• Admission requirements - LLB or equivalent four-year legal degree. Research competency, writing skills and practical experience are taken into account when considering applications. As a general guideline, applicants must have obtained an average of at least 60% for final-year LLB modules and at least 60% for an undergraduate research dissertation or equivalent research assignment.
  • An MPhil qualification is also available for non-lawyers. Read more about the programme or e-mail the Programme Coordinator, Professor Michelle Barnard. Applications for 2023 close on 31 October 2022 Apply for the programme or e-mail us if you have any enquiries on the application process. Remember to submit a separate bursary application form.

Programme leader: Prof Oliver Fuo

Design and focus of the programme

Environmental Law is an increasingly important field with a corresponding increase in employment opportunities. This exciting and highly relevant postgraduate programme in law is one of the few in South Africa that comprehensively covers a broad spectrum of environmental law, governance and related modules. It is the only structured LLM programme that also explicitly focuses on environmental management and governance in relation to environmental law. 

The Structured LLM in Environmental Governance Law

This programme is open to students with a law degree and offers a wide selection of modules and two compulsory modules, South African Environmental Law or International Environmental Law; and Research Methodology. 

The latter module includes writing a dissertation. The programme is assessed on the basis of module assignments and exams (50%) and the completion of a mini-dissertation (50%).  The programme therefore has a significant focus on research. The structured programme is presented over one year and consists of on-site seminars at the NWU’s campus in Potchefstroom on Fridays and Saturdays for approximately 12-16 weekends per year.  The degree can be completed in a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years.  The degree carries a total of 180 credits – 100 credits (dissertation) and 80 credits (four modules of 20 credits each).

In addition to the compulsory modules, students are required to register for three elective modules.  The module options are: South African Environmental Law; International Environmental Law (choose from one of these two as the compulsory module or both where the second is then an elective); Regional Environmental Law; Administrative Law; Local Government and Environmental Law; Occupational Health and Safety Law; Climate Change and Energy Law; South African Mining Law; Natural Resource Management Law, and South African Planning Law.

An LLM in Environmental Law and Governance with the NWU is especially suited to those interested in the highly relevant, fast-developing, and dynamic field of environmental law and governance. The structured programme is suitable not only for full-time students, but also for part-time students and individuals in practice in particular.  We encourage students from foreign jurisdictions to apply since a number of the modules are generic and have been designed to cater for the needs of non-South African students. Full-time and part-time students must attend all seminars, however; seminar attendance is compulsory and not negotiable.


All modules in the LLM programme are coordinated and presented by leading experts, ranging from internationally renowned and National Research Foundation-rated academics and expert guest lecturers, to well-known practitioners in the field with considerable hands-on experience.  These lecturers and other expert Faculty members are also responsible for supervision of the LLM mini-dissertations.  

Prof Willemien du Plessis and Mr Reece Alberts are jointly responsible for the module on South African Environmental Law. Prof du Plessis is a widely-published and established authority on various aspects of South African environmental law and governance. Mr Alberts is the environmental law expert of the Centre of Environmental Management (CEM) of the NWU and has extensive practical experience.

International Environmental Law is lectured by Prof Louis Kotzé, Research Professor of the Faculty. He has an extensive domestic and international research and teaching record in this field.  

Prof Michelle Barnard is responsible for the Climate Change Law and Energy module. She focuses on the scholarly discourse on climate change and energy security in South Africa and internationally.

SADC (Regional) Environmental Law, as well as Natural Resources Management Law, is taught by Dr Niel Lubbe, one of the few specialists in regional environmental law and biodiversity law in South Africa. 

Prof Anél du Plessis, one of the leading authorities on the local government and environmental law interface, is responsible for the module on Local Government and Environmental Law. 

Prof Piet Myburgh teaches the module on Occupational Health and Safety, and as a recognised expert, he has many years of practical and theoretical experience in this field. 

Prof Susan Boullion is a planning law practitioner and is responsible for the module South African Planning Law. She has extensive experience in the historical aspects and new developments in planning law.  

Prof Elmarie van der Schyff is responsible for the South African Mining Law module and is the author of one of the most extensive publications in this field.

Research-based LLM in Environmental Governance Law

It is possible for a prospective student to opt for a research-based LLM degree in any specific field of environmental law and governance. In this case, the writing of an extensive, in-depth research dissertation (180 credits) counts for 100% of the required marks for the degree. 

This qualification does not require the completion of any modules other than the compulsory Research Methodology module. 

The qualification is especially recommended for students with an interest in and experience with intensive research-based work, including those in an occupation that demands in-depth legal research and research skills eg an advocate, academic or legal advisor. It focuses on knowledge of theory and scholarship and, as a general rule, is less practically oriented than the structured LLM programme.

Dissertation topics and study supervisors

Early in the academic year, students accepted for the LLM/MPhil qualification have the opportunity to approach a potential study supervisor for the writing of the dissertation which counts 50% towards the final degree mark. The dissertation is not an extended module assignment, but an in-depth, focused research-based study that must contribute to the generation of new knowledge in the field.

The generally accepted standard for such a dissertation is that it must be publishable in a peer-reviewed scholarly law journal. We actively encourage and assist our students to publish their dissertations in law journals.

The lecturers mentioned above, as well as other faculty members, are available to supervise students. We encourage students to identify a research topic in conjunction with their supervisor early on in the first year of registration. The LLMO programme coordinator, Prof Anél du Plessis, is available to assist in this regard.

Curriculum – LLM in Environmental Law and Governance

CODE: 6CL P01, R801P



The programme comprises the following compulsory and elective modules. 

Choose three (3) elective modules presented in any of the two semesters.

Module Code



Compulsory Modules

LAWO 873

Research Methodology and Mini-dissertation AND


LLMO 811

South African Environmental Law  (first semester) OR


LLME 811

International  and African Regional Environmental Law (first semester)


Choose three (3) elective modules presented in any of the two semesters

Semester 1

LLMO 811

South African Environmental Law


LLMO 884

Administrative Law


LLME 812

Natural Resource Management Law (2023)


LLME 811

International and African Regional Environmental Law


Semester 2

LLMO 818

Climate Change and Energy Law


LLMO 886

Occupational Health and Safety Law


LLME 821

South African Mining Law


Credit total for modules


Credit total for curriculum


Transitional arrangements– LLM in Environmental Law and Governance
Recognition will be given for all subjects passed. Any outstanding modules must be taken in accordance with programme 6CL P01. LLMO 811 and LLMO 829 must be taken if LLMO 881 has not successfully been completed.

Seminar Programme 2022  (Download)

Queries about costs and financial support:



Prospective applicants with a non-legal background or who do not possess a law degree must check the requirements for the degree: MPhil in Environmental Governance Law.

International students - An evaluation certificate issued by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) must be submitted if one or more previous qualifications were obtained in a foreign country and the primary law degree was not obtained in South Africa. Duration of study - Minimum one year, maximum two years. Additional admission requirements - The Director Postgraduate Programmes may require an applicant to furnish sufficient proof of his/her research competence and literacy skills before receiving permission to register. If an applicant wishes to obtain an LLM degree in a subject not included in the LLB or in which the student’s achievements have not been of the standard required, the Director may prescribe an admission examination in the subject concerned. Capacity - The LLM programmes and elective modules are only offered if the Director of Research is of the opinion that there is sufficient demand for them. Research topics - Students can only register for a research topic in a module when sufficient supervision is available and if the Director is of the opinion that the Faculty has the necessary capacity and expertise to support and guide the students.