Comparative Constitutional Law

Subject LAWS40053 (2010)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2010.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2010:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 24, 1x2-hour seminar per week.
Total Time Commitment: 120 hours.

730111 Legal Method and Reasoning;
730112 Principles of Public Law;
730114 Torts;
730212 Legal Theory;
730214 Constitutional Law;
or in each case their equivalents.

Corequisites: None.
Recommended Background Knowledge: None.
Non Allowed Subjects: None.
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering requests for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills, and Assessment Requirements of this entry.

The University is dedicated to providing support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Prof Carolyn Evans


Melbourne Law School Student Centre
Tel: +61 3 8344 4475
Subject Overview: The course will examine a series of normative and institutional challenges that constitutional democracies around the world currently confront. Aside from Australia, the main reference-points will be South Africa and the United States, which represent two leading and well-contrasted constitutional traditions. Drawing on both case law and wider constitutional debates, the course addresses topics such as the sources of constitutional authority; mechanisms of constitutional change and visions of constitutional and democratic politics; the scope and limits of judicial review; the relationship between international and foreign law and constitutional law; the protection of fundamental rights, including social and economic rights; the constitutional protection of equality; and the radiation of constitutional law into private relations where the government is not a party.

On completion of this subject, students should:

  • Have developed an understanding of how the basic map of constitutional themes and vocabularies – including democracy, human rights, the rule of law and the separation of powers – translate in a variety of constitutional systems;
  • Have mastered the essentials of constitutional law and practice in the United States and South Africa, including an understanding of what they share and how they diverge, and how each compares with Australia;
  • Be able to engage and critique the methods and purposes of the discipline of comparative constitutional law;
  • Be able to draw on comparison to resolve or highlight present-day constitutional or political challenges, engage new practices or discourses of constitutional politics, and/or offer new programs or directions for constitutional reform in Australia (federally or in Victoria) or elsewhere.
  • One 3,000-word take-home exam (85%);
  • One 15-20 minute class presentation, prepared and co-presented with 1-2 other students (15%).
Prescribed Texts: Printed materials will be available from the Melbourne Law School.
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On completion of the subject, students should have developed the following generic skills:

  • The ability to converse in and apply normative and institutional analysis in law;
  • The tools of case analysis, including national and international cases from jurisdictions which are not immediately familiar;
  • The capacity for independent reflective and critical thought;
  • The ability to work collaboratively in a team and be sensitive to the new ideas and frameworks that may result from collaboration;
  • The ability to engage in problem solving, and techniques of issue-spotting, analysis, option-generation and judgement;
  • The capacity to communicate in oral and written form a series of complex ideas in a limited time;
  • Confidence in knowing when to focus on details and when to focus on broad principles.

Download PDF version.