is written in the summer months (April to August) after the taught courses are successfully completed.

Please note that due to unforeseen circumstances or lack of demand for particular courses, we may not be able to run all courses as advertised come the start of the academic year.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the LLM in International Law please don't hesitate to contact us.

Staff teaching on the core courses of the LLM in International Law are experts in their field and are actively involved in cutting-edge research in variety of areas of international law. Staff teaching on courses will include but be restricted to:

Nehal Bhuta joins Edinburgh Law School from the European University Institute where he was Professor of Public International Law. His research interests include: International law, human rights, international humanitarian law, history and theory of international law, indicators in global governance, histories of rights, political theory, theory of the state, international criminal law.

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Dr Behrens joined the Law School as Lecturer in International Criminal Law in 2012. His principal research interests are international criminal law, diplomatic law, international humanitarian law and comparative constitutional law. Paul has published articles and book chapters on various fields of international law and is co-editor of Elements of Genocide (Routledge 2012) and The Criminal Law of Genocide (Ashgate 2007).

He is an Associate of the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Leicester University and member of the Surrey International Law Centre. Together with the director of the Stanley Burton Centre, he is the founder of an interdisciplinary research initiative which has hosted conferences on selected topics in the field of genocide studies.

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Prof Andrew Lang joined the University of Edinburgh in 2017 as Chair in Public International Law and Global Governance. He was formerly Professor of Law at the London School of Economics, where he taught from 2006-2017.

His current research thematically focusses on a number of themes around global economic governance, including the relationship between law and expert knowledge, theoretical international law and economics, and sociological approaches to the study of international economic law. He is co-authoring a commentary on the WTO’s Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, and has ongoing projects relating to the treatment of subsidies in WTO law, the WTO implications of Brexit, and the SPS agreement.

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Christine Bell is Professor of Constitutional Law and Assistant Principal (Global Justice).  She is a co-director of the Global Justice Academy and a member of the British Academy.  She read law at Selwyn College, Cambridge, (1988) and gained an LL.M in Law from Harvard Law School (1990), supported by a Harkness Fellowship. In 1990 she qualified as a Barrister at law. She subsequently qualified as an Attorney-at-law in New York, practicing for a period at Debevoise & Plimpton, NY. From 1997-9 she was Director of the Centre for International and Comparative Human Rights Law, Queen's University of Belfast, and from 2000-2011, she was Professor of Public International Law, and a founder and Director of the Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster.

She has been active in non-governmental organisations, and was chairperson of Belfast-based Human Rights organisation, the Committee on the Administration of Justice from 1995-7, and a founder member of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission established under the terms of the Belfast Agreement. In 1999 she was a member of the European Commission’s Committee of Experts on Fundamental Rights.

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Paolo Cavaliere joined the Law School from September 2014 as a lecturer in Digital Media and IT Law. His main interests in research include the discipline of pluralism and diversity in the media, e-democracy and the relationship between new media and politics, regulation of audiovisual industries and digital media.

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James Harrison joined the School of Law as a member of academic staff in July 2007. He holds law degrees from the University of Edinburgh (PhD, LLM) and the University of East Anglia (LLB). James teaches on a number of international law courses, including specialist courses in the international law of the sea, international environmental law, and international law for the protection of the marine environment. His research interests span these areas, considering how the legal rules evolve and interact, as well as examining how international law and policy influences the domestic legal framework. He also has a particular interest in the contribution of international courts and tribunals to the development of international law. James is an Annual Case Review Editor (International Environmental Law) for the Journal of Environmental Law.

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Dr McCall-Smith is a lecturer in Public International Law and programme director for the LLM in Human Rights. She joined the Law School on a permanent basis in 2014 having contributed to a number of international law and human rights law courses since 2008. She is a US qualified lawyer and holds a BA (1998) and Juris Doctor (2001) from the University of Arkansas School of Law. 

She is an active researcher in international human rights law and interested in the role of the UN human rights treaty bodies as generators of law. She is also currently exploring the increasingly blurred distinction between public and private international law in terms of human rights protection. Alongside her role as an academic, Dr McCall-Smith acts as a consultant on projects across a range of issues relating to human rights.

She serves on the Global Justice Academy steering committee and as its representative to the Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI). 

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Rebecca Sutton is currently a Teaching Fellow in Human Rights Law at Edinburgh Law School, where she teaches on human rights and conflict resolution subjects at the graduate level. Rebecca is an Associate Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy and has taught courses in criminal law, humanitarianism, and IHL at institutions such as the London School of Economics (LSE), the University of Western Ontario, and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

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Dr Filippo Fontanelli joined the Law School in 2015. Before joining the School he lectured law at the School of Law of the University of Surrey (2012-2014), where he taught public international law, law of the World Trade Organization, EU law I and II, international law of foreign investment protection and international law of human rights protection.

He is a member of the Centre for Judicial Cooperation of the European University Institute of Fiesole (Italy) and routinely provides training sessions to judges and practitioners on matters of EU law and human rights protection in Europe.  He is also admitted to the bar in Italy (Rome).

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Stephen Neff's primary research interest is the history of public international law. He is the author of a book on the historical development of international economic law. His current focus is the history of the law of neutrality. Another major interest is international human rights law, from both the academic and the practical standpoints. 

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Michelle Burgis-Kasthala joined the Law School in September 2013. Her teaching focusses on public international law and international human rights law. Her research centres on the operation and contestation over international law across the Arab World.

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Ana María Daza Vargas joined the Law School as a teaching fellow in 2013. She teaches a number of courses within the Programme of International Economic Law, such as WTO Law, International Investment Law and International Commercial Arbitration. Ana María’s research interests cover International Investment Law, International Law, Water Law and Water Management, WTO Law and Economic Regulation.

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The staff teaching on this programme are subject to change for 2020/21. Staff listed as on sabbatical will not be available to teach for the duration of their sabbatical.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the LLM in International Law please don't hesitate to contact us.

We require a minimum UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in law. We may also consider a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in international relations or another social science subject.

Entry to this programme is competitive. Meeting minimum requirements for consideration does not guarantee an offer of study.

If you have a non-UK degree, please check whether your degree qualification is equivalent to the minimum standard before applying.

Check your degree

Postgraduate study in the field of law requires a thorough, complex and demanding knowledge of English, so we ask that the communication skills of all students are at the same minimum standard.

Students whose first language is not English must therefore show evidence of one of the following qualifications below:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.5 in each module).
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 23 in each module).
  • PTE(A): total 67 (at least 61 in each of the Communicative Skills sections).
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 176 in each module).
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III (with a pass in all four components).

Your English language certificate must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.

We do accept an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). The UK Government's website provides a list of majority English speaking countries.

View the UKVI list of majority English speaking countries

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, or equivalent, that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about the University's English language requirements

Your application may not be successful if you do not currently satisfy any of these requirements; alternatively, you may be offered a place conditional on your reaching the satisfactory standard by the time you start the degree.

The University runs a series of programmes for English Language Education, including a pre-sessional English Language Programme intended to strengthen your English Language skills before you start your programme of study.

Find out more about English language support offered by the University

Contact us

If you have any questions about our entry requirements please don't hesitate to contact us.

We recommend that you apply as early as possible; this is particularly important for students holding conditional offers (for example, you may need to allow sufficient time to take an English language test) and for overseas students who may need time to satisfy necessary visa requirements (for further, country-specific information, please consult the website of the University's Edinburgh Global) and/or to apply for University accommodation.

Apply now for September 2020 entry

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines. We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline when we will offer a proportion of the places available to applicants selected through a competitive process.

Deadlines for applicants applying to study the LLM in International Law in 2020/21 are provided in the table below.

Round Application deadline Decisions by
1 15 November 2019 20 December 2019
2 31 December 2019 25 February 2020
3 21 February 2020 03 April 2020
4 09 April 2020 21 May 2020
5 15 May 2020 26 June 2020
6 30 June 2020 28 July 2020

We monitor application numbers carefully to ensure we are able to accommodate all those who receive offers. It may therefore be necessary to close a programme earlier than the published deadline and if this is the case we will place a four-week warning notice on the relevant programme page.

Please note that the deadline for meeting the conditions of an offer is 15 August 2020.

Applications are made online via the University Application Service, EUCLID.

Please follow the instructions carefully and make sure that you have included the following documentation with your application:

  • Degree certificates showing award of degree.
  • Previous academic transcripts for all past degree programmes (please upload the full transcript showing results from all years of study).
  • A reference in support or your application. The reference should be academic and dated no earlier than one year from the start of study on the LLM programme.
  • Evidence of English language proficiency, if required.

If you are currently studying for your degree or you are not in a possession of an English test result you may still apply to the programme. Please note that it is your responsibility to submit the necessary documents.

After your application has been submitted you will be able to track its progress through the University's applicant hub.

Application processing times will vary however the admissions team will endeavour to process your application within four to six weeks of submission. Please note that missing documentation will delay the application process.

You will be informed as soon as possible of the decision taken. Three outcomes are possible:

  • You may be offered a place unconditionally
  • You may be offered a conditional place, which means that you must fulfil certain conditions that will be specified in the offer letter. Where a conditional offer is made, it is your responsibility to inform the College Postgraduate Office when you have fulfilled the requirements set out.
  • Your application may be unsuccessful. If your application has not been successful, you can request feedback from us or refer to our guidance for unsuccessful applicants, which explains some of the common reasons we why we reach this decision.
    View the University's guidance for unsuccessful applicants

Please note that if you receive an offer of a place to study the LLM in International Law and later decide that you do not want to accept your place, we do not allow deferrals. In this case you would have to reapply for the following academic year.

You can find full and detailed application guidance on the University's website.

Find out more about applying to the University of Edinburgh

The University’s terms and conditions form part of your contract with the University, and you should read them, and our data protection policy, carefully before applying.

University of Edinburgh admissions terms and conditions

Apply now for September 2020 entry

Contact us

If you have any questions about applying to the LLM in International Law please don't hesitate to contact us.