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European Civil Law (LAWS50067)

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

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 5
Subject codeLAWS50067
Availability(Quotas apply)
Semester 1
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject offers students an opportunity to critically examine in detail a major legal family that is radically different from the common law. Class based discussion of the core features of the (European) civil law is built upon through independent and in-depth research exercises into selective aspects of this major family of law in the Western world today. This subject allows students to gain a deeper, and integrated, understanding of Australian law and, more generally, critically reflect upon the common law against a contemporary backdrop of globalisation. The growing importance of the legal order of the European Union will be a particular feature of examination as will be the current state of play as regards the scholarly debates concerning the various theories of convergence and divergence between legal systems. With respect to the latter, writings by outspoken scholar and critic Pierre Legrand will be scrutinised.

Principal topics include:

  • Comparativism and the comparative method (with particular emphasis on the problem of transplantability);
  • historical formation of the Romano-Germanic family of law (commencing with the fall of the Roman empire in the West in 476);
  • codes and codification (including a study of the 19th century conditions favouring codification and their contemporary relevance together with close scrutiny of the core features of 'substantive' – as distinct from 'formal' – codes);
  • selected case studies (with particular attention to core components of the law of obligations – i.e. tort and contract – as well as post-codification developments – e.g. social and consumer protection law);
  • impact of the legal order of the European Union as a source of supra-national law (with special focus on the tensions between so-called deepening and widening in the European integration movement as well as the distinction between the ‘written’ and 'unwritten' laws of the Union); and
  • theories of convergence and divergence (including their implication for the future study and development of Australian law).

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will have an advanced appreciation of the complexities involved in applying the comparative method across different legal families - especially where these families belong to the same broad Western tradition. On completion of this subject students will have obtained a sophisticated understanding of the extent to which the legal family of the civil law operates as a critical point of contrast with the legal family of the common law. In particular, on completion of this subject students should: 

  • Understand and be able to critically assess the fundamental features of the European civil law;
  • appreciate the subtleties of the interaction between the main legal actors in codified systems of law, including the role of scholarship;
  • be able to critically reflect on the relative merits of a deductive as opposed to inductive approach to legal reasoning;
  • appreciate the growing influence and limits of the legal order of the European Union; and
  • be able to critically reflect on the competing theories of convergence and divergence in comparative law.


Generic skills

On completion of the subject, students should have the ability to undertake independent and sophisticated research into one or more aspects of foreign (European) law outside the legal family of the common law. This will involve an ability to:

  • Generate and evaluate complex ideas at both an abstract and applied level;
  • justify and expound, in oral and written form, how comparative principles or methods are relevant to legal thinking and practice;
  • present analyses and application of principles in the form of oral and written arguments that are appropriately investigated, structured, developed, supported and referenced;
  • develop and expand upon the cognitive, technical and creative skills required to engage in independent thought and critical reflection across different legal systems;
  • develop and expand upon the cognitive, technical and creative skills required to critically review legal scholarship across different families of law;
  • develop and expand upon the communication and technical research skills required to analyse, evaluate and theorise about the merits of inductive and deductive approaches to legal reasoning;
  • develop and expand upon the cognitive, technical and creative skills required to engage in thorough comparative research;
  • communicate clearly the outcome of that research; and
  • develop and expand upon the cognitive, technical and creative skills required to place selected legal phenomena in their broader historical, socio-economic and political settings.


Eligibility and requirements


Successful completion of all the below subjects:

Code Name Teaching period Credit Points
LAWS50023 Legal Method and Reasoning
Summer Term
LAWS50024 Principles of Public Law
Semester 1
LAWS50026 Obligations
Semester 1
LAWS50027 Dispute Resolution 12.5



Non-allowed subjects


Recommended background knowledge

Knowledge of one or more European languages is 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

6,000-word research paper (100%)


3-hour supervised open book exam (100%)

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

  • Semester 1
    Principal coordinatorMartin Vranken
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours36
    Total time commitment144 hours
    Teaching period 4 March 2019 to 2 June 2019
    Last self-enrol date15 March 2019
    Census date31 March 2019
    Last date to withdraw without fail10 May 2019
    Assessment period ends28 June 2019

    Semester 1 contact information

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

Additional delivery details

This subject has an enrolment quota of 60 students. Your subject enrolment will not be confirmed until the selection process has been run. Selection is conducted on a random basis with outcomes communicated to students shortly after re-enrolment closes. Please refer to the Melbourne Law School website for more information on the JD Quota Elective selection process.

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    • Vranken, M. Fundamentals of European Civil Law (Federation Press, Sydney, 2nd ed);
    • Specialist materials will also be made available from Melbourne Law School.
  • Available to Study Abroad and/or Study Exchange Students

    This subject is available to students studying at the University from eligible overseas institutions on exchange and study abroad. Students are required to satisfy any listed requirements, such as pre- and co-requisites, for enrolment in the subject.

Last updated: 11 September 2019