University of Sydney Handbooks - 2018 Archive

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Socio-legal Studies

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, 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 first year 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.

Requirements for completion

A major in Socio-legal Studies requires 48 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:

(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 6 credit points of 2000-level core unit
(iii) 6 credit points of 2000-level selective units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level core units
(v) 12 credit points of 3000-level selective units
(vi) 6 credit points of 3000-level Interdisciplinary Project units

A minor in Socio-legal Studies requires 36 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:

(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level core
(ii) 6 credit points of 2000-level core unit
(iii) 6 credit points of 2000-level selective units
(iv) 12 credit points of 3000-level units

First year

In your first year, you will study SLSS1001 Introduction to Socio-legal Studies and SLSS1003 Law and Contemporary Society. The first semester lays the foundations to develop socio-legal knowledge and understand key concepts in law, and the second builds on this introduction to consider key areas of law in context, including Indigenous justice, family law and the regulation of social relationships, human rights and international law, corporate crime, crime and the media, forensics, and legal secrecy and surveillance. At the end of your first year you will be equipped with foundational socio-legal skills that will enable you to move into senior units of study in this subject area.

Second year

In your second year, you will deepen your knowledge and understanding of socio-legal ideas and concepts by taking SLSS2606 Socio-legal Theory. This core unit will develop your analytical skills across the spectrum of socio-legal thought. You will also be able to complement your study and specialise by taking elective units in indigenous justice and criminology, as well as units from other subject areas.

Third year

In your third year, you will build on your previous two years of study to develop advanced knowledge and understanding of socio-legal methods. You will take SLSS3601 Doing Socio-legal Research, which will enable you to consolidate your research skills in socio-legal studies and equip you to pursue further socio-legal research. You will also be able to develop interests in human rights, protest and social justice by taking SLSS3602 Human Rights, Law and Social Protest and SLSS3603 Social Justice, Law and Society, as well as take elective units from other disciplines.


If you commenced your degree prior to 2018, admission to honours requires a major in Socio-legal Studies with an average of 70% or above.

If you commenced your degree in 2018, admission to honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in Socio-legal Studies with an average of 70% or above. You will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Advanced Studies, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major, prior to commencing honours.

Socio-legal Studies is designed for students who are interested in studying and understanding legal ideas, institutions and practices from the perspectives of the humanities and social sciences. It provides an opportunity to engage with the ever-changing relationship between law and society using the methods of a broad range of humanities and social science disciplines including: criminology; history; philosophy; political science, sociology, social policy; performance studies; anthropology; literary studies and economics.

Advanced coursework

The Bachelor of Advanced Studies in Socio-legal Studies will equip students with advanced knowledge, understanding and skills in conducting original research, from selecting a topic to data analysis and interpretation of results.

The program examines the philosophical, historical and political foundations of socio-legal research, and explores debates and controversies in law ad society by examining substantive topics, including criminal justice, policing, legal secrecy, surveillance, sexuality and gender, and indigenous justice. Project work enables students to participate in workplace environments and be exposed to problem-solving processes in interdisciplinary teams, as well as enabling them to apply academic knowledge to real-world settings.

Contact/further information

Department website:
Undergraduate Coordinator:

Learning Outcomes
  1. Demonstrate a confident and extensive knowledge of the major socio-legal topics in contemporary society, such as those relating to legal processes, crime, and human rights.
  2. Exhibit depth of disciplinary expertise through their mastery of the key elements of sociolegal theory including issues of power, and the operation of law in society.
  3. Identify, research and critically analyse complex socio-legal issues.
  4. Articulate the relevance and application of socio-legal knowledge to social, public and civic policy, and collective and community processes.
  5. Develop the skills, integrity and personal resilience to critically engage in socio-legal argumentation and conduct socio-legal research using best ethical practice. Socio-legal Studies.
  6. Demonstrate cultural competency through participation and collaboration in seminars, tutorials and online.
  7. Apply socio-legal thinking to work and research in other relevant disciplinary communities.