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Law: What is International Law

Updated: Jun 21, 2023


International law is a broad and complex field that encompasses a variety of legal systems and practices. It is a set of rules that govern the relations between states and other international actors. The study of international law is an essential component of legal education, and it is particularly relevant in today's globalized world. In this blog, we will discuss the basics of international law, including the different types of legal systems, the subjects that students can learn, and the top universities for studying international law in Australia, Singapore, UK, Canada, and the USA.

What is International Law?

International law is a set of legal principles and rules that govern the conduct of states and other international actors. It is a system of rules and standards that regulates the relations between states, international organizations, and individuals. International law includes treaties, customs, and general principles of law that are recognized by the international community. The primary sources of international law are treaties, customary law, and general principles of law.

Types of Legal Systems:

There are three primary legal systems in the world: civil law, common law, and religious law. Civil law is based on written legal codes, while common law is based on judicial decisions. Religious law, also known as Sharia law, is based on Islamic religious principles.

Civil Law:

Civil law is a legal system that is based on written legal codes. It is the most widespread legal system in the world and is used in most countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Civil law is a comprehensive system of laws that covers all aspects of private and public life. It is a system of law that is based on codes and statutes, and its primary objective is to protect individual rights and interests.

Common Law:

Common law is a legal system that is based on judicial decisions. It is used in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. Common law is a system of law that is based on precedents and is constantly evolving. It is a flexible system of law that allows judges to interpret and apply the law in new and innovative ways.

Religious Law:

Religious law, also known as Sharia law, is a legal system that is based on Islamic religious principles. It is used in many Muslim-majority countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan. Religious law covers all aspects of personal and public life, and its primary objective is to promote Islamic values and principles.

Subjects in International Law:

International law is a vast and complex field that covers a wide range of subjects. Some of the primary subjects in international law include:

  1. International Human Rights Law

  2. International Criminal Law

  3. International Environmental Law

  4. International Trade Law

  5. International Humanitarian Law

  6. International Refugee Law

  7. International Maritime Law

  8. International Space Law

  1. International Human Rights Law: This area of law focuses on the protection and promotion of human rights at the international level. It includes treaties, conventions, and customary law that establish legal obligations for states to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights.

  2. International Criminal Law: This field of law deals with the prosecution of individuals for serious crimes that are considered to have international significance, such as war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. It aims to hold individuals accountable for their actions and promote accountability for serious international crimes.

  3. International Environmental Law: This area of law addresses the management and protection of the natural environment and the sustainable development of natural resources. It includes treaties, conventions, and customary law that regulate human activities that impact the environment and promote the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems.

  4. International Trade Law: This field of law deals with the regulation of international trade and commerce, including the legal framework for trade agreements, disputes, and the settlement of disputes. It includes the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other international agreements that govern trade relations between states.

  5. International Humanitarian Law: This area of law is concerned with the protection of civilians and combatants during armed conflicts. It includes the rules of war, such as the Geneva Conventions, and seeks to limit the effects of armed conflict and protect individuals who are not participating in the hostilities.

  6. International Refugee Law: This field of law focuses on the protection and assistance of refugees and other forced migrants. It includes the legal framework for the protection of refugees, such as the 1951 Refugee Convention, and aims to ensure that refugees are able to exercise their rights and access essential services.

  7. International Maritime Law: This area of law regulates activities related to the use of the world's oceans, including shipping, fishing, and maritime boundaries. It includes international conventions, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, that establish legal frameworks for maritime activities.

  8. International Space Law: This field of law deals with the regulation of space activities, including the use of satellites, exploration, and the commercialization of space. It includes international treaties, such as the Outer Space Treaty, that establish legal frameworks for the use and exploration of outer space.

Top Universities for International Law:

If you are interested in studying international law, there are many excellent universities around the world that offer high-quality programs in this field. Here are some of the top universities for studying international law in Australia, Singapore, UK, Canada, and the USA:


  1. Australian National University

  2. University of Melbourne

  3. University of Sydney

  4. Monash University

  5. University of New South Wales


  1. National University of Singapore

  2. Singapore Management University

  3. Nanyang Technological University


  1. University of Cambridge

  2. University of Oxford

  3. London School of Economics and Political Science

  4. University of Edinburgh

  5. King's College London


  1. University of Toronto

  2. McGill University

  3. University of British Columbia

  4. Osgoode Hall Law School

  5. University of Ottawa


  1. Harvard University

  2. Yale University

  3. New York University

  4. Columbia University

  5. University of Michigan

Eligibility Criteria

The eligibility criteria for international law studies vary depending on the country and university you are applying to. In general, you would need to have completed your undergraduate degree, either in law or a related field, with a good academic record. Some universities may also require you to have work experience or hold a professional degree in law.

In addition, international law is a field that requires strong research, analytical, and communication skills, so universities may also consider your writing samples, personal statement, and letters of recommendation as part of the application process.

For international students, universities may also require proof of English language proficiency through tests such as TOEFL or IELTS. It is best to check the specific eligibility criteria for the universities and programs you are interested in to ensure you meet the requirements.

What Can One Do After Studying International Law?

After obtaining a degree in international law, there are various career paths available for graduates. These career paths include:

  1. Diplomacy: A career in diplomacy is a common choice for international law graduates. Diplomats represent their country in international negotiations and work to maintain diplomatic relations with other nations.

  2. International Organizations: Graduates can work with international organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank, International Criminal Court, and many others. They can work as legal advisors or in other roles such as policy analysts, project managers, and consultants.

  3. NGOs: Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play an important role in promoting and protecting human rights, environmental issues, and other social causes. Graduates can work in these organizations as legal advisors, researchers, or advocates.

  4. Law Firms: Graduates can work in international law firms that provide legal advice to multinational corporations, governments, and other organizations.

  5. Academia: Graduates can pursue an academic career by working as professors in law schools or research institutions.


In conclusion, international law is an exciting and dynamic field that offers a range of opportunities for students who are passionate about global issues. Whether you are interested in diplomacy, international organizations, NGOs, law firms, or academia, obtaining a degree in international law can help you achieve your career goals. The top universities for international law in Australia, Singapore, the UK, Canada, and the USA provide students with a comprehensive education in this field. With their excellent academic programs, experienced faculty, and extensive resources, these universities offer a great platform for students to develop their skills and pursue a fulfilling career in international law.

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