• Offered by ANU Law School
  • ANU College ANU College of Law
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Laws
  • Areas of interest International Relations, Law
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person

International law is largely seen as rule based, stemming from a positivist tradition. The proliferation of rules at the international level has increased the regulatory influence of international law. However, with this increasing presence of international law in the global order, different theories have emerged to explain the international legal system, its actors, processes and values. This course equips students to analyse and situate the debates about the nature of international law, its function and its values through the lens of critical approaches to international law.

The course is presented in three parts. The first focuses on the history and method of international law. It begins by considering international law histories through competing narratives that chart its origins and purposes. Students trace the influence of earlier international law scholars on conceptions of sovereignty and actors in the international order and how these contributions are challenged in contemporary scholarship. This part of the course also explores the relationship between theoretical orientation and method by exploring how international law is studied and the methods deployed to analyse its purported progress, influence and implementation in a variety of settings.

The second part of the course introduces and examines critical theories of international law. Students are introduced to several ‘new stream’ theories of international law, including feminist and third world approaches. Students develop an understanding of dominant positivist accounts by analysing scholarly texts and applying the critiques to modern debates about the application of international law.

The third part of the course critically reflects on how different theories of international law are manifested in practice. Students are asked to consider how theoretical orientation influences method. In particular, we address how theoretical orientation can produce different policy recommendations for the implementation of international law in different arenas. Students are encouraged to consider the nature of international law and the way it is interpreted and applied in different parts of the world. We ask, who are the actors of international law? What role does international law play in the global order?

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Explain, distinguish and have an advanced knowledge of critical approaches to international law;
  2. Critically reflect on how different theories of international law relate to the practice and implementation of international law;
  3. Apply an advanced and integrated understanding of how different methodologies relate to theories of international law; and
  4. Plan and execute a research project which critically analyses theoretical international law debates.

Indicative Assessment

  1. a class presentation based on an assigned reading (10) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  2. an article review (1500 words) (20) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  3. a research essay (4500 words) (70%). (70) [LO 1,2,3,4]

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

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Classes offered in non-standard sessions will be taught on an intensive base with compulsory contact hours (approximately 26 hours of face to face teaching). The course will also require advanced preparation through assigned readings. In total, it is anticipated that the hours required for completion of this course (class preparation, teaching and completion of assessment) will not exceed 120 hours. Classes offered during semester periods are expected to have 3 contact hours per week.

Click here for the LLM Masters Program timetable.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must be studying a: Master of Laws (7300XLLM, MLLM), Master of Laws in Migration (NLLML), Master of Laws in International Law (NLLIL), Master of Laws in Environmental Law (NLLEN), Master of Laws in Law, Governance & Development (NLLGD), Master of Laws in International Security Law (NLLSL), Master of Laws in Government and Regulation (NLLGR), Master of Legal Practice (MLEGP) Master of International Law and Diplomacy (MINLD); OR Juris Doctor (7330XJD, 7330HJD or MJD), have completed or be completing five 1000 or 6100 level LAWS courses and have completed LAWS2250/LAWS6250 International Law; OR Graduate Certificate of Law (CLAW) and have completed or be completing LAWS8586 Law and Legal Institutions; OR Master of Military Law (MMILL). Students undertaking any ANU graduate program may apply for this course. Enrolments are accepted on a case-by-case basis. Please contact the ANU College of Law for permission number.

Prescribed Texts

Students must rely on the approved Class Summary which will be posted to the Programs and Courses site approximately 2 weeks prior to the commencement of the course.

Preliminary Reading

An e-brick will be available on the Wattle course site.

Assumed Knowledge

Participants must have completed Principles of International Law (LAWS8182) or equivalent.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $4320
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $5760
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

There are no current offerings for this course.

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