Institutions in International Law

Subject LAWS40062 (2013)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2013.

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

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2013:

March, 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

Seminars: Six in Melbourne during early Semester 1 and the rest taught intensively in Geneva, Switzerland, during the Winter Recess (July). Please refer to the Law School subject page for specific dates.

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Semester 1 and Winter Recess (15 hours per week).
Total Time Commitment:

144 hours.


Permission from the subject coordinator.



Recommended Background Knowledge:

Studies in public international law are an advantage.

Non Allowed Subjects:


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:


Assoc Prof Bruce Oswald, Prof Andrew Mitchell, Prof Tania Voon


Melbourne Law School Student Centre
Tel: +61 3 8344 4475

Subject Overview:

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;
  • 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 guest lecturers on-site at a diverse range of governmental, intergovernmental, non-governmental and private commercial organisations.


A candidate who has successfully completed this subject should:

  • 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;
  • Have advanced knowledge of key contextual factors influencing international institutions from the perspective of law, policy, politics, diplomacy, and management.

  1. 100% class attendance (hurdle requirement).
  2. 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 500 – 1,000 words in length.
  3. 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 individual guest speakers;
    - Assisting with logistical and administrative matters.

  4. 5,000 word research paper, due October (70%). Code 2 applies to the word limit.

Prescribed Texts:

Specialist printed materials will be made available from Melbourne Law School.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
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 guest speakers, writing an extended piece of legal research;
  • Advanced oral communication skills: discussions, debates, question and answer sessions, introducing and thanking guest speakers;
  • 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;
  • Complex and specialised legal research.


A maximum of 25 students may enrol in this subject.

Students will be selected through a competitive application process. Further details regarding the subject and how to apply for a place in the subject and a scholarship will be available late in the academic year preceding proposed enrolment.

Students will need to cover the cost of their flights to Geneva and meals and accommodation within Geneva. Up to five needs-based scholarships will be awarded to cover accommodation costs.

The research essay in this subject is regarded as a substantial piece of legal writing for honours purposes.

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