The Constitution Unit conducts timely, rigorous, independent research into constitutional change and its consequences. Our research has significant real-world impact, informing policy-makers engaged in constitutional reform both in the United Kingdom and around the world.
Constitutions change, and do so frequently. Contrary to popular perceptions of constitutional documents as static, roughly five national constitutions are completely rewritten every year, and another thirty are amended in some way. These numbers underestimate the true amount of constitutional change, however, because they do not take into account changes to constitutional conventions, judicial interpretation, and statute law. In the UK, which famously lacks a clearly-defined written constitution, these factors are of course crucially important.
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 United Kingdom and around the world.
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.
The Constitution Unit was created in 1995 to aid policy-makers involved in changing their constitutions. Robert Hazell founded the Unit initially to conduct detailed research and planning on constitutional reform in the UK. We continue to fulfil that remit, but also assess the effects of reforms that have taken place, and research constitutional and political arrangements beyond the UK. Our publications include reports, books, and articles in both academic journals and mainstream media. We prioritise providing timely evidence to policy-makers, and our work has had substantial real-world impact.
After more than 20 years, the Constitution Unit continues to thrive. Meg Russell, who has been Director since 2015, leads our research on parliament. The Deputy Director is Alan Renwick, a specialist on elections and referendums. Robert Hazell, though he has retired from the role of Director, continues to work on areas such as the judiciary and the civil service. Further details of our team and our work are available on our people and research pages.
The Unit is housed in UCL’s Department of Political Science. We collaborate with scholars and practitioners all over the world, drawn from politics, law and the public service. We frequently host visiting researchers, public servants taking research breaks, and others working as volunteers (from whom expressions of interest are always welcome). We also have a blog, a regular newsletter and a lively events programme. Many of our previous events can be viewed online.
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