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Foundations of Comparative Law

Explore the main topics of Comparative Law and its new cultural, historical and pluralist approaches

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CIVIS focus area
Society, culture, heritage
Open to
  • Bachelor's
Field of studies
  • Law
  • Social Science and humanities
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
31 January - 10 April 2024

Foundations of Comparative Law (FCL) is a 6 ECTS-elective course in English offered for bachelor students at the Faculty of Law of the UAM (reference code 18191: Seminar on Private Law II – Foundations of Comparative Law).

The strong transversal appeal has shaped the FCL course since its implementation in the Faculty of Law's curriculum. This is due to the methodological approach and to the unconventional selection of topics. Whereas a standard FCL course taught by (and for) jurists focuses rather on technical aspects of the legal comparison and on private law, the critical approach developed in the UAM course, designed by historians of law with the collaboration of law professors of various disciplines (private law, criminal law, public law etc.), adds to the traditional topics of comparative law an emphasis on the methodological and cross-cultural aspects of comparison. It is conceived as an introduction to the methods, approaches, main themes and basic terminology of comparative law.

The course is divided into three parts. The first part of the course revisits the main classical topics of the discipline: micro and macro comparison, the functionalist theories, the notion of legal families and the standard taxonomies of common, civil law and the so-called “mixed legal systems”.

The second part of the course concentrates on the more recent methodologies and critical approaches to comparative law, such as the so-called “numerical approach” in comparative law and the conceptual analysis of legal transfers, legal transplants, legal translations, legal pluralism, the relationship between law and other disciplines (such as art and social sciences).

The third part of the course focuses on various case studies, which are related to the comparative legal aspects of art collections (private and public), to women's rights in comparative perspective, to legal education in comparative perspective and to criminal law in comparative perspective, among others.

You can find out more details about this program here.

Main topics addressed

Each section of this course addresses different topics:

Macro-Comparison and classical topics

  • The Birth of Comparative Law as a Discipline
  • Legal families and Taxonomies in Comparative Law (Civil Law and Common Law, “Mixed” Legal Systems)
  • Functionalist approach
  • Comparative Law and the Convergence of Private Law in Europe

New Approaches to Comparative Law

  • Comparative Law and the Legal Cultural Approach
  • Legal Pluralism
  • Globalization and Localization of law
  • Legal Transplants, Legal Transfers, Legal Translations

Case studies on Comparative Law

  • Law and Art: Legal Comparative and Historical Perspectives
  • Women’s Rights in Comparative Perspective
  • Law in Secular and Non-Secularist Systems
  • Legal Education in Comparative Perspective
  • Criminal Law in Comparative Perspective: capital punishment and penal codification

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • have an overview of the main classical topics of comparative law and of the new methodological trends in this field,
  • understand the production and application of law as a complex phenomenon, determined by exclusion factors, economic and educational bias,
  • adopt a critical perspective of cross-cultural legal topics, such as women's rights
  • develop skills in working in international teams to solve common problems 
Dates: 31 January - 10 April 2024 Total workload: 180 hours
Format: Blended ECTS: 6*
Location: Madrid, Spain Language: English (B2)

*Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university.

Physical mobility

The Physical Mobility week (4-8 March 2024) is meant to complement the topics discussed during the course, especially those concerning law and art in comparative perspective, legal education and legal carreers in comparative perspective. Besides attending the lectures and the seminar sessions, students will have the opportunity to visit four institutions in Madrid: Museo del Prado, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Tribunal Constitucional and Senado.

*see the full schedule in the attached file

Virtual part

The virtual component will consist of 4,5 hours/ week (Mondays and Wednesdays, 18:15-20:30 CET) and will include:

1) online lectures given by the CIVIS lecturers;

2) seminar sessions, in which students of different nationalities will work in mixed, small teams.

The interdisciplinary topics chosen for the course and the class dynamics, following a student-centred approach, will contribute to foster among students a critical and crosscultural perspective of comparative law.

*see the full schedule in the attached file


This course is open to Bachelor's students (both first-year and senior) at CIVIS member universities, with high interest in Law and Political sciences.

FCL is a student-centered course, which involves a dynamic classroom approach and a clear focus on the learning outcomes. The course’s contents have been deliberately chosen to stimulate cross-cultural awareness, critical thinking and an approach based on intersectionality. It has been inspired by Collaborative Learning, Project-Based Learning and Learning-Oriented Assessment (LOA).

The participants should have excellent English skills (B2). Some notions of Spanish language will be positively considered, although not necessary (useful for the institutional visits - Constitutional Court, Senate).

NB: Visiting Students - Erasmus Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for your selected CIVIS programme, you must be a fully enrolled student at your CIVIS home university at the time you will be undertaking the programme. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria.

Students from CIVIS’ strategic partner universities in Africa cannot apply for participation in this course.

Application process

Send your application by filling in the online application form by 7 November 2023, including:

  • CV
  • Motivation letter
  • Level of english (According to CEFR)

Applications will be evaluated based on the knowledge of foreign languages, interest in the course topics and connection with future professional and academic perspectives.

Apply now


In order for students to receive the certificate of attendance and the corresponding 6 ECTS, the following activities are mandatory:

• at least 80% lessons attendance during the virtual phase;

• elaboration of a Final Paper Project within small groups (4-5 students), to be both submitted in written form and orally presented;

• written examination based on a set of six recommended readings;

• at least 80% activities attendance during the physical mobility week. 

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

GDPR Consent

The CIVIS alliance and its member universities will treat the information you provide with respect. Please refer to our privacy policy for more information on our privacy practices. By applying to this course you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

Laura Beck Varela is Associate Professor of Legal History at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid since 2013. She did her bachelor and doctoral studies in Brazil, Germany and Spain. Visiting scholar in several universities (China, Italy, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico), she has been also post-doctoral fellow at the EHESS, Paris; Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, and the Max-Planck Institut in Frankfurt. She has published on the history of legal education, history of property law, women's history, book and censorship studies.

Antonia Fiori is Associate Professor of Legal History at Sapienza Università di Roma (Italy) since 2014, after appointments at the University of Roma Tre (1999-2002) and at the University of Cagliari (2007-2014). She has taught and researched abroad, been responsible for research projects and presented papers at national and international conferences. She is author of several publications in the field of Legal History. 

Prof.Dr. Elina (Eleni) Moustaira is Professor of Comparative Law at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece). Member of the Deanship of the School of Law, Director of the “LL.M in International Private Law, Law of International Business Transactions & Comparative Legal Studies”, Deputy Director of the “LL.M in International and European Legal Studies” (studies in English), First Vice-President at International Association of Legal Science (IALS), Delegate of Greece at various Governmental Experts’ and Diplomatic Conferences. Author of several publications related to comparative, among others, 10 books (8 in Greek, 2 in English). 

Jérôme de Brouwer is lawyer and historian. He is currently professor at the Law Faculty, Université libre de Bruxelles and director of the Center for Legal history and Legal anthropology. His research activities on the history of law are focused on nineteenth and twentieth century in Belgium and are organized along four main axes: the evolution of penal codification, the representations of justice, the development of legal education and the development of legal professions.

Johannes-Michael Rainer is full professor of Roman law at the University of Salzburg since 1995. He has been visiting scholar in several international institutions and has published extensively on roman law, legal history and comparative law. He received the honorary doctorate from the University of Örebrö, Sweden (2010), and from the University of Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, in 2007. In 2019 he received the Ursicino Alvarez Price for Roman Law.