M.A. Socio-Legal Official Master of Arts

International Institute for the Sociology of Law

Application deadline: February 20
Tuition fee:
  • € 2,000 / Year (EEA)
Start date: September  2015
Duration full-time: 12 months
Partnership: Joint
  • English
Delivery mode: On Campus
Educational variant: Full-time

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A one-year programme covering the main techniques and topics of the sociology of law for a Master of Arts degree (60 ECTS), accredited by the Università degli Studi di Milano and the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). This MA is both a recognised self-standing qualification, and one which is accepted as a foundation for higher research degrees (PhD) by universities all over the world. The programme is in its 21st year, and previous graduates are now among the leading scholars or practitioners in their field.

A maximum of 20 from September to March by visiting professors who are leading specialists on each topic (40 ECTS credits); and the degree is completed by an independent research project supervised by a specialist in socio-legal studies culminating in the writing of a dissertation submitted in September (20 ECTS credits).


Completion of the IISL course in the sociology of law (60 ECTS) leads to the award of an accredited Master of Arts degree from the University of the Basque Country and the Università degli Studi di Milano and conforms to the criteria agreed in the "Bologna process". The goal of the programme is to expose students from different academic backgrounds and countries to the more important theories of the sociology of law (sociolegal studies), to contemporary debates in selected pertinent topics, to teach them how to design and conduct sustained, original research on sociolegal topics, and to provide them with the experience of actually carrying out such a project. This degree awards 60 ECTS postgraduate credits. This means that those students who obtain the Oñati Master's degree and sum up to 300 ECTS, will be allowed to go straight into the preparation of a doctoral thesis.

The programme has two major components: intensive seminars taught by visiting professors who are leading specialists on each topic (40 ECTS credits), and and individual research project under the tutorship of a senior specialist in sociolegal studies, culminating in the writing of a dissertation (Master Thesis) (20 ECTS credits).

The course prepares students for independent scientific research and enlarges their capacity for practical problem solving. The programme aims to increase the students' knowledge and understanding of issues of law in society and their cultural, political and economic contexts, from a comparative and international perspective.

The seminars of the Masters programme are taught in English. However, students may do individual work in another language with the permission of the relevant professor.


The Master's degree can be obtained in one academic year. Seminars take place in Oñati during the six-month period from the last week of September to the last week of March. From April to October students research, write and defend their dissertation under tutorial guidance. The dissertation supervisor may be picked from among the teachers of the Master's programme, or may be another specialist in the topic (with their agreement) subject to the approval of the Director.

During the period April-October students have the option of staying in Oñati, visiting another university, or returning to their home university.

A Master's degree will be awarded to those who get a passing grade in all of the courses given during the academic year and who present and successfully defend their dissertation. Although dissertations are normally written in English, the use of other languages may be considered.

Students may also apply to participate in one or more of the specific courses offered without taking the whole degree. They receive a certificate for the courses completed, and credits awarded may contribute to other degrees which recognise the ECTS system.


The Institute provides outstanding facilities and support for postgraduate socio-legal study which are unique in the world. A small and select group of students, from a varied and cosmopolitan background, study in a wonderful setting with many of the leading experts in the field. The students come from all over the world. The programme is taught entirely in small groups, usually a maximum of 20. The courses provide an unparalleled opportunity for close personal contacts with eminent scholars in the socio-legal field, who can introduce students to the leading work, as well as providing direct contacts to the main researchers and networks, in their field. The Scientific Director conducts the Thesis Seminar, to help in the formulation and development of the dissertation research project, and provides continuity and further individual advice and supervision. By producing a qualifying Master's thesis, candidates will have completed a piece of research in a motivating and supportive environment, learning how to define and develop a research project, devising and applying appropriate methodological tools, and writing a well-grounded and original paper. Thus the master's programme provides candidates with highly valuable training, helpful in any future research career, whether as an academic, professional, policy-maker or activist.


Candidates must have a University degree in sociology, law, social sciences and/or in another discipline related to Sociology of Law. Undergraduates in their final year may be admitted on the basis of their anticipated results, but they must already have been awarded their first degree diploma by the time the Master's course begins. Applicants must have a good working knowledge of English, reading and writing as well as spoken. The ability to use social science literature published in other languages is useful.


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