The Constitution Unit (University College London)
- Higher Education or Research
- General Issues
- Governance & Political Institutions
- General Types of Methods
- Research or experimental method
- Deliberative and dialogic process
The Constitution Unit conducts timely, rigorous, independent research into constitutional change and the reform of political institutions. Our research has significant real-world impact, informing policy-makers engaged in such changes - both in the UK and around the world.
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Mission and Purpose
The Constitution Unit conducts independent research into constitutional change and the reform of political institutions. The Unit’s seeks to make real-world impact with its research, informing policy-makers engaged in such changes – both in the United Kingdom and around the world.
Origins and Development
The Constitution Unit was created in 1995 to aid policy-makers involved in changing their constitutions. Constitutions change frequently. Roughly five national constitutions are completely rewritten every year, and another thirty are amended in some way. Many other changes take place without formal constitutional amendment, through shifts in constitutional conventions, judicial interpretation, or statute law. This is crucially important in the UK, which famously lacks a codified constitution. Matters such as the UK’s relationship with the European Union, the composition, powers and procedures of the two chambers of parliament, the mechanisms through which citizens can participate in politics, and the territorial nature of the United Kingdom all depend on political decisions, but have broader constitutional consequences.
Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding
The Unit is housed in University College London’s (UCL) Department of Political Science and, after more than 20 years, it continues to thrive. Professor Meg Russell, Director since 2015, leads research on parliament. The Deputy Director is Dr Alan Renwick, a specialist on elections and referendums. Professor Robert Hazell, though he has retired from the role of Director, continues to work on areas such as the judiciary and the civil service. The Unit is also home to several other researchers and PhD students.
Specializations and Activities
Robert Hazell founded the Unit initially to conduct detailed research and planning on constitutional reform in the UK. While continuing to fulfil that remit, the Unit has branched out its activities, assessing the effects of reforms that have taken place, and researching constitutional and political arrangements beyond the UK. One of the main goals of the Unit is to provide provide timely evidence to policy-makers which has had substantial real-world impact.
One of the Unit’s major focus is the mobilization and creation of knowledge. Housed in the University College London, the Unit frequently collaborates with scholars and practitioners all over the world, drawn from politics, law and the public service. The Unit plays host to visiting researchers, public servants taking research breaks, and others working as volunteers.
Knowledge translation and public education are two further activities of the Unit. Information on their research is made available through their blog, a regular newsletter and a variety of events including lectures, seminars, and conferences. The website contains links to their reports, free and open to the public.
Major Projects and Events
Two of the most recent projects undertaken by the the Constitutional Unit are the Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit, the Independent Commission on Referendums, and a research project on Improving Discourse During Election and Referendum Campaigns.
The Unit’s publications include reports, books, and articles in both academic journals and mainstream media. They also publish a blog which contains timely information on UK politics and the Unit’s work.
Citizens' Assembly on Brexit (case)
Northern Ireland Border Poll. Alan Whysall (March 2019)
Doing Democracy Better: How Can Information and Discourse in Election and Referendum Campaigns in the UK Be Improved? Alan Renwick, Michela Palese (March 2019)
The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit. Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick, Meg Russell (October 2018)
Report of the Independent Commission on Referendums. The Independent Commission on Referendums (July 2018)
Inaugurating a New Reign: Planning the Accession and Coronation. Bob Morris (May 2018)
Swearing in the New King: The Accession Declarations and Coronation Oaths. Robert Hazell and Bob Morris (May 2018)
Options for an English Parliament. Meg Russell and Jack Sheldon (March 2018)
Critical Friends? The Role of Non Executives on Whitehall Boards. Robert Hazell, Alan Cogbill, David Owen, Howard Webber and Lucas Chebib (January 2018)
The Report on the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit. Alan Renwick, Sarah Allan, Will Jennings, Rebecca Mckee, Meg Russell, Graham Smith (December 2017)
Official Webpage: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit
Lead image: The Constitution Unit, http://bit.ly/2DlOeuq