Constitutional Studies Programme
The UK constitution remains at a cross-roads more than fifteen years after Tony Blair’s Labour government was elected based on John Smith’s promise of constitutional reform. Following the avalanche of reform during those Labour governments, including devolution, House of Lords reform and the creation of a UK Supreme Court, the previous government held referenda on the Alternative Vote and on Scottish Independence; and there is little sign that change will stop. Current issues include further devolution to Scotland and northern regions; English votes for English laws; the UK’s relation to the European Union; and the repeal of the Human Rights Act.
Constitutions matter because they govern the rules about how redistributive politics work. Harold Lasswell’s definition of politics is ‘who gets what, when and how’; constitutional studies focuses on ‘how’.
The Constitutional Studies Programme was established in the Department of Politics and International Relations and the Faculty of Law at Oxford through a generous grant from a private donor in 2013. Its primary mission is to contribute to current debates about the development of the British constitution and to constitutionalism generally and to develop collaborative research across disciplinary divides—in particular political science and law. It aims to integrate both undergraduates and graduate students in its objectives. The programme is a part of the developing strategy of the department and the faculty to integrate work in political science, political theory, constitutional law and constitutional theory.
The core research aims of the programme are to engage in constitutional research focusing in part on the United Kingdom, applying social science techniques, including analytic history and comparative methodology, and to improve the quality of public and academic debate. The programme also has a substantial policy emphasis, engaging legislators and other policy makers in an effort to ensure that the research receives public attention and shapes practical constitutional debate.