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.
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.
I had the opportunity to develop a broad and solid knowledge of International Law, while being supported throughout this journey by extraordinary academics.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
Courses shown below are for the 2020/21 academic year and are for illustrative purposes. Courses for the 2021/22 academic year will be confirmed in May 2021.
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.
- Introduction to International Environmental Law (20 credits)
This course explores the institutions, rules, and principles concerning the protection of the environment at the international level. The course is designed as an introductory course in order to develop students' knowledge of the key sources of international environmental law, their understanding of some of the most important treaties in this field, and an awareness of the challenges associated with the development and enforcement of international environmental law.
- 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 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.
- 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 Ocean Governance and the Protection of the Marine Environment (20 credits)
The course provides an introduction to the fundamental pillars of the modern law of the sea, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as the key institutions, processes and actors involved in international ocean governance. It aims to identify opportunities for developing effective and integrated policies for the sustainable development of the seas, as well the challenges and barriers associated therewith.
Human (In)Security (20 credits)
This course explores the variable issues that raise personal security concerns for human beings. Through the lens of human dignity, contemporary issues that challenge individuals¿ ability to exercise their human rights will be examined in the context of political dysfunction, terrorism, conflict and anthropogenic impact.
Law and Development (20 credits)
What, if anything, is development, and what role does law play in its theories and practices?
To answer these questions, the course will consider the history and evolution of some of the major economic theories of development; their translation into diverse political and social policies; and the traces and legacies they have left behind in today¿s development thinking. It will also consider the ideas about law embedded in these theories and the way they have been put into practice. In particular, the course will explore the role of law and institutions in the creation of markets and the allocation of capital and power.
Economic and Social Rights (20 credits)
This course will provide students with an advanced introduction to the evolving uses of economic and social rights. It will examine debates about the nature of these rights and examine their recent constitutionalisation in some states. The course will examine the impact of economic and social rights jurisprudence and adjudication, and ask whether the legal language of economic and social rights can address contemporary problems of distributive justice, inequality and the retreat of systems of national welfare.
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.
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 the 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.
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 not be restricted to:
Professor Nehal Bhuta: Programme Director 2020/21
Nehal Bhuta joined 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.
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.
Deval joined Edinburgh Law School in 2020 as Lecturer in International Economic Law. He previously held research positions at Harvard Law School and the Graduate Institute, Geneva; and taught on international law and development at the Graduate Institute, Harvard, Manchester, SOAS, and Universidad de los Andes. Deval also has a decade of experience working for the World Bank on rule of law and governance in Nigeria, Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Uganda; as well as advising the UN on rule of law issues. Trained in history and French literature (M.A., Oxford), and law and social theory (LL.M. and S.J.D., Harvard Law School), he is a member of the Bar of England and Wales.
His current research spans law and development, expertise, (de)colonial patterns of knowledge and authority, and theories of the state in the Global South. His ongoing projects focus on the administrative structures of social welfare provision in the South; the effects of decentralization on mining governance in the South; the nature and function of legal expertise in development projects; and the politics of social scientific comparative methods as they are applied in Southern contexts.
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).
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).
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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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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
The staff teaching on this programme are subject to change for 2021/22. Staff listed as on sabbatical will not be available to teach for the duration of their sabbatical.
If you have any questions about the LLM in International Law please don't hesitate to contact us.
Find out what it's like to study for an LLM in International Law at Edinburgh Law School from our current and former students.
Claudia graduated with an LLM in International Law in 2020. In this video she talks about her experience of studying for an LLM at Edinburgh Law School, life in Edinburgh, completing her studies during the Covid-19 pandemic and her plans for the future.
Taanya, from India, studied for an LLM in International Law in the 2019/20 academic year, graduating in 2020. In this video she talks about her experience of studying for an LLM at Edinburgh Law School, life in Edinburgh, completing her studies during the Covid-19 pandemic and her plans for the future.
Maria studied the LLM in International Law during the 2018-19 academic year, graduating in 2019. Here she talks about her reasons for wanting to study this programme and her experience of studying at Edinburgh Law School.
Amy studied for an LLM in International Law at Edinburgh Law School, the University of Edinburgh during the 2018-19 academic year, graduating in 2019. In this video she talks about her experience on the LLM and living in Edinburgh.
Marianna, an LLM student from Portugal, talks about her experience of studying for an LLM in International Law at Edinburgh Law School and life in Edinburgh.
Sarah studied the LLM in International Law in the 2018/19 academic year and graduate in 2019.
The programme all together was an amazing experience. It was challenging and took my knowledge of the law to the next level. Most of my courses focused on International Economic Law and every two-hour lecture I entered I didn’t want to end. I would look forward to the reading list that was never dull nor irrelevant. I enjoyed prepping for and engaging in the class discussions.
We had several guest lectures from international organisations, Academics from other universities, and governmental officials. More importantly, it is extremely satisfying seeing how Edinburgh University has equipped me for my legal profession, and prepared me for the academic career I aspire to end up in.
I loved living in Edinburgh, the city is cosy not too big not too small. It’s safe and the Scottish people are the nicest people I have ever met. Everything is walking distance away; the University campus itself was in the heart of the city and it just made studying and getting around the city very comfortable. The city is filled with history, and fun attractions and activities to do. I like how it’s generally quiet, but with just the right amount of entertainment; like the Christmas market in winter and Fringe Festival in the summer.
Something that really stood out for me is how supportive and helpful the University staff and post graduate office was. On several occasions with myself and others they have shown their upmost support which was very pleasant and made the experience all the more impeccable.
The past year has made me discover a new passion for academic research that is why I want to enrol in a PhD programme and tackle the challenges that face international law as I have learned to do in Edinburgh.
Christian talks about his experience of studying for an LLM in International Law at Edinburgh Law School, the University of Edinburgh.
Victor studied the LLM in International Law at Edinburgh Law School, the University of Edinburgh, in the 2016/17 academic year and graduated in 2017. Here he talks about the benefits of studying the LLM.
Becca Farnum graduated from Edinburgh Law School in LLM International Law in 2014. Here, she discusses some of her highlights studying postgraduate law at the University of Edinburgh and how she coped without a law background.
If you have any questions about the LLM in International Law 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.
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 7.0 in the writing component and 6.5 in each other module)
- TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition): total 100 (at least 25 in writing and 23 in each other module)
- CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 185 in writing and 176 in each other 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 also 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.
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.
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.
English language support
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.
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 2021/22 are provided in the table below.
|Round||Application deadline||Decisions by|
|1||11 December 2020||09 February 2021|
|2||05 March 2021||09 April 2021|
|3||14 May 2021||29 June 2021|
|4||30 June 2021||30 July 2021|
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 31 August 2021.
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.
Students at this University must not undertake any other concurrent credit bearing studies in this (or in any other) institution, unless the College has granted permission. The College must be satisfied that any additional credit-bearing studies will not restrict the student’s ability to complete their existing programme of study. Students will not be permitted to undertake concurrent degree programmes in any circumstances.
If you are studying at this or another institution just prior to the start of your postgraduate studies you must have finished these studies before the start of the programme to which you have an offer.
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.
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.
If you have any questions about applying to the LLM in International Law please don't hesitate to contact us.