University of Sydney Handbooks - 2016 Archive

Download full 2016 archive Page archived at: Fri, 13 May 2016 14:40:30 +1000

Socio-Legal Studies

The Socio-Legal Studies Program is offered by the Department of Sociology and Social Policy within the School of Social and Political Sciences (SSPS).

About the major

Socio-Legal Studies is the study of legal ideas, practices and institutions in their social and historical contexts. You will examine the institutions that make and enforce laws – for example, parliament, the courts and the police – and you will learn about a broad range of legal practices and their impact. These include arrest and imprisonment, the use of CCTV surveillance, regulating business, enforcing human rights, and prosecuting international war crimes. Two central elements of the major are criminology – examining the logic of crime and punishment, medico-legal and forensic practices – and human rights. Socio-legal studies enables students to understand the impact of the legal system in different communities, so you will study how law operates across different countries and regions, as well as how law changes over time.

In the junior units you will be introduced to the key ideas and concepts that socio-legal scholars have developed to help understand the world. You will also become familiar with the methods and techniques that will enable you to undertake your own research. The senior units will consolidate your grasp of theory and methods, and enable you to focus on particular topics in socio-legal studies, such as the logic of crime and punishment, medico-legal and forensic practices, the philosophy of law, and the changing international regime of human rights.

You will engage with these aspects of socio-legal studies in lectures and tutorials, but also in the real world. You will learn to write and think in socio-legal terms using essays, reports, oral group work, posters, debates and new social media.

Pathway through the major

A major in Socio-Legal Studies requires at least 36 senior credit points from the unit of study table, including 18 credit points of core 2000-level units of study and 6 credit points of core 3000-level units of study.

The units of study for the major can be found in the Table A unit of study table for Socio-Legal Studies. The table shows units of study on offer in the current handbook year. You may find information regarding a full list of units of study available to the major on the departmental website.

Junior units of study (1000 level)

You complete two junior units of study: SLSS1001 Introduction to Socio-Legal Studies and SLSS1003 Law in Contemporary Society. In these units you will learn about:

  • Basic methods in Socio-Legal Studies
  • The structure of the Australian legal system and its history
  • Legal reasoning as a distinctive form of knowledge
  • Crime, policing and punishment
  • Human rights
  • Law and family life
  • Cultural criminology
  • White-collar crime
  • The socio-legal analysis of terrorism
  • Contemporary socio-legal theory.
Senior units of study (2000 and 3000 level)

You complete 18 credit points from core senior intermediate (2000-level) units of study:

  • SCLG2601 Sociological Theory
  • SCLG2615 Law and Social Theory
  • SCLG2602 Social Inquiry: Qualitative Methods or SCLG2632 Quantitative Methods.

These core senior-intermediate (2000 level) units extend on the introductory material in the two junior units. They focus on the twin principles of socio-legal studies – an understanding of broader sociological theories and empirical methods.

You also complete 6 credit points from core senior advanced (3000-level) units of study: SLSS3601 Doing Socio-Legal Research.

The remaining credit points for your major can be taken from senior units of study listed under electives in the unit of study tables. These cover areas such as crime and criminology, Human Rights, Philosophy of Law and Media Studies. These units enable you to focus on specific topics and learn about the particular concepts, theories and methods associated with these sub-fields of socio-legal studies. There are three possible pathways: Criminology, Human Rights, and Law and Society.


In this fourth year of study students undertake a program of coursework and research thesis. Admission to honours requires an average of 70 percent or above in 48 senior credit points in Socio-Legal Studies.

Contacts/further information

Department website:
Undergraduate Coordinator: