Human Dignity and European Constitutionalism (LAWM052)

StaffDr Catherine Dupre - Convenor
Credit Value15
Academic Year2012/3
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module is designed to enable discussion with students regarding some of the latest scholarly developments in relation to dignity and European constitutionalism. By bringing together Member States constitutions, the ECHR case law and EU law, the module equips students with a good – and rare – knowledge of the many European dimensions of the concept of dignity, which lies at the heart of European constitutionalism. The study of the rise of dignity and if its construction as a normative concept brings students to the heart of European dynamics of integration. Its comparative and critical perspectives encourage students to develop an integrated understanding of the EU, European constitutionalism and human dignity.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate a detailed knowledge of, and an ability to evaluate critically, a wide range of theoretical issues raised by human dignity in the context of European constitutionalism;
  • 2. demonstrate a detailed knowledge of, and an ability to evaluate critically, a wide range of issues raised by the application of human dignity in case law;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. use a wide range of sources and materials, including case law from different courts, theoretical and substantive academic commentaries, statutes, constitutions and treaties, in a critical and constructive way;
  • 4. demonstrate a detailed knowledge, through structured and discursive writing, of the theoretical and practical significance of the development of human dignity in European constitutionalism;

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. present, explain and critically evaluate a range of substantive and theoretical arguments in a synthetic manner;
  • 6. work independently and manage time efficiently in preparing for course activities and assessment;
  • 7. take an active part in oral discussion in seminars and to interact constructively with the rest of the group.

Syllabus plan

i)   The syllabus will vary slightly every year to reflect the latest developments in positive law and scholarly discussion on dignity in European constitutionalism.
ii)   The syllabus does not follow a week by week plan, but the issues covered in the course.

     Locating human dignity
Member states constitution
European Court of Human Rights Case Law
Lisbon Treaty

    Shaping human dignity
‘Common constitutional traditions’
‘Judicial dialogue’
European Court of Human Rights case law

    Making sense of human dignity in European constitutionalism
Dignity as a constitutional foundation
Dignity as an hermeneutic device
Dignity as and integrating principle

    Taking a critical view
A value-laden concept
A German concept
A subversive concept

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching 105 x 2 hours student-led workshops
Scheduled learning and teaching 55 x 1 hour lecturer-led web-based forum discussion (via ELE), alternating with the workshops,
Guided independent studies135Independent reading, research and preparation.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
A detailed essay outline and a fully written up introduction, to be submitted on a rolling and voluntary basis for each workshop600 words1-4 and 6-7Feedback will be given for one outline per student with individual written comments on the outline returned at the following workshop and general discussion in class
A detailed outline for a thematic note, submitted on a voluntary basis from the second workshop onwards on a rolling basis.500 words1-4 and 6-7Feedback will be given for one outlined thematic note individual with written comments returned in the following meeting and discussion in class.
An oral presentation based on the thematic note.10 minutes1-8Oral feedback from the lectures and comments from the other students

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
A thematic note, to be submitted during the course on a rolling basis, following student-lecturer agreement at the start of term.251,000 words1-8Individual feedback sheet and optional face to face meeting. General feedback in writing for whole group at appropriate intervals.
An essay to be submitted at the end of the course.752,750 words1-4 and 6-7Individual feedback sheet and optional face to face meeting

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Thematic noteSame as original.1-8August/September
EssaySame as original.1-4 and 6-7August/September

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Ph Alston (ed), The EU and Human Rights (OUP, 1999)

C Dupré, Importing the Law in Post-Communist Transitions, The Hungarian Constitutional Court and the Right to Human Dignity (Hart, 2003)

EJ Eberle, Dignity and Liberty (Praeger, 1995)

E O Eriksen et al (eds.) Developing a Constitution for Europe (Routledge, 2004)

D Feldman, ‘Human Dignity as a Legal Value’ Part I Public Law (1999), p.682 and Part II, Public Law, (2000), 61

G P Fletcher, ‘Human Dignity as a Constitutional Value’ (1984) University of Western Ontario Law Review, 171-182;

J Jones, ‘”Common constitutional traditions”: can the meaning of human dignity under German law guide the ECJ?’ [2004] Public Law, 167

G Kateb, Human Dignity (Harvard University Press, 2011)

C McCrudden, ‘Human dignity and Judicial Interpretation of Human Rights’ [2008] European Journal of International Law, 655

A von Bogdandy and J Bast (eds), Principles of European Constitutional Law (Hart, 2010)

Venice Commission (ed), The principle of protection of human dignity (Council of Europe Publishing, 1999)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ECJ case law:

ECHR case law:

Venice Commission:


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Cambridge Law Journal

Oxford Journal of Legal Studies

Columbia Journal of European Law

International Journal of Constitutional Law

European Constitutional Law Review

Public Law

German Law Journal

Available as distance learning?


Origin date

March 2012

Key words search

Dignity, rights, constitutionalism, judicial dialogue, Europe