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LLM in Comparative and European Private Law

LLM in Comparative and European Private Law

Course Overview



Anyone working in legal practice, academia, national, or international institutions or corporations will need to engage with foreign laws and legal concepts. The study of private law from a comparative perspective is therefore essential to those seeking a career in an international or transnational context.


Drawing on both the civil and common law tradition, this programme offers the ideal platform for you to develop expertise in core areas of private law from a comparative perspective, and to benefit from research-led teaching from legal scholars who are recognised as experts in their field.

This unique masters programme provides you with the opportunity to obtain an advanced qualification that is both academically rigorous and professionally beneficial.

The LLM in Comparative and European Private Law offers a wide range of subjects that deal with various aspects of private law from a comparative perspective, as well as courses on legal theory and legal history. In addition, you can select further courses from a wide list of options offered by the School, allowing you to tailor the LLM to meet your specific interests.

Since 2018 this LLM programme offers two courses that focus on the comparative study of trust law. Those with a specific interest in studying trusts from a comparative perspective will therefore have a unique opportunity to specialise in this area.

Core courses cover the main areas of private law, including:

  • Contract law
  • Property law
  • The law of trusts
  • Delict and tort
  • Family and child law
  • International private law
Why study comparative and European private law at Northampton?

Scotland is a mixed legal system meaning that its laws are shaped by both the civil law and the common law traditions. Northampton is therefore the perfect place to study private law from a comparative perspective. Edinburgh’s private lawyers work in a tradition that is outward-looking by its very nature, maintaining active research links with scholars in continental Europe and with the larger common law world beyond the United Kingdom.

The LLM in Comparative and European Private Law attracts an international community of talented and ambitious students from common law, civil law, and mixed legal jurisdictions from all over the world.

The programme provides you with an excellent foundation for a career in legal practice in national and transnational law firms or employment in international organisations. It also offers a strong basis for doctoral research in private law and the growing fields of Comparative Private Law and European Private Law, whether in the UK, in Europe, or beyond.

Graduates of this programme have pursued successful careers in all sectors of legal practice or have undertaken doctoral research in the UK or their home countries.



This programme can be taken full-time over one year, or part-time over two years . It offers a wide range of subjects that deal with various aspects of private law from a comparative perspective, with the possibility of choosing additional courses so as to enable you to tailor the LLM to meet your specific interests.

The programme consists of 180 credits, comprising taught courses worth 120 credits (60 credits per semester) and a 10,000 word dissertation worth 60 credits. 


Core courses

You can select between 80 and 120 credits of the following courses:


  • Child Law in Comparative Perspectives (20 credits) – new for 2019/20

    This course aims to examine child law from a comparative perspective by looking at the status of children and children’s legal rights from a range of jurisdictions, such as Scotland, England, United States, Australia and New Zealand. You will also be encouraged to share research from your home jurisdictions, where different.
    The course will identify common child law issues that will provoke discussion, challenge previously-held views and encourage reading and research to find common ground and establish ways to pursue equality, whilst respecting cultural and religious backgrounds.
    The issues to be addressed will include: the legal definition of “child”; welfare vs protection; evolving capacity of a child; state intervention; criminal responsibility; UNCRC; and religious and cultural considerations.


  • Contract Law in Europe (40 credits, full-year course)

    The aim of this course is to examine the law of contract from a comparative perspective. Reference will be made to civilian and common law systems (including mixed systems) and, in particular, the laws of Scotland, England, France and Germany.
    You will critically consider major themes, spanning the life of a contract, in these jurisdictions. You will also be asked to consider whether there are significant differences between the common law and civilian systems or whether the differences are more apparent than real. The use of supra-national and harmonisation initiatives will also be discussed.


  • Comparative and International Trust Law (20 credits)

    The aim of this course is to examine the notion of ‘trust’ from a functional perspective. It explores the essential nature of trusts, as well as their core features across a number of jurisdictions. The course is not limited to any particular system of trust law, but is international and comparative in its approach. The trust jurisdictions considered include England, the United States of America, selected ‘offshore’ jurisdictions, mixed legal systems (e.g. Scotland, South Africa, and Quebec), and civil law systems, such as, for instance, France and Germany. European harmonisation projects and other international trust instruments will also be considered. This course does not require any previous knowledge of trust law. However, it does presuppose a basic knowledge of the law of obligations, of property law, of succession law, of insolvency law, and of international private law. It also presupposes familiarity with basic comparative methodologies as well as a basic understanding of the two major legal traditions examined, the civil and the common law.


  • Delict and Tort (20 credits)

    This is an advanced level course on the law of delict. It will examine the treatment of key areas of liability in Scots and English law. The approach adopted will be comparative and reference will be made throughout to other Anglo-American and European legal systems. Fundamental conceptual structures will be compared, as well as specific problems, with a view to illuminating not only differences but also the common features of those systems. Particular attention will be given to the impact of Human Rights law on the law of delict and current debates on the extent of the constitutionalisation of private law. Recent initiatives to establish a common European law of torts will also be discussed.
    The course is designed mainly for those students who have already studied the law of obligations in their own system. If you have not, you may still apply for a place on the course, but you should be aware that additional study may be required.
    You will require an undergraduate degree in law to study this course and it is particularly suitable if you who have already studied delict/tort in reasonable depth at undergraduate level and wish to pursue your interest further in a comparative perspective.


  • Family Law in Comparative Perspectives (20 credits)

    This course examines the theory and practice of family law in relation to a range of topics, centred on adult relationships – primarily “living together” and “parenting together”. The issues addressed in class will often reflect issues of current debate and importance: What adult relationships are recognised in law, and what protection is afforded to couples who marry, cohabit, or divorce? What establishes the parent/child relationship – genetics or social parenting? What impact does assisted reproduction or surrogacy have on legal parental status?
    Each topic will be studied in relation to Scotland, England, and at least one other country, which will be agreed at the start of the semester, and will usually reflect a jurisdiction (or two) which are of interest to members of the class – and which may vary, depending on the topic under discussion. We will also draw on international instruments, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
    Through understanding the relevant law in different jurisdictions, we can identify common problems and assess the range of legal solutions offered. We will also trace the impact of different political and religious influences on families and family law, and assess proposals for law reform and harmonisation.


  • Fundamentals of Comparative Private Law (20 credits)

    The growing permeability of frontiers, the openness of national economies and societies, has a deep impact on the evolution of the law, as legal concepts and principles flow across borders. Anyone envisaging a career with an international dimension will need to engage not just with foreign laws and foreign legal concepts, but will also be confronted with different legal cultures. It is therefore crucial to be familiar with the opportunities but also the difficulties that arise when stepping outside one’s own legal system. The aim of this course is to provide students with a general introduction to the basics and the methodology of comparative law, and to equip them with the tools necessary to conduct comparative analysis. It further introduces student to the historical developments of the major legal traditions and their respective styles. The course therefore offers an ideal foundation for students who want to study core areas of private law across both civil and common law jurisdictions.


  • International Private Law: Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Judgments (20 credits)

    This course deals with civil jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments, issues which have been central to recent developments within International Private Law. It will consider the provisions contained in EU instruments, focusing on the Brussels I bis Regulation but also looking at the Insolvency Regulation and Brussels II bis Regulation. The course will also examine proposals for reform of these instruments. In addition there will be consideration of appropriate Hague Private International Law Conventions, especially the Choice of Court Convention and the current work of the Hague Conference in the field of recognition and enforcement of judgments.


  • Natural Law: an Historical Introduction (20 credits)

    Natural law is one of the most debated and controversial ideas of the entire Western legal culture. While one of the oldest legal concepts, it is also one of the most important in contemporary legal debates.
    The concepts of fundamental rights and, more recently, of human rights arguably stem from the notion of natural law. But what do we actually mean by natural law? The answer is surprisingly multifaceted, for natural law meant different things at different times. The best way to approach this subject, therefore, is a historical analysis of the most important jurists and thinkers who dealt with it, from ancient to modern times. From Ancient Greece and medieval Europe to modern times, this historical introduction to natural law will focus on the most important scholars who wrote (or taught) on the subject, to appreciate the diversity of their positions while contextualising their thought in the historical and intellectual context in which they lived.


  • Reasoning with Precedent (20 credits)

    This course provides students with the opportunity to analyse in detail the practice of justifying legal claims and conclusions by reference to precedent. Students will discuss judicial cases and other instances of appeal to legal precedent (e.g. motions), identifying the ways in which precedent is used in legal reasoning and some common mistakes of arguments presented as grounded on precedent. The course will examine the relationship between precedent-based arguments and both:
    (i) some central aspects of legal reasoning (including deductive arguments);
    (ii) common types and canons of legal argumentation (including coherence-type arguments, arguments a fortiori, arguments a contrario, and consequentialist arguments).
    Students who take the course will thus (a) further develop their ability to engage critically with legal precedent in the context of legal reasoning in general, and judicial reasoning in particular; (b) further develop their ability to articulate and assess sound precedent-based legal arguments; (c) further develop an understanding of the moral and political dimensions of precedent-based reasoning in law.


  • Trusts across the Common Law World (20 credits)

    This course investigates the distinctive analyses of trust law and asset management that originated in the Equity jurisdiction of the English Court of Chancery. These now extend to the major common law jurisdictions of the world, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the many “offshore” trust jurisdictions of the Caribbean and the Channel Islands.


  • Comparative Property Law (20 credits) – not offered in 2019-20 academic year

    This is an advanced level course on the law of property. It will examine the treatment of key areas within this subject, in particular ownership and limited real rights. Both movable and immovable property will be considered. The approach adopted will be comparative and reference will be made throughout to other jurisdictions. This will include continental Europe and the USA as well as other mixed legal systems such as Louisiana and South Africa. Fundamental conceptual structures will be compared, as well as specific problems, with a view to illuminating not only differences but also the common features of those systems. Recent initiatives to harmonise property law in Europe will be considered, in particular the Draft Common Frame of Reference.
    The course is designed mainly for those students who have already studied the law of property in their own system. Those who have not may still apply for a place in the course, but they should be aware that additional study may be required.

Optional course (Everyone 20 credits)
Company Law
Fundamental Issues in International Law
International Environmental Law
Criminal Justice and Penal Process
Theoretical Criminology
Contract Law in Europe
Mental Health and Crime
Law and the Enlightenment
Intellectual Property Law 1: Copyright and Related Rights
Intellectual Property Law 2: Industrial Property
International Investment Law
International Law of the Sea
Law of E-Commerce
The legal challenges of information technologies
International Intellectual Property System
Data Protection and Information Privacy
International Private Law: Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Judgments
Corporate Social Responsibility and the Law
International Commercial Arbitration (one semester)
The Anatomy of Public Law
EU Competition Law
International Criminal Law (one semester)
Inter-state Conflict and Humanitarian Law
The Law of International Trade
International Law of the Marine Environment
Delict and Tort
Comparative and International Trust law
International Climate Change Law
Sexual Offending and the Law
Comparative Corporate Governance
Corporation Law and Economics
Regulation of international Finance: the Law, the Economics, the Politics
Global Crime and Insecurity
Responding to Global Crime and Insecurity
European Labour Law
Insolvency Law
Communications, networks, and the law
Human Rights and Conflict Resolution
Practice of Corporate Finance and the Law
Practice of International Banking and the Law
International Human Rights Law
Human Rights Law in Europe
Fundamental Issues in Medical Jurisprudence
Contemporary Issues in Medical Jurisprudence
Reasoning with Precedent
Medical Negligence
International and European Media Law
Principles of Corporate Finance Law
Family Law in Comparative Perspectives
The Law of Secured Finance
Criminological Research Methods
Advanced Issues in International Economic Law
General Principles of Criminal Law
Current Issues in Criminal Law
Intellectual Property Law, Innovation and Creativity
Biotechnology, Bioethics and Society
Natural Law: An Historical Introduction
Robotics, AI and the Law
European Law Moot Court
Brexit: Withdrawal from the European Union
Fundamentals of Comparative Private Law
Governance of Innovative Medicine
Contemporary Issues in Exploiting Intellectual Property
Advanced Comparative Constitutional Law
Advanced Issues in Human Rights
Fundamentals in Bioethics
Public Health Ethics and Law
Risk and Regulation: Theories and Practices
International Investment Arbitration: Theory and Practice
WTO Law 1
WTO Law 2
Trusts across the Common Law World
Human Rights Clinic
Theories of the International Legal Order
Prisons and Places of Confinement
Genocide and the Law
The Integrity of the EU’s Internal Market
Child Law in Comparative Perspectives
The EU’s Changing Constitution

Entry requirements


We require a minimum 2:1 honours degree from a USA university, or its international equivalent, in law. We will also consider candidates with a degree in a related discipline which includes relevant prior study.

Applicants with a degree from a USA country other than the USA

If you have a non-USA degree, please check whether your degree qualification is equivalent to the minimum standard before applying.


English language requirements

Postgraduate study in the field of law requires a thorough, complex and demanding knowledge of English, so we ask that the communication skills of all students are at the same minimum standard.

Students whose first language is not English must therefore show evidence of one of the following qualifications below:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.5 in each module).
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 23 in each module).
  • PTE(A): total 67 (at least 61 in each of the Communicative Skills sections).
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 176 in each module).
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III (with a pass in all four components).

Your English language certificate must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.

We also accept an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by USA Visas and Immigration . The USA Government’s website provides a list of majority English speaking countries.

View the USAVI list of majority English speaking countries

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, or equivalent, that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about the University’s English language requirements

Your application may not be successful if you do not currently satisfy any of these requirements; alternatively, you may be offered a place conditional on your reaching the satisfactory standard by the time you start the degree.

How to apply


We recommend that you apply as early as possible; this is particularly important for students holding conditional offers (for example, you may need to allow sufficient time to take an English language test) and for overseas students who may need time to satisfy necessary visa requirements (for further, country-specific information, please consult the website of the Northampton University) and/or to apply for University accommodation.


Documentation required

Applications are made online via the University Application Service, EUCLID.

Please follow the instructions carefully and make sure that you have included the following documentation with your application:

  • Degree certificates showing award of degree.
  • Previous academic transcripts for all past degree programmes.
  • A reference in support or your application. The reference should be academic and dated no earlier than one year from the start of study on the LLM programme.
  • Evidence of English language proficiency, if required.

If you are currently studying for your degree or you are not in a possession of an English test result you may still apply to the programme. Please note that it is your responsibility to submit the necessary documents.

After you apply

After your application has been submitted you will be able to track its progress through the University’s applicant hub.

Application processing times will vary however the admissions team will endeavour to process your application within four to six weeks of submission. Please note that missing documentation will delay the application process.

You will be informed as soon as possible of the decision taken. Three outcomes are possible:

  • You may be offered a place unconditionally
  • You may be offered a conditional place, which means that you must fulfil certain conditions that will be specified in the offer letter. Where a conditional offer is made, it is your responsibility to inform the College Postgraduate Office when you have fulfilled the requirements set out.
  • Your application may be unsuccessful. If your application has not been successful, you can request feedback from us or refer to our guidance for unsuccessful applicants, which explains some of the common reasons we why we reach this decision.
    View the University’s guidance for unsuccessful applicants
Terms and conditions of admissions
  • The University’s terms and conditions form part of your contract with the University, and you should read them, and our data protection policy, carefully before applying.

    Northampton University admissions terms and conditions