LL4C5      Half Unit
International Commercial Arbitration

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Paul MacMahon


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time) and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


This course has a limited number of places and demand is typically high. This may mean that you’re not able to get a place on this course.

Course content

Arbitration — binding adjudication outside the courts generally deriving its authority from party consent — is a standard form of dispute resolution for international commercial disputes. Supporters of arbitration cite its neutrality, its confidentiality, its flexibility, the greater expertise of arbitrators, and the global enforceability of arbitral awards. To detractors, however, international arbitration is often expensive and slow; other critics contend, more fundamentally, that arbitration infringes the spheres appropriately occupied by national courts and national law. Regardless, the complex relationship between arbitrators and courts, especially when combined with transnational elements, raises a host of fascinating theoretical and practical problems.

London is one of the world’s main centres for international commercial arbitration and, accordingly, this course focuses on English arbitration law. English law, however, is consistently placed in comparative perspective, especially with UNCITRAL’s Model Law and with the laws of some of London’s most significant competitors: France, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Stockholm, and the United States. Coverage includes:

• Legal Framework of international commercial arbitration

• Scope and Validity of arbitration agreements

• Conflicts of Laws and the Arbitration Agreement

• Challenges to arbitral jurisdiction

• Appointment of arbitrators

• The role of courts in assisting arbitral proceedings

• Arbitral procedure

• Law applicable to the merits of the dispute

• Challenges to arbitral awards

• Recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards

• Public policy limitations on international commercial arbitration

This course concentrates on arbitration resulting from agreements between private parties and may particularly appeal to students with interests in contracts and private international law. Considerations specific to states and state-owned enterprises as parties to arbitration are left to LL4C6 International Arbitration, which complements this course and offers a perspective on all forms of international arbitration.


This course will have 20 hours of teaching content in Autumn Term and an additional two hours of teaching in Spring Term. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of Autumn Term.

Formative coursework

One 2,000 word essay.

Indicative reading

Nigel Blackaby & Constantine Partasides, Redfern and Hunter on International Commercial Arbitration (7th edn, OUP 2022); Gary Born, International Arbitration: Law and Practice (3rd edn, Kluwer 2021); Emmanuel Gaillard, Legal Theory of International Arbitration (Brill Nijhoff 2012); Jan Paulsson, ‘International Arbitration is not Arbitration’ (2008:2) Stockholm International Arbitration Review 1; Jan Kleinheisterkamp, 'Overriding Mandatory Laws in International Arbitration' (2018) 67 ICLQ 903


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the spring exam period.

Key facts

Department: Law School

Total students 2022/23: 30

Average class size 2022/23: 30

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills