LLM in Legal and Political Theory


Why study Legal and Political Theory?

It is sometimes said that political theory concerns the questions of “who gets what and who says?”. In modern pluralistic societies an additional question arises: how can we live together peacefully in circumstances in which we disagree about how best to live? These issues are both political and legal. States, and increasingly the international domain, regulate citizens’ lives through law. The LLM in Legal and Political Theory – a unique collaboration between the Departments of Politics and Philosophy and the York Law School offers students the opportunity to study the core issues and approaches of political and legal theory and to consider the relations between them.

The LLM in Legal and Political Theory aims to provide:

  • Opportunities to study some of the enduring questions of political life including: By what right do some people rule over others?; What is the relationship of law and morality?; Do citizens have an obligation to obey the law?; and, What is the just distribution of rights and socio-economic goods and opportunities within states and globally?
  • Opportunities to choose from a wide range of Option Modules in Law, Politics, and Philosophy.
  • The opportunity to write an independent dissertation on a topic of your choosing supervised by a member of the academic staff.

At the end of the course students will:

  • Have a critical understanding of the central questions of legal and political theory and of the works of the great legal and political theorists both past and present who have examined these questions.
  • Have knowledge of the fundamental questions of jurisprudence and of how these connect to issues of political theory.
  • Understand the distinctive methodologies of the study of legal and political theory.

The taught programme, which can also be taken Part Time over two years, is organised around three Core modules that run through the first two Terms and provide the foundations of the study of legal and political theory. In addition, students take Option modules in subjects of their choosing. In the third Term and over the summer, students write a Dissertation.

Each student is allocated a Personal Advisor who will help you to tailor the programme 
to suit your individual interests. Teaching is done through small groups led by members of the academic staff.


Structure of the Programme

The LLM in Legal and Political Theory is a taught programme of one year (or two years if taken part time). The LLM is made up of 180 credits. 120 credits are studied through a mix of compulsory and optional taught modules. The remaining 60 credits are obtained through undertaking a 15,000 word dissertation. For example, a student may follow a course structured in the following way:

  • Autumn Term: 50 credits: (Legal Systems: Sources and Operation (10 credits); Foundational Issues in Legal Theory (20 credits); Approaches to Political Theory (20 credits))
  • Spring Term: 60 credits (Advanced Issues in Legal Theory (20 credits); and two 20 credit option modules)
  • Summer Term/Summer: 70 credits (Research Skills & Methods (10 credits); Dissertation (60 credits))

Core and compulsory modules

Legal Systems: Sources and Operation (10 credits)

This module introduces you to the study of Law at Masters level by considering the variety of sources of Law and how those sources operate. It will focus on the differences between common law systems and those based upon codified civil law.

Research Skills and Methods (10 credits)

This module is designed to prepare students for their dissertation. It will introduce students to a variety of research methodologies and key research skills. At the end of the module, students will prepare a 'research proposal' for their dissertation.

Foundational Issues in Legal Theory (20 credits)

Introduces the fundamental issues and theories of jurisprudence. The module addresses the questions of what law is and of its relation to morality. At its heart, is law a coercive enterprise or is it rather a system of norms? With what range of activities ought the law to be concerned? And, for those activities that are rightly regulated by law, how ought this to be done? The module considers these, and other, questions through a critical examination of historical and contemporary writers including HLA Hart, Lon Fuller, and Ronald Dworkin.

Approaches to Political Theory (20 credits)

Examines the most important approaches to the study of political theory, broadly construed, and the methodological implications following from them. Through an analysis of each of these different approaches and the debates amongst them, students are encouraged to reflect critically on their assumptions, limitations and advantages, in relation to particular research questions, starting with how they affect their formulation. The application of each of the approaches is explored in connection to a specific political-theoretical problem. This may vary from year to year, but this is typical of the range of topics covered: human rights, freedom, power, the state, civil society, toleration.

Advanced Issues in Legal Theory (20 credits)

Considers advanced questions in legal theory with reference to broader underlying philosophical and political issues often through the consideration of meaningful examples. Indicative topics include: the authority of law (why, if at all, the law binds us; whether unjust laws can bind us; and whether there is a legitimate role for disobedience to law); feminist and critical legal studies; violence and the State. The module aims to develop advanced academic skills in the reading of legal and philosophical texts and the relating of those texts to moral and political problems. As a result, the module aims to develop in students advanced analytical skills of problem identifying and solving.

Dissertation (Summer term and Summer, 60 credits)

Students will write a 15,000 word dissertation on a topic of their choice, incorporating a legal dimension, under the supervision of a faculty member. Students will be supported in the preparation of the dissertation proposal by specialist research training. Students have a wide flexibility in choosing their topic and they are encouraged to make the most of the broad range of expertise made available by the collaborative nature of the programme.

Optional modules

Students choose two options from a wide range offered across the departments of Politics, Philosophy and York Law School. The precise range will vary from year to year, but an indicative list is:

  • Challenges of Pluralism: Cotemporary and Comparative Perspectives
  • Issues in Philosophy of Criminal Law
  • Counter-Terrorism
  • Ethics and World Politics
  • Topics in the History of Political Thought
  • Students may also take modules from other York Law School LLM Programmes as options


The modules are mainly assessed through an essay completed over the course of the vacation following the term in which the module was taken.


LLM in Legal and Political Theory.


LLM applicants should have at least an Upper Second Class honour’s degree in law or a related social science and proficiency in English.

About us

A stimulating environment for postgraduate study

York Law School has developed a reputation for offering academically rigorous, innovative, practical and stimulating programmes of study. We offer a rounded student experience – reflecting the best of academic and professional practice – and have a friendly and dynamic team of experienced academics, committed to the best methods of legal education.

In addition, we enjoy a close relationship with the legal profession, with practitioners involved in the design and delivery of key aspects of all our programmes, and have forged collaborative links in teaching and research across the University as a whole. You'll find studying here a stimulating and rewarding experience which will equip you for your chosen career.


How you’ll be taught on the LLM

Modern teaching

On the LLM programme you will be taught using a wide variety of modern teaching and learning methods. Through rigorous academic study you will engage with theoretical, applied and practical studies, ensuring that you develop a deep understanding of legal political theory.


Careers options and employability

It is widely known in the legal sector that those graduating from York Law School with a postgraduate degree possess legal minds of the highest calibre and, as such, our graduates are always in demand.

On average, an outstanding 94.2% of those graduating with a postgraduate degree in Law between 2009 and the present day had secured employment or further study after leaving York.

While most of our postgraduate students choose to enter legal fields, others go on to gain employment in the following sectors: finance, health and social work, public administration and retail.

Notable employers include: DWF LLP, the Home Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Parabis Group, Amnesty International.

The most common job titles are: Lawyer, Litigation Paralegal, Solicitor, Commercial in-house lawyer and Attorney-at-Law.

Careers & Development Support

All students on the LLM programme will get active support in careers and development planning, both through structured sessions and workshops as well as individual advice from the Law School’s Employability Tutor, Chris Wilkinson.


The Law School Careers & Development Programme is open to undergraduate and postgraduate students and we would encourage you to get involved with this. Several employers take part in the bespoke programme, providing an insight into the legal profession and the relevant recruitment processes. There is also help available for those of you who are thinking about non legal employers or academic routes following your LLM.

There are also taught postgraduate and research postgraduate versions of the Employability Tutorial available to you.  The Employability Tutorial is an online resource which is aimed at helping you to think about or review your personality and values, to assist you when you are thinking about your options after the LLM and how to move forward with your career plans.

Undertaking further research study

The research skills developed during the LLM are excellent in preparation for further research, including doctoral studies. Many of our successful LLM graduates have gone on to pursue PhD studies, both at York and elsewhere.


Admission requirements

Applicants will normally be expected to have obtained an undergraduate Law, Philosophy, Politics, or a related discipline degree with honours (2.1 or higher, or its equivalent).

Applicants with equivalent professional experience will also be considered on a case by case basis.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language and you have not completed an undergraduate degree in English we will need evidence of your English language ability to the required level, in addition to any academic entry requirements.

For up to date information about accepted tests and our English language requirements, please see

Applying to the programme

You can apply for this course using our online application system. If you've not already done so, please read the application guidance first so that you understand the various steps in the application process.

For more specific programme information please contact Matt Matravers