1. Programme name

Structured LLM in Environmental Law and Governance

  1. Programme code

6CL P01

  1. Campus

Potchefstroom Campus

  1. Delivery mode


  1. Programme leader

Dr WD Lubbe

  1. Introduction

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.

  1. Prior knowledge required

Applicants should have an LLB or equivalent four-year legal degree. Research competency, writing skills and practical experience are considered 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.

  1. Programme outcomes

On completion of this programme, the student should be able to demonstrate:

  • a comprehensive and systematic knowledge base in environmental law and governance and the ability to apply the knowledge;
  • a coherent and critical understanding of the methodology of the field of study to rigorously critique and evaluate current research in this field, participate in scholarly debates and research relating to theory and practice;
  • an ability to use advanced information-retrieval and processing skills to identify, critically analyse and synthesise information relevant to complex and/or real-world problems, cases and issues in the field of environmental law and governance where applicable, debating solutions from theoretical and research perspectives published in current literature and presenting the information to specialist and non-specialist audiences using it effectively; and
  • the ability to critically evaluate and apply the ethics, values, rules, norms, and regulations pertaining to the specific field of study.
  1. Modules

The programme comprises of the compulsory and elective modules described below.

First Semester Modules

LAWO 873 Mini-dissertation (compulsory) AND

  • Written with the guidance of a supervisor.
  • The student and supervisor agree on a topic.
  • The student should approach a lecturer with expertise on the broad theme on which he/she would like to write.
  • Students must register for LAWO 873 during the first year.

LLMO 811 South African Environmental Law (compulsory) AND/OR

  • Key environmental concerns and the concept of environmental governance.
  • Environmental law principles and environmental governance.
  • South African legal framework and environmental governance tools (including EIA).
  • Environmental governance and the project life cycle: Planning phase.
  • Environmental governance and the project life cycle: Operational phase.
  • Environmental governance and the project life cycle: Decommissioning and closure phase.

LLME 811 International and African Regional Environmental Law (compulsory)

  • Introduction to international and African regional environmental norms, institutions, and processes.
  • Historical development, contents, application, and execution of international and African regional environmental law.
  • Analysis of capita selecta issues, including environmental human rights, biological resources and protected areas and hazardous substances and activities in international environmental law and regional African environmental law.
  • Aspects of compliance and enforcement related to international and regional African environmental law.

Note: Students can choose either LLMO 811 or LLME 811 as their compulsory module. They can also choose both. If both LLMO 811 and LLME 811 are chosen, two more electives can be chosen. If only one of the modules (LLMO 811 / LLME 811) is chosen, three electives must be chosen.

LLMO 818 Climate Change and Energy Law (elective)

  • Climate change as a scientific phenomenon: Causes, effects, and responses, including concepts of mitigation and adaptation.
  • Defining ‘climate change law’ and ‘climate change governance’ in the international context, including relevant thematic approaches and role players at international level.
  • The relevance of energy law in relation to climate change causes, effects and consequences.
  • Applicable national framework laws and evolving policies that have relevance for national climate change governance.
  • South African energy mix and governance - including the legal, institutional and policy frameworks.
  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation in the South African energy governance and policy framework

LLMO 884 Administrative Law (elective)

  • Control over administrative action and remedies as part of environmental decision-making.
  • Administrative law as a discipline in the current constitutional dispensation.
  • State liability.
  • The emergence of international administrative law.

LLME 812 Natural Resource Management Law (elective)

  • The legally relevant vulnerabilities of natural resources in Africa.
  • Sustainable land-use management.
  • Land-use and food security.
  • International, African regional, and South African legislation aimed at natural resources management law: principles and regulatory instruments.

Second Semester Modules

LLMO 885 Local Government and Environmental Law (elective)

  • Introduction to the links between local government and environmental law in South Africa.
  • Constitutional and framework local government law.
  • Environmental functions of municipalities: water quality management; waste management; air quality management and control of noise; soil and land conservation and management; biodiversity and protected areas; the marine environment and coastal resource management; green building; green procurement; energy; and cultural heritage.

LLMO 829 South African Planning Law (elective)

  • The history of land development and land reform in South Africa.
  • Land law and its place in planning law.
  • Content and complexities of the Spatial Land-Use Management Act (SPLUMA).
  • Sustainable development and integrated development planning (IDP).
  1. Lecturers

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. 

  1. Research and possible topics

Early in the academic year, students accepted for the LLM qualification have the opportunity to approach a potential study supervisor for the writing of their 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.

We encourage students to identify a research topic in conjunction with their supervisor early on in the first year of registration. Research topics typically address whether laws and policies adequately address an environmental problem; how law and policies enable government (national, provincial, or local government) to address an environmental problem or respond to constitutional or international law duties; lessons that we can learn from case law to solve an environmental problem; and whether courts correctly and consistently interpret and enforce environmental laws.

  1. Employment options or further study opportunities after completion of the programme

Despite the dire need in both the public and private sector, there are very few experts of environmental law/management in South Africa. Every municipality, the national and provincial departments of environmental affairs, big law firms, and specialised NGOs working on environmental protection need experts with specialised environmental law knowledge. An LLM degree in Environmental Law and Governance enables graduates to gain employment in both the public and private sectors. For those already working in the field, the degree can be used to further their career goals. There is also space in academia for those willing to pursue doctoral studies.


Seminar Programme 2024 1st Semester