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Principles of International Law - LAWS8180
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Faculty: Faculty of Law
School:  Faculty of Law
Course Outline: See below
Campus: Kensington Campus
Career: Postgraduate
Units of Credit: 6
EFTSL: 0.12500 (more info)
Indicative Contact Hours per Week: 2
Enrolment Requirements:
Prerequisite: Academic Program must be either 9200, 9210, 5740, 9230, 9240, 5760, 9211, 5211, 9231 or 5231.
CSS Contribution Charge:Band 3 (more info)
Further Information: See Class Timetable


International law seeks to order human affairs at the international level. It accordingly covers a vast field, extending to issues such as autonomy or otherwise of peoples and territories, the allocation of resources (land, maritime, air), the preservation of the environment, the regulation of interstate transactions, the resolution of disputes and the maintenance of international peace and security. As the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs of the United Nations notes, international law has become not only an important but an integral part of both the international and the domestic legal orders. The centrality of international law to our everyday lives and, in particular, to our practice as lawyers, cannot now be overstated.

This course aims to provide a solid introduction to certain central topics within the overall field of international law. It is designed to stand as an effective 'stand alone' introduction suitable for all students who will enter the legal profession at their national level. It also forms the basis from which further specialization in the area of international law can proceed.

Credited programs

Please note that students enrolled in the Master of International Law and International Relations and the Graduate Diploma in International Law and International Relations are required to take this course in the first semester of their enrolment.

This course is also available to students undertaking relevant postgraduate non-law degree programs at UNSW, provided such enrolment is approved by the appropriate non-law Faculty.

This course is offered in Semester 1 and 2 each academic year.

LLM Specialisations

Recommended Prior Knowledge


Course Objectives

This course aims to:
  • Assist students to develop an understanding of the issues involved in the regulation of human affairs beyond a single State
  • Give students a basic working knowledge of the structure of the international legal system and its relationship to the Australian legal system
  • Give students a feel for the 'dynamic' of international law, its political nature and distinction from domestic concepts of law
  • Develop an awareness of different methods of international as compared to national law in such matters as textual interpretation and working with judicial decisions
  • Assist students to recognize international legal problems in their subsequent careers and to point them in the direction of ways of resolving them

Main Topics

  • Historical and philosophical underpinnings of international law
  • Structure of international legal system
  • Sources of international law
  • The law of treaties
  • International personality, statehood and recognition
  • Responsibility of States for violations of international law
  • Title to territory
  • Jurisdiction of States and jurisdictional immunities


Class participation and attendance Preparation and engagement in class 10%
Assignment 3,000 words 30%
Take home exam 60%

Course Texts


  • DJ Harris, Cases and Materials on International Law (7th edition, Sweet & Maxwell 2010).
  • Brownlie, Principles of International Law (7th edition, OUP, 2008)
  • Shaw, International Law (6th edition, Grotius/Cambridge University Press, 2010)
  • Evans, International Law (3rd edition, OUP, 2010)


Refer to Course Outline provided by lecturer at the beginning of session.

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© The University of New South Wales (CRICOS Provider No.: 00098G), 2004-2011. The information contained in this Handbook is indicative only. While every effort is made to keep this information up-to-date, the University reserves the right to discontinue or vary arrangements, programs and courses at any time without notice and at its discretion. While the University will try to avoid or minimise any inconvenience, changes may also be made to programs, courses and staff after enrolment. The University may also set limits on the number of students in a course.