SOAS University of London

School of Law

Common Law, Equitable and Comparative Property 1: Property Interests

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Full Year

Property Law is often caricatured as 'dull and difficult' but it is neither. The idea of property is fundamental to what it is to be human, which is why one of the first words a baby learns is the assertion of ownership encapsulated in the grunted exclamation 'mine!'. In the tradition of the great American Law Schools, the property course at SOAS begins by disabusing you of your preconceptions and asking you to question why we have property in the first place. This is the norm in US universities - which is why, in John Grisham's Pelican Brief, comic reference is made to the fact that, the only thing law students do in their first year is sit round arguing about property rights - but rarely occurs under the more conservative English approach to legal education.

The course consequently goes beyond the technical private law rules of real property (ie land) to cover the philosophical, economic and sociological aspects of the concept both in western society and beyond, not only in its private law form but also in the context of communal and state ownership. This course consequently exercises all aspects of your brain, requiring students to master both dry technical detail and a broad sweep of ideas and arguments, and extends over one and half years beginning with Common Law, Equitable and Comparative Property 1, a full course concentrating on Property Interests, and finishing with Common Law, Equitable and Comparative Property 2, a half course you are required to take the following year which focuses on Property Relationships.

The set texts for both courses are from the CUP Law in Context series: Graham Moffat's Trusts Law and Clarke & Kohler's Property Law which are both available via the SOAS bookshop.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this course a student will be able to:

  • Have acquired knowledge and critical understanding of the concept and principles of property, and an understanding of the ways in which the concept and principles have evolved
  • Understand the underlying social, economic, political, philosophical and moral context that shapes property law and be able to apply this critical understanding in other contexts
  • State and explain the role of formalities and the workings of property mechanisms including overreaching, proprietary estoppel and unregistered/registered title to land
  • State and explain substantive elements of major property doctrines including the express trust, unincorprated associations, charities, adverse possession and easements
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the different methods used in analysing and arguing about property law
  • Have an understanding of the limits of their own knowledge, and an appreciation of how this might shape their analyses and interpretations of the subject
  • Demonstrate the ability to effectively communicate information, arguments and analysis in a variety of forms
  • Have the ability to proceed to further and more complex study in the field of property law, and take on greater responsibility for their own learning in this regard

Method of assessment

Oral Presentation (Moot): 20%
Unseen written exam: 80%

Suggested reading

  • CUP Law in Context series: Graham Moffat's Trusts Law; Clarke & Kohler's Property Law


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules