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Institutions in International Law (LAWS50045)

Graduate coursework level 5Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 5
Subject codeLAWS50045
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject examines the place of international institutions within the international legal order, considering their structure, normative underpinnings, and activities. It focuses on inter- governmental organisations but also considers non-governmental organisations and the role of civil society and national governments in both types of institution. It considers how international institutions reflect conflicting notions of fragmentation and unity in international law. Principal topics to be covered include:

  • the complex role of international institutions in the development of international law and global governance;
  • introduction to specialised international institutions in Geneva and elsewhere including their history, trends in their mission, influence and importance, recent developments, and reform proposals;
  • the theory surrounding fragmentation of international law, including the proliferation of institutions and dispute settlement tribunals and the proliferation of substantive laws;
  • inter-organisational cooperation, coordination and conflict in areas such as trade, human rights, the laws of war, and development; and
  • participation and representation in international institutions by governments, business, civil society and secretariat staff.

The class will have the opportunity to hear from and interact with expert interlocutors on-site at a diverse range of governmental, intergovernmental, non-governmental and private entities.

Intended learning outcomes

A candidate who has completed this subject will:

  • have an advanced understanding of the relationship between international institutions and international law;
  • be able to clearly explain, reflect on and critique the theory of fragmentation in international law and its relevance to international institutions;
  • have expert knowledge of a range of international institutions and the complex legal issues they face;
  • have an integrated understanding of the role of different actors within international institutions and how various institutions relate to each other; and
  • have advanced knowledge of key contextual factors influencing international institutions from the perspective of law, policy, politics, diplomacy and management.


Generic skills

Students who successfully complete this subject will have developed the following skills:

  • advanced written communication skills: essay-writing, writing short reports and announcements, writing professional emails to institutions and individuals, writing an extended piece of legal research;
  • advanced oral communication skills: discussions, debates, question and answer sessions, introducing and thanking guest presenters;
  • cognitive skills: critical thinking, problem-solving analytical skills;
  • professionalism: engaging in a thoughtful and professional manner with individuals and organisations in a range of international contexts;
  • specialised capacities in information seeking and evaluation;
  • writing and working in small groups;
  • working with and in different institutional and national cultures; and
  • complex and specialised legal research.

Eligibility and requirements


Only approved applicants can enrol into this subject.



Non-allowed subjects


Recommended background knowledge

Studies in public international law are an advantage.

Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home


Additional details

  • 100% class attendance (hurdle requirement)
  • Short written report on assigned topic (20%): students may be required to work on this assignment individually or in small groups. Topics assigned will be diverse and may address such matters as themes arising in the course, organisations visited or studied, and/or relevant aspects of law. Each student’s report (or share of a group report) will be approximately 800–1,000 words in length.
  • Class participation (10%), including:
    • professional comportment throughout the course;
    • active participation in seminars in Melbourne and Geneva;
    • leading discussions and questions on particular topics;
    • researching, introducing and thanking interlocutors; and
    • assisting with logistical and administrative matters.
  • Research paper of 6,000 words (70%)

The due dates of the above assessment will be available to students via the Assessment Schedule on the LMS Community.

Quotas apply to this subject

Dates & times

  • March
    Principal coordinatorTania Voon
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours15 hours per week
    Total time commitment144 hours
    Teaching period12 March 2019 to 12 July 2019
    Last self-enrol date11 November 2018
    Census date26 April 2019
    Last date to withdraw without fail19 July 2019
    Assessment period ends30 September 2019

    March contact information

    Email: law-global@unimelb.edu.au
    Phone: +61 3 8344 4475
    Website: law.unimelb.edu.au

Additional delivery details

Eight seminars held in Melbourne during early Semester 1 and the rest taught intensively in Geneva, Switzerland, during the Winter Recess (June-July).

This subject has a quota of 25 students. Applicants are selected through a competitive application process. Please refer to the JD LMS Community for more details.

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    • Required readings will be provided electronically via the LMS subject page.
  • Subject notes

    Students will need to cover the cost of their flights to and from Geneva and travel costs, meals and accommodation in Geneva.

Last updated: 20 August 2019