University of Sydney Handbooks - 2020 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. The also examines 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 links between human rights, laws and social protest, , 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

The Socio-legal Studies major and minor requirements are listed in the Socio-legal Studies unit of study table.


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.

Honours admission requirements
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 or later:
- 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.
- Prior to commencing honours, you will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts or other bachelor degree, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major.

Requirements and units of study for honours can be found on the Socio-legal Studies honours units of study page.

Advanced coursework

The Bachelor of Advanced Studies in SSPS offers students the opportunity to apply their social science skills and knowledge to complex and tangible social, cultural, political and economic problems. Students will have the opportunity to apply and further develop their methodological, analytical and communication skills as they undertake primary research, learn to harness big data for critical social science research and diagnose and propose responses to contemporary and persistent social, cultural, political and economic challenges. Students will also be given the opportunity to further develop their capacity to translate social science research and analysis into effective contributions to public and policy debates.

Requirements and units of study for advanced coursework can be found on the Socio-legal Studies advanced coursework units of study page.

Contacts and further information

Department website:

Undergraduate Coordinator: