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  3. Institutions in International Law

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.

Last updated: 20 August 2019