Ubi societas, ibi ius: law is a widespread social institution fulfilling essential functions in everyday life. These functions have developed over time and have adapted to ongoing changes in society. Law does not only play a crucial role in national societies, but also at the regional (Europe for instance) and the international level. Although law is commonly viewed as an instrument for achieving policy objectives (whether it is change or conservation), it is also a means of achieving justice – law can emancipate as well subordinate.

The law courses at University College Utrecht have been developed to serve Liberal Arts and Sciences students. Our law track at UCU recognizes the importance of providing a rounded legal education beyond the learning of general theories of law and the main substantive and procedural aspects of certain fields of law. Our track also aims to challenge students to critically assess the main functions of certain laws in a given society and at the international level by taking into account the political, historical and economical context in which those they are placed. The courses offered provide solid knowledge and insight into crucial areas of Law, such as contract law, European law and (considering the composition of the University College Utrecht student population) international law. The track has been crafted in order to equip students with a strong foundation in legal reasoning and writing as well as legal research skills.

Because of the large interest of University College Utrecht students in Law, including a substantial number that may enrol in Master's programmes in the field of Law, or even to pursue a full legal training, the quantity of courses offered has increased and has diversified in order to cater to these two groups: students taking courses purely as part of the Liberal Arts and Sciences education, and students wishing to pursue further studies in Law.  The University College Utrecht law track also allows students to opt for the Double Degree in Law and Liberal Arts & Sciences programme, which enables students who have signed up for this programne at the end of their first year to pursue two Bachelor degrees (Liberal Arts and Sciences Bachelor at University College Utrecht and Bachelor of Laws at the Utrecht Law School) in a four-year programme.

The practice of law is one of the oldest professions, as is the study of Law. It has close ties to other disciplines including philosophy, political science, sociology, history, and economics. Its main distinguishing characteristic as an academic discipline is its interpretative and normative character. At UCU, students are encouraged to view and analyze legal concepts and dilemmas from a multidisciplinary perspective, and thus, are constantly challenged to bring those fields that relate to law to fully understand and address current legal dilemmas. For instance, the migration crisis that Europe has been facing during the last years, cannot be dissociated with the political, historical and economic situation in of countries from which people are fleeing.

Students who do the Law track typically register for at least three law courses at different levels, considering the prerequisites on levels two and three. For example, students must follow Introduction to Law if they seek to register for Property law and contract law (level 2) and subsequently want to register for International Commercial Arbitration. Likewise, students must have followed either Introduction to Law or Law, Society and Justice if they seek to register for International Law (level 2) and subsequently want to register for International Human Rights Law and/or European Union Law (both level 3). In the end, students who have completed the law track typically have gained knowledge and insight of the basic aspects of private and public law, and/or foundations of law, and have gained a deeper understanding in more specific areas of law. In addition, they have familiarized themselves with certain basic legal skills, such as case law analysis, legislative analysis, legal argumentation and legal writing as well as legal problem-solving (case method). These could be considered the specific end objectives of the law track, considering the learning objectives of individual courses:

Learning objectives – knowledge Learning objectives per field of law Courses
Basic knowledge of and insight into private and public law   Introduction to law
Basic knowledge and insight into the (philosophical) foundations of law   Law, society and justice
Knowledge of and insight into a particular field of law: Private law  
Property and contract law Property and contract law in historical and comparative perspective
Commercial arbitration International commercial arbitration
Public law  
Criminal law Criminal justice systems
Constitutional law Comparative constitutional law
International criminal law International and transnational crimes & criminal justice responses
International and European law  
International law International law
Human rights International human rights law
European law European Union law
Case law analysis All courses are designed in such a way that all legal skills are addressed through both summative and formative assignments and assessment.
Legislative analysis
Legal writing
Case study (problem solving)
Legal argumentation
The law thesis ought to reflect that a student in the law track has met its learning objectives (in a particular field of law), in addition to the general UCU learning objectives  Law thesis (15ec)

Track suggestions

Based on the learning objectives of the law track, a number of track suggestions can be spelled out. The suggestions are designed based on a particular field of law and with prerequisites taken into account to meet the track criteria in terms of levels. See the table below.

Suggestion 1 Suggestion 2 Suggestion 3 Suggestion 4
Private law Public law Contract law European and international law
Introduction to law (1) Introduction to law (1) and/or Law, society and Justice (1) Introduction to law (1) and/or Law, society and Justice (1) Introduction to law (1) and/or Law, society and Justice (1)
Property law and contract law (2) Comparative constitutional law (2) Property law and contract law (2) International law (2)
International commercial arbitration (3) International law (2)   European Union law (3) and/or: International human rights law (3) and/or International and transnational crimes (3)
  European Union law (3) and/or International human rights law (3) and/or International and transnational crimes (3) (no level 3 course)  
(Law thesis) (Law thesis) (Law thesis) (Law thesis)

The following is an overview of Master's programmes in Law at Utrecht University.

European Law
The international Master in European Law provides a thorough and highly-individualised training that prepares for a legal career in multinational environment. The programme in European Law, taught entirely in English, will immerse you in this challenging and dynamic field while opening up many new opportunities to you both during and after your programme. It provides a thorough grounding in European law, covering areas such as internal market law, competition law, social law, judicial protection, human rights law, criminal law and public law. 

Public International Law (PIL)
The Master’s programme in Public International Law (PIL) will equip you with a broad range of tools to address current legal concerns facing the global population. PIL is a flexible program that offers you many options, both during your study period and in your career possibilities post-graduation. The programme offers two specialisations, Environment and Law of the Sea and Human Rights. As an added benefit, the international mix of students in this programme means that you – by working together – will actually offer each other personal "comparative" insights on international law.

Law and Economics
This one-year programme offers an in-depth examination of issues in economic and legal aspects, meeting the growing demand for multidisciplinary experts in the field. You will focus on the economic and legal aspects of market regulation (in banking, energy, telecom, transport, health care, etc.), private equity, hedge funds, competition and competition policy, corporate governance and mergers. You will learn from an interdisciplinary team of legal experts and economists who enhance the challenging course content with both theory and real-world knowledge. The interdependence of economics and law is the prime focus of the programme.

Legal Research Legal Research
Are you curious, analytical and ready to take on new challenges in a dynamic academic environment? Are you interested in writing academic texts, or engaging in debate, and tackling complicated legal issues? Would you like the opportunity to complete an in-depth Master’s level programme in law that extends beyond the standard one-year period? The two-year Legal Research Master’s may be the perfect choice for you.

Global Criminology
Do you want to understand the role of Mexico in the cocaine trade, why a Dutch multinational dumps waste on an African country, or how young Dutch Muslims are recruited for fighting in Syria? Are you curious about phenomena such as internet fraud, food criminality or mobile banditism? Old and new forms of global crime are rapidly expanding, as are the means to control it. The Netherlands serves both as a major crossroad in the illegal flow of goods, people and services and as a key host for international organisations such as Europol, Greenpeace and the International Criminal Court. Drug trafficking, human trafficking, international terrorism, corruption, environmental harm, financial and corporate crime and conflicts over natural resources all have global dimensions. Tackling these issues requires modern instruments that transcend national boundaries.

European Governance
This interdisciplinary Master’s programme investigates vital questions facing European countries today. It will equip you with the knowledge and skills to answer these questions and formulate appropriate responses to the challenges they pose. How can we regulate financial markets in crisis? The Master in European Governance is a unique double-degree program offered in partnership with Masaryk University (Brno, Czech Republic), the University of Konstanz (Germany) and University College Dublin (Ireland). As a student in this program, you will study and live in two different European locations. This will allow you to experience European governance from two different perspectives in the context of a unique personal experience.

European Criminal Justice in a Global Context
Crime control more than ever requires a transnational and international approach. National criminal justice systems have been challenged in today’s global and digital world. National criminal justice systems have to interact with other areas of law and with other legal orders. This is acutely evident in Europe, where significant parts of national substantive and procedural criminal law have been brought within the scope of EU law-making. EU law and criminal law have entered into a dynamic interaction, which shapes and redefines their very foundations. This is necessary to control crime and ensure due process at a national, EU and international level (UN, Council of Europe), but also to enforce EU policies and retain Europe’s position as a global actor in the area of security and criminal justice.

Level-1 courses

The three level-1 courses serve the double purpose to introduce students to the theoretical and philosophical foundations of law and to acquaint students with essential aspects of private law and criminal law. These courses are:

UCSSCLAW11: Law, Society and Justice
Law serves society but what do we mean by law? What is it? What does it do and how can we recognize it? Law has something to do with rules; perhaps law consist of rules. But, not all rules are law. How can we differentiate legal rules from other rules, such as moral rules or social rules, rules of etiquette or religious rules? Why do all societies have something we call law and when do we consider law and/or society just? Law, Society and Justice is a course that seeks to take a critical theoretical and philosophical perspective about how we can think about law, society and justice. Indeed, the premise is that to understand law demands understanding society. The course holds the belief that such a ‘contextual’ approach to study law allows for a meaningful discussion about justice and what it pertains to in contemporary society.

UCSSCLAW12: Introduction to law
This course provides the students with an introduction to a national legal system in order to become familiar with basic legal concepts. The focus is on English law; however, next to the English legal system (part of the Common law tradition), other legal systems (part of the Civil law tradition) are also examined. To understand modern law it is important to have an idea of its development. Thus, the course begins with legal history. To distinguish legal rules from other norms it is important to dwell upon the question of the sources of law. Next, substantive and formal criminal law is discussed. The other pillar of national legal systems is private law, dealing with the relationship between citizens in their social and commercial contacts.

Both courses are mandatory for students choosing the law track

UCSSCLAW13: Criminal justice systems (Summer)
This summer course provides an introduction to criminal justice systems and looks in particular at the main basic notions in criminal law. The course consists of two parts. Part I explores the legal underpinnings of criminal law, including what constitutes a crime and how crimes are defined. This section of the course will address the acts and mental states necessary for criminal culpability, as well as factors that can negate criminal culpability, such as insanity. Part II explores the criminal justice system, from the role of the police, to that of the prosecutor and defence attorney, to that of the courts, and finally addressing the topic of sentencing and punishment as the end result for those found criminally liable. Throughout the course, students will be exposed to aspects of various criminal justice systems to compare and contrast how different societies and cultures deal with criminal behaviour, with particular emphasis on the American and the Dutch criminal justice systems.

Level-2 courses

The four level-2 courses each deal with a particular field of law, i.e. international law, constitutional law, property and contract law, labour law.

UCSSCLAW21: International law
This course provides students with basic knowledge of the main legal principles that govern international relations, as well as some insight into the theoretical framework of the international legal order. The first part of this course focuses on law formation and law enforcement at the international level. It provides students with basic knowledge of the main legal principles that govern international relations, as well as some insight into the theoretical framework of the international legal order. Topics include: the legal character of international law and its role and limitations in the conduct of foreign policy, the principal sources of legal obligation at the international level (treaties, custom and general principles, decisions of international organizations, courts, etc.), participants in the international legal system, sovereignty and the State, the United Nations, conflict regulation, the rules governing the use of force and the law of armed conflict, and tribunals and the prosecution of offenders. The second part of the course concentrates on applying the rules and principles contained in this theoretical framework to an actual case or situation through a moot court that simulates an international court or tribunal. Students divide into teams to research, prepare, and deliver legal arguments relating to a case based upon real events. This provides students with a better understanding of the relationship between the principles and practices used in legal discourse.

Prerequisites: Law, Society and Justice (UCSSCLAW11) or Introduction to Law (UCSSCLAW12).

UCSSCLAW22: Comparative constitutional law
This course offers an introduction to the study of comparative constitutional law with aspects of comparative European constitutional law and comparative administrative law. The course focuses on the central issues of Comparative Constitutional Law, Comparative European Constitutional Law and Comparative Administrative Law across several jurisdictions – Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands, (sometimes) the United States and the institutions of the European Union. This guarantees insight into both common law and civil law systems, federal and unitary states, parliamentary and presidential systems, the influence of European Law and the position of the judiciary.

Prerequisites: Law, Society and Justice (UCSSCLAW11) or Introduction to Law (UCSSCLAW12).

UCSSCLAW26: Property Law and Contract law in Historical and Comparative Perspective
Contract law and property law are cornerstones to regulating transactions. In an ongoing globalizing economy these national legal arrangements are under pressure to change: international law replacing or adapting national law and an increasing appearance of foreign legal arrangements in other national jurisdictions. Globalization knocks on our doors. Contractual issues like negotiations, formation of contracts, standard form conditions, interpretation of contracts, and non-performance will be explored, as well as property issues like transfer, securing credit by retention of title or security rights, as well as aspects of trust-law. Our approach is comparative, and we will focus on jurisdictions within the European Union as well as beyond - for sound reasons.

These detailed pictures will offer a nuanced picture of strongly shared, yet changing traditions over time. Our excursions through comparative history of ‘law developing’ reveal a detailed legal roadmap to a common future.

Prerequisite: Introduction to Law (UCSSCLAW12).

Level-3 courses

The three level-3 courses provide more advanced study of particular areas, based on the knowledge obtained in the 100 and 200-level courses.

UCSSCLAW31: International Human Rights 
Since the Second World War, the international law of human rights has become a full-fledged component of international law and international relations. This course begins with an introduction to the historical and juridical background of the emerging body of international human rights law, comparing its main characteristics to general international law. It also deals with the major issues of substantive law, including the universality/relativism debate and the so-called three generations contained in the various universal and regional instruments. A number of rights, such as the prohibition of torture or the right to health and self-determination, are treated in more detail on the basis of international case law. The second part of the course concerns the procedural aspects of the international law of human rights. We survey non- judicial, quasi-judicial, and judicial mechanisms of implementation and supervision. We examine institutions such as the European Court of Human Rights, the Yugoslav and Rwanda tribunals, and the International Criminal Court. We then apply the principles contained in this theoretical framework practically in the form of a moot court exercise. Finally, we highlight topical issues such as the roles of Multi-National Corporations, International Financial Institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations, discrimination against women, and the death penalty.

Prerequisites: International Law (UCSSCLAW21); Law, Society and Justice (LAW11) or Introduction to Law (LAW12).

UCSSCLAW33: European Union Law
Since the impact of European law on the daily lives of citizens has increased, knowledge of this field has become important for practitioners engaged in a wide range of professional activities. This course provides students with the necessary knowledge and skills to understand the extent of this impact. It begins with a critical overview of the legal system of the European Union: its origin, the evolution of its legal rules, the legal construct of economic freedoms, and European integration. Subjects include: the Internal Market and European competition law, the legal foundations of the European Union; the institutions of the European Union and their decision-making competence; the sources of the law of the European Union; the relationship between the legal system of the European Union and those of member States; and the enforcement of European Union law at the European and national level. The sessions on economic law introduce the four freedoms and competition law on which the internal market is based and the way in which these policies are affected through Community law and upheld by the European Court of Justice.

Prerequisites: International Law (UCSSCLAW21); Law, Society and Justice (LAW11) or Introduction to Law (LAW12).

UCSSCLAW34: International Commercial Arbitration
This course considers various aspects of international commercial sales: for example, the formation of contracts, the use of general terms and conditions in international sales contracts and possible remedies that a buyer may exercise if the seller fails to perform its contractual obligations. During this course, students will discuss cases on all these issues. This course will also consider international commercial arbitration as a dispute settlement mechanism. An introductory session explores the methods of resolving disputes in international trade generally, the alternatives to litigation and the relevance, advantages and disadvantages of arbitration. Thereafter, the course focuses on major issues of contemporary arbitration law and practice. The topics to be discussed include: the procedural framework (sources), public policy and mandatory rules, validity of arbitration agreement, the applicable procedural and substantive law, the issues relating to the establishment of the tribunal, powers and duties of arbitrators and the conduct of arbitral proceedings. Particular consideration is given to the role of the national courts in arbitration, especially with respect to the extent of judicial review in the proceedings for setting aside of the award and in the procedure for the enforcement of the award. When addressing the issues concerned a comparative approach is used.

Prerequisite: Property Law and Contract Law in Historical and Comparative Perspective (UCSSCLAW26)

UCSSCLAW35: International and Transnational Crimes and Criminal Justice Responses

This course is designed for second and third year students interested in international crimes, transnational organized crimes, criminology, criminal justice, conflict and global crime control.  The course examines what we know about international and transnational crimes both from a substantive as well as an organizational perspective. What is the difference between transnational and international crimes? What are the elements of these crimes and who are the perpetrators? To what degree is organized crime involved in practices in both legitimate and illicit sectors, how have such organizations permeated the ‘upper world’, and what is the structure of such organizations? This course sets out the relevant sources of transnational and international criminal law, making a distinction between the different substantive and procedural requirements for the prosecution international crimes. The course then turns to consider the criminological frameworks to understand and respond to transnational organized crime, as well as the role of sharing of information and international cooperation to counter criminal networks.

Prerequisites:  one of these courses: International Law (UCSSCLAW21), Human Trafficking (UCSSCSOC21), Social Inequality (UCSSCSOC28) or Criminology (UCSSCSOC29), and one of these courses: Introduction to Law (UCSSCLAW12), Criminal Justice Systems (UCSSCLAW13), or Introduction to Sociology (UCSSCSOC11)


BA research thesis in Law

Given the high level of expertise, the teachers involved in the Law track are able to supervise BA research theses concerned with a vast array of topics reflecting the complexity and plurality of the issues and questions that characterize the study of law in all its aspects and sub-disciplines. In addition, colleagues at the School of law can also be approached to supervise.

The law fellow, acting as thesis coordinator is involved in the thesis program in a number of ways. In addition to the usual tasks of coordinating the process of registration and grading, the law fellow seeks to create a thesis community each semester in which students report upon their progress, discuss their topics and follow workshops on methodology, involving teachers of the law track.

Prerequisites: Law, Society and Justice (LAW11) or Introduction to Law (LAW12); and level-2 or level-3 law courses that correspond to the thesis research topic.

Double Degree in Law and Liberal Arts & Sciences

In the Netherlands, you need a Dutch law degree to qualify for the so-called toga professions – notary, judge, lawyer (civil effect). But a Dutch law program does not specifically cater to students with multiple interests, who wish to explore different talents and sample the diversity of the academic world. University College Utrecht (UCU) and the Utrecht University School of Law offer a solution in the form of a double degree program. After completion of this four-year programme, you have two fully accredited Bachelor degrees, one in LA&S and one in Dutch law. By doing both simultaneously you avoid paying the penalty for a second study program.

The four-year program encompasses 240 ECTS in course credits, of which at least 140 in law. You spend the first two years taking required and elective courses at UCU, in which you focus on law. This prepares you for a test you take before the start of the third year to assess your legal knowledge. Based on the test you are admitted to the double degree program. During the third and fourth year, you take courses at UCU and the UU School of Law. You conclude your program with a 15 ECTS Bachelor thesis. Upon completion, you are qualified to apply to all master’s programs in law (LLM) at Utrecht University, as well as many other universities, in the Netherlands and abroad. To get access to the legal professions in the Netherlands you need an LLM in Dutch law.

To take part in the double degree program you apply to UCU like any other UCU student.

Read more on the DDLL page.

Course nr. Level Name Fall Spring Summer Teachers
UCSSCLAW11 1 Law, Society and Justice 0 1   Bald de Vries (Associate professor legal theory)
UCSSCLAW12 1 Introduction to Law 2 1   René Brouwer (Assistant professor legal theory)
UCSSCLAW13 1 Criminal justice systems 0 0 1 Andrea Muirhead
UCSSCLAW21 2 International Law 1 1   Katharine Fortin (Assistant professor international law)
UCSSCLAW22 2 Comparative Constitutional Law 0 1   Wytze van der Woude (Associate professor constitutional law)
UCSSCLAW26 2 Property Law and Contract law in Historical and Comparative Perspective 1 0   Michael Milo (Assistant professor private law)
UCSSCLAW31 3 International Human Rights 1 1   Diana Odier Contreras-Garduño (Assistant professor in human rights and international criminal law)
UCSSCLAW33 3 European Union Law 1 0   Tony Marguery (Assistant professor of EU law)
Ton van der Brink (Associate professor of EU law)
UCSSCLAW34 3 International Commercial Arbitration 0 1   Sonja Kruisinga (Associate professor private law) 
Vesna Lazic (Assistant professor private law)
Maartje Bijl (Lecturer private law) 
UCSSCLAW35 3 International and Transnational Crimes and Criminal Justice Responses      

A.A. Aronowitz (Assistant professor of criminology)

Diana Odier Contreras-Garduño (Assistant professor in human rights and international criminal law)