The MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights is the longest-running interdisciplinary, practice-orientated human rights MA in the UK. Located in Bloomsbury, the intellectual heart of London, students have access to world-class libraries and facilities located within minutes, including Senate House Library, the British Library and the British Museum. The degree aims to develop students as human rights practitioners and enable them to engage with the intellectual and philosophical foundations of human rights. The result is a degree which is:
- Intellectually rigorous, engaging with human rights debates at the forefront of scholarly research;
- Career-orientated, aiming to develop the next generation of human rights defenders, advocates and researchers through a special emphasis on building practical skills, including in campaigning, fundraising, and research – all of which are important for work in human rights advocacy.
- Cutting-edge, seeking to widen the frame of human rights debates by looking at emergent issues, such as the impact of environmental destruction on human rights;
- Policy-orientated, seeking to enable students to examine human rights issues from a practical, solution-based perspective as well as a scholarly one;
This degree brings together insights and perspectives on human rights from a range of disciplines, including law, international relations and sociology. This unique interdisciplinary approach provides students with an extensive and diverse range of perspectives with which to understand contemporary human rights challenges.
Hundreds of graduates of the MA in Human Rights have gone on to work for an impressive range of organisations, including Anti-Slavery International and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Upon graduating, students will receive a degree awarded by the University of London.
The normal minimum entrance requirement would be a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree from a recognised university in the UK, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard (for example a grade-point-average of 3.0 or higher).
Applications from candidates who do not meet the formal academic requirements but who offer alternative qualifications and/or relevant experience, could be considered
Structure and Assessment
The degree comprises four compulsory modules, including a dissertation and three optional modules from the range offered.
Note: the following list of courses is indicative and may be subject to change according to availability.
Three in autumn term | dissertation in summer term
- Understanding Human Rights I: Ideas and Contexts [10 ECTS]
- Securing Human Rights I: Actors and Mechanisms, Skills and Strategies [10 ECTS]
- Translating Human Rights into Law I: The Foundations of International Human Rights Law [10 ECTS]
- Dissertation (15,000 words) [30 ECTS]
Three in spring term
- Understanding Human Rights II: Genocide, Gross Human Rights Violations and Reconciliation [10 ECTS]
- Securing Human Rights II: Securing Human Rights in Development and in Conflict [10 ECTS]
- Translating Human Rights into Law II: Topics in International Human Rights Law [10 ECTS]
- The Politics of Human Rights in Latin America [10 ECTS]
- Researching Human Rights: Social Research Methods [10 ECTS]
- Business and Human Rights [10 ECTS]
- Indigenous Peoples, Minorities and Human Rights [10 ECTS]
- Citizenship and New Social Movements in Latin America [10 ECTS]
- Human Rights and Everyday Life in Latin America [10 ECTS]
The MA is assessed through essays and examinations and through innovative forms of assessment based on practical work reflective of that undertaken in the human rights field, including legal reports, a media project and a mock funding proposal. Class participation also forms an element of the MA assessment.
Lecturing and Teaching
The MA convenor is Dr Corinne Lennox, Senior Lecturer in Human Rights. Other core lecturers include Dr Damien Short (Reader in Human Rights), Dr David Cantor (Reader in International Human Rights Law), and Dr Sarah Singer (Early Career Academic in International Refugee Law).
Their research interests include caste-based discrimination, ecocide, environmental destruction and human rights, genocide, international human rights law and the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities. In addition to their scholarly expertise, our academic staff have and continue to act as human rights advocates, practitioners and consultants, and their teaching draws on their extensive experience.
Lecturers for the optional modules for the MA bring a wealth of experience and interdisciplinary perspectives to the MA. In previous years, they have included Dr Julian Burger, who worked at the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights for more than 20 years, during which he was the head of the Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Programme; Dr Carlos Galviz, who lectures on human rights research methods, and Dr Malayna Raftopoulos, who teaches modules focused on human rights in Latin America in the spring term.
The degree is enriched by being able to draw on an extensive range of guest lecturers, including academic specialists and human rights practitioners who offer practical perspectives on a number of topics. In previous academic years the degree has benefited from the insights of representatives from Amnesty International; Christian Aid; Freedom from Torture and the Red Cross, among others.
Speakers from NGOs are able to provide practical, policy-oriented perspectives on the impact of human rights norms and policies on the ground, thus providing different insights into the practicalities of human rights work.
The practical experience of our staff, and the insights from human rights practitioners, means that the degree stays current with new developments in the field.
Mode of Study
This degree can be taken full-time over one year or part-time over 24 months or 36 months.
Students undertaking the MA part-time over 24 months will complete three modules each academic year. Part-time students may undertake more than one internship, for example in both years and/or during the summer between their first and second years.
Part-time students undertaking the MA over 36 months generally take one module per term; this mode of study is particularly suitable for students undertaking full- or part-time work during their studies.
For our former students, the MA has been a crucial investment in their careers as human rights advocates, with many of them finding work shortly after graduating. In the competitive field of human rights, our MA is recognised by recruiters at NGOs for imparting the necessary practical skills which employees will need. Students benefit from being part of a network in which they continue to find support after their studies end, through personal connections with staff and through our Alumni Network.
Our connections with people from a range of human rights organisations, who often deliver guest lectures, means students are introduced to key contacts throughout their degree, enabling them to understand the opportunities in the field and to develop networks essential to working in the humanitarian and non-governmental sectors.
All students whose first language is not English must be able to provide recent evidence (gained in the last two years) that their written and spoken English language is adequate for postgraduate study. This requirement is specified in order to ensure that the academic progress of students is not hindered by language difficulties and that students are able to integrate socially while studying and living in the UK.
Further information can be found on the English language competency section of our Entry Requirements page.