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Unit information: Public and Global Health Law in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Public and Global Health Law
Unit code LAWDM0131
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Syrett
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit aims to embed a knowledge and critical understanding of the related fields of Public and Global Health Law, considered in historical, social, and theoretical contexts. The Unit will cover the relationships between population health and law and policy, including the practical and theoretical issues associated with ‘population approaches’, and by introducing the established and growing academic fields of public and global health ethics. Historical and contemporary perspectives, related to contemporary challenges and problems concerning population health and globalisation. As such, it will consider both general matters of framing the fields, and apply these to specific problems. The unit is characterised by its strong combination of teaching and research-led learning methods.

Intended learning outcomes

The Unit aims to develop an understanding of Public and Global Health Law, situated in broader historical, social, and theoretical contexts.

On completion of the Unit, students should be able to:

  1. Analyse critically the ideas of Public and Global Health
  2. Have a critical understanding of the relationships between Public and Global Health with Law and other modes of social coordination
  3. Analyse critically the different methods of engaging with Public and Global Health Law (e.g. historical, philosophical)
  4. Undertake independent research and critical analysis in relation to questions raised on the Unit
  5. Apply critically such knowledge and understanding within a discursive, critical essay
  6. Apply critically such knowledge and understanding through a research-led law reform project
  7. State relevant law and other modes of regulation accurately
  8. Apply legal and political principles to practical questions concerning Public and Global Health Law

Teaching details

The Unit will provide thirty contact hours, comprised in eight topic/approach-focused lectures, two lectures focused on feedback and coursework preparation, and ten two-hour seminars incorporating mixed teaching and learning methods.

Assessment Details

The summative assessment for this Unit will be in the form of 1 x 2000-word critical, discursive essay, weighted at 33%, and 1 x 4000-word law reform project, weighted at 67% (this will be a research and advocacy project, on whose structure and content students will receive clear guidance). Students’ overall mark will be established by the combined result of the two assignments.

As it is an innovative assessment method, it may be useful to see some further detail on the law reform project:

  • this form of assessment is appropriate in particular in terms of the skills-development that are foundational to the overall programme of study: it requires students to identify a problematic area of health as a social concern, present a legal/regulatory response to that problem, and advance a defence for the proposed reform
  • students are given clear guidance on approach to research and presentation of the projects
  • that guidance explains that the project should incorporate three substantive sections (plus an intro and conclusion): first, with particular reference to primary sources and critically reasoned/evidenced argument, a case is made for why an area of health law is problematic; second, a reform proposal is described and explained; third, a justification section explains how and why the reform proposal will improve health law
  • this is an assessment model that one of the programme tutors (Coggon) has used very successfully elsewhere (and which was found to be very popular amongst students)
  • the relative weight compared to the essay represents the reality that a greater word space is a benefit on this sort of project
  • the project is formulated through library-based research, so there will be no question of students engaging in original empirical work for the project (and thus attendant potential problems associated with need for ethical clearance)

The subject matter of the assignments will relate to practical points addressed through the learning and teaching, and will assess all of the intended learning outcomes of the Unit. The first assessment will in particular focus on ILOs 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7, and the second will in particular focus on ILOs 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8.

The formative assessment will be one 1500-word critical, discursive essay.

There will be an opportunity for direct feedback on a separate law reform exercise through student presentations.

Additional opportunities for non-assessed formative work and feedback will be provided through mixed teaching methods and student-led tasks in seminars.

Reading and References

Specific reading lists will be provided within the Unit Guide as updated annually. These will include textbook readings, primary legal and regulatory materials, and secondary materials such as public reports and academic works.

Indicative points of reference:

  • Ronald Bayer, Lawrence Gostin, Bruce Jennings, Bonnie Steinbock (eds), Public Health Ethics—Theory, Policy, and Practice (Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • John Coggon, What Makes Health Public? A critical evaluation of moral, legal, and political claims in public health (Cambridge University Press, 2012)
  • John Coggon, Keith Syrett, A.M. Viens, Public Health Law—Ethics, Governance, and Regulation (Routledge, 2017)
  • Angus Dawson and Marecel Verweih (eds), Ethics, Prevention, and Public Health (Oxford University Press, 2009)
  • Michael Freeman, Sarah Hawkes, and Belinda Bennett (eds), Law and Global Health (Oxford University Press, 2014)
  • Richard Goodman et al (eds), Law in Public Health Practice 2nd edn (Oxford University Press, 2007)
  • Lawrence Gostin, Public Health Law and Ethics 2nd edn (University of California Press, 2010)
  • Lawrence Gostin, Global Health Law (Harvard University Press, 2014)
  • Milton Lewis, The People’s Health, volumes 1 & 2, (Praeger, 2003)
  • Wendy Parmet, Populations, Public Health, and the Law (Georgetown University Press, 2009)