University of Sydney Handbooks - 2021 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, cultural and historical contexts. Examine the institutions that make and enforce laws –parliament, the courts and the police. Learn about legal practices and their impact, including arrest and imprisonment, the use of CCTV surveillance, how law has shaped the LGBTIQA+ community, Indigenous peoples’ experience of the law and policing, enforcing human rights and prosecuting international war crimes and consider the broader question of what justice is.

In your first-year units you will be introduced to the key ideas and concepts that socio-legal scholars have developed to help understand the world. Understand the foundations of the Australian legal system and examine how law and society interacts by engaging with contemporary socio-legal issues. You will also become familiar with the methods and techniques that will enable you to undertake your own research. Your 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 philosophy of law and justice, the changing international regime of human rights, crime and punishment and medico-legal and forensic practices.

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.

Learning outcomes
No. Learning outcome
1 Demonstrate a critical understanding of major socio-legal topics in contemporary society through the application of socio-legal concepts and methods.
2 Demonstrate a capacity to draw on socio-legal theory and methods in analysing and critiquing the operation of law in its social and political context.
3 Critically analyse, evaluate and deploy socio-legal knowledge and related social sciences methodologies to conduct research projects on complex socio-legal issues.
4 Demonstrate a capacity to communicate the relevance and application of socio-legal knowledge to social and public policy, as well as collective and community processes.
5 Demonstrate integrity and personal resilience to critically engage in socio-legal argumentation and conduct socio-legal research using best ethical practice.
6 Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of their own and other worldviews through ethical participation in collaborative and interdisciplinary work.
7 Apply and adapt socio-legal analytical frameworks to work and research in and with other relevant disciplinary communities.
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.


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

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.

Contacts and further information

Department website:
Undergraduate Coordinator: