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An introduction to law

This key introductory OU level 1 law module is taught entirely online and considers the nature and role of law. It examines the role and function of a legal system by considering why laws develop, how laws are created, interpreted and applied and the role that law plays in regulating and administering justice within a society. The relationship between law, judicial reasoning, public policy and politics is also explored. The key aspects of law making in England and Wales are covered, including the mechanisms created for the administration and enforcement of justice in these jurisdictions. The module also considers a number of fundamental legal concepts such as liability, culpability, evidence and sanctions. You'll work through the module using a blend of online text materials, audio, video and interactive online activities.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU levels correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
1 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

The module covers a range of substantive legal principles and the law making framework in England and Wales. Throughout your studies you will develop a number of key legal academic skills and learn to interpret and apply the laws which have been created by the Westminster Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the courts and European institutions.

The module begins by asking you to consider the nature and sources of law. Why do we have law and what role does law play. It then examines the fundamental principles which form the UK’s constitution before considering law making in England and Wales. Through your studies of the law making process you'll learn about the range of institutions and bodies which have power to make law which impacts directly or indirectly in the UK.

You'll look at the role of the Westminster Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the wider impact of devolution, secondary legislation and the role of common law. You'll also explore the relationship between common law and equity, law making processes in the EU and the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

You'll then explore how laws are administered and what sanctions can be imposed when laws are broken. Creating law is only one aspect of the legal system and you will consider the importance within a legal system of the administration of justice and the relationship between judicial reasoning, public policy and politics. Fundamental legal concepts will be introduced, such as evidence (burden, proof and truth), legal personality, culpability and liability.

Throughout the module you'll be asked to think about the role and nature of the law and key legal concepts and the features of a just legal system.  An integral aspect of this module is the development of legal and other study skills. These will enhance your ability to reason, explain, and present an argument. They will also enable you to challenge accepted ideas and practices. You'll be expected to become a critical thinker and also spend time reflecting on your own learning and progress.

The development of skills forms an essential part of legal study and is an integral part of legal study. The thinking, reasoning and organisational skills developed through academic legal study are highly sought after and valued.

You will learn

In addition to the knowledge you will gain from this module you will also develop essential legal study skills. This includes the ability to:

  • interpret, describe and apply legal principles in a logical and coherent way 
  • interpret, describe and apply legal authority in a logical and coherent way 
  • identify the characteristics of a legal argument
  • identify and analyse conflicting accounts, interpretations or points of view.
  • read and discuss legal information
  • use legal authority, legal material and other sources appropriately 
  • identify and use appropriate primary and secondary sources of law and legal information
  • reference and cite relevant material including case and statute law.

The module is also designed to develop a range of general skills which form part of study at this level and which aid the development of your legal skills. The ability to communicate effectively in writing is an essential skill for a law student and the module has been designed to develop the skills listed below throughout the module and your study of each unit. You will be provided with the opportunity to learn how to:

  • identify relevant points and take notes in a manner appropriate to the task
  • summarise the key points of a piece of written material
  • present and structure information clearly
  • make accurate use of the English language and legal terminology
  • manage tasks and solve problems
  • make appropriate and professional use of IT including presentation of word processed documents
  • make use of electronic communications and websites
  • plan, adapt an electronic search and accurately record the results of that search
  • engage in appropriate and effective communication online
  • discuss information contained in a table, graph, pie chart or bar chart.
  • effectively plan and manage your own time and studies .
  • analyse tasks and make plans for tackling them 
  • learn from feedback, monitor and reflect on personal progress, identifying strengths and weaknesses
  • identify and implement ways of improving learning and performance
  • develop as an independent learner.

Vocational relevance

The module develops vocationally orientated skills that are transferable to the job market: good written and communication skills; reaching reasoned conclusions; critical thinking; ability to analyse, synthesise, reflect on and present arguments; and problem solving and evaluating issues.

Professional recognition

If you are intending to use this module as part of the LLB, and you hope to enter the Legal Professions, you should read carefully the careers information on The Open University Law School website. There are different entry regulations into the legal professions in England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. You should read the information on the website as it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet these requirements.

Outside the UK

Please note that this module covers with the law of England and Wales.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve
  • guiding you to additional learning resources
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part. If you want to participate, you'll likely need a headset with a microphone.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

If you wish to study An introduction to law as a single module or as part of a law degree, it will be available for the last time in February 2021. A replacement module is planned for October 2021.

For those intending to study this module as part of a joint degree qualification there will be one extra presentation of W101 in October 2021.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
    No examination
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for higher education and distance learning. It will give you the foundation knowledge and study skills to study law at a more advanced level (levels two and three). By the end of the module you will be expected to be working at the level required of first-year undergraduate students.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


    Start End England fee Register
    06 Feb 2021 Sep 2021 £3096.00

    Registration closes 14/01/21 (places subject to availability)

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2021.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2021. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 24/11/2020.

    What's included

    You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • course-specific module materials
    • audio and video content
    • interactive online activities
    • assignment details and resources
    • online tutorial access.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either an up-to-date version of Windows or macOS.

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying W101 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.