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European Non-Discrimination Law


Admission requirements

Students need to have successfully followed at least one introductory course in European Union Law. Students who are not at all familiar with EU Law can apply to do a pre-course oral test, for which they have to read a basic textbook on EU Law. Applications for this test need to be made at least one month in advance of the course. (Send an e-mail to


Since the 18th Century French and American Revolutions, equality is one of the founding principles of modern democratic states. The idea that all citizens are equal before and in the law and that there should be no discrimination against them, takes a central place in modern legal thinking. This does not mean that societies are free from discrimination. After World War II, the norm of equal treatment and/or non-discrimination has been laid down in a great number of international treaties and declarations (e.g. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ICCPR, CEDAW, CERD, CRPD), in regional human rights conventions (like the ECHR) and in the EU treaties and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. The norm has also been incorporated in numerous constitutions and civil and criminal laws on the national level.

In this course we will focus on the legislation that the European Union has adopted in order to prevent and to combat discrimination. We will closely examine how the TEU, the TFEU, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, a great number of EU Directives, and the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJ EU) have conceptualised the prohibition of discrimination, in what areas of social and economic life these norms are applicable, and how these norms work in practice. After a general introduction, we will study some specific issues, like for example the concepts of direct and indirect discrimination, the concept of reasonable accommodation, and the legality of positive action measures. Four non-discrimination grounds will be studied in detail: sex, sexual orientation, race / ethnic origin and disability. Of course, these norms will be placed in the context of other international instruments that cover the same non-discrimination grounds, most notably the ECHR, CEDAW, CERD and CRPD. Last but not least, we will examine how these non-discrimination norms have been implemented in national legislation in various EU Member States and countries outside the EU (depending on the national origin of the participants of the course).

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
The aim of this course is to familiarize students with the basic principles of non-discrimination law and to give them good knowledge of one particular important body of legislative measures in this field, i.e. that of the European Union, in relation to other existing international norms.

Achievement levels
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:

  • Students will understand the history and human rights background of non-discrimination law.

  • Students will be familiar with the main instruments in this area at the UN-Level and at regional level (UN treaties and regional human rights treaties).

  • Students will have good knowledge of the legal instruments of the European Union in the area of non-discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, race / ethnic origin and disability and of the relevant case law of the CJEU.

  • Students will be able to think and argue in an informed and relevant manner about issues of non-discrimination.


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 5

  • Names of lecturers: Prof. Holtmaat (coordinator), Prof. Hendriks, Prof. Rodrigues, Prof. Tobler, Prof. Waaldijk

  • Required preparation by students: reading EU and international non-discrimination instruments, case law of ECJ and ECtHR and relevant articles from academic journals. Students need to submit a short summary of the materials before the lecture, including the main questions that they want to ask during the lecture.


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 5

  • Names of instructors: Prof. Holtmaat

  • Required preparation by students: reading chapters from text book on European Anti-Discrimination Law and relevant case law of ECJ and ECrHR. Students prepare papers based on assignments for each seminar.

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Written exam

  • 1 credit point, to be earned by means of successfully completing 4 out of 5 weekly assignments (i.e. students who get the credit point will have their grade for the written exam increased with one full point, with 10 remaining the maximum).

In case only a few students need to do the exam or the retake, the exam may be oral. In that case, students will be informed 10 days ahead of the scheduled date.

Submission procedures

Assignments need to be submitted through Blackboard.

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature) for the course, the course information guide and the subjects taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials

  • Evelyn Ellis, European Anti-Discrimination Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2012 (2nd edition).

  • Materials that are placed on Blackboard.

Course information guide:

  • will be placed on Blackboard * Reader:

  • Not applicable * Recommended course materials

  • Dagmar Schiek et al., Cases, Materials, Texts on National, Supranational and International Non-Discrimination Law, Oxford: Hart Publishing 2007.

  • Sandra Fredman, Discrimination Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011 (2nd edition).


Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.

Contact information

  • Coordinator: Prof. Rikki Holtmaat

  • Work address: KOG, room B.1.28

  • Contact information: Secretariat of the Europa Institute: Ms Wendy Rodger

  • Telephone number: 003171 527 7740 / 8837

  • Email:


  • Institute: Public Law

  • Department: European Law

  • Room number secretary: B.1.21

  • Opening hours: Mon-Frid 9 AM to 5 PM

  • Telephone number secretary: 003171 527 8837

  • Email: Ms Wendy Rodger




Belangstellenden die deze cursus in het kader van contractonderwijs willen volgen (met tentamen), kunnen meer informatie vinden over kosten, inschrijving, voorwaarden, etc. op de website van Juridisch PAO.