Ella Knight trained as a contemporary dancer before deciding she wanted to change her career to move into the field of human rights. To help her gain the knowledge required, Ella decided to study the MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Ella now works for the global membership organisation, Amnesty International, undertaking research and campaigning action to try and prevent human rights abuses and violations around the world. Watch Ella's student story below to find out more about her decision to study with us...

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do

My name is Ella Knight. So, I work for Amnesty International. We are global membership organization, we undertake research and campaigning action to try and end and prevent human rights abuses and violations around the world.

At the moment I'm working on a project on armed drones and protection of civilians. So on a day to day basis I'm developing campaign and advocacy strategies, I'm doing desk based research into where we can conduct new research on drone strikes, I'm making campaigning materials social media graphics and working with our media team.

Why did you want to study human rights?

I wanted to feel like I was doing something to help change things in the world. I trained as a contemporary dancer originally but I was always interested in social issues and social justice and I think I felt like I wanted to do more and make more change.

What was your motivation for taking this course?

When I made the decision to move into a new field I felt I needed to develop my academic skills, my writing skills my kind of critical thinking ability. I didn't have a legal background either and I felt that to pursue the human rights work some kind of legal grounding was really essential and the masters felt like the most strategic option for this.

Why did you choose the University of London?

When I was looking around at different courses I felt like it offered the most holistic approach to studying human rights from the legal side, the international law side to the practical elements the skills you need to do advocacy to the kind of history and theory of human rights. I also went to the open day and met some of the lecturers and felt they were really inspiring and engaging and the curriculum was very broad and offered a great range of options for studying different themes and issues.

What are the strengths of this course?

So, I think the strengths of the master’s course are that it’s really accessible for someone with a non-legal background as well as someone who maybe is a law graduate. It catered to a whole ability of different people and made the law side of things really accessible to someone like me. It offered a really practical side of the work as well. We learnt how to engage in advocacy at the United Nations, how to develop fundraising and bids, and things like that. The lecturers all come from a practical background of working in human rights and they’ve all got their own experience and interests that were really inspiring throughout the course.

How has this course helped your career?

Every day now in my work I’m looking at court documents, drone strikes are incidents that need to be assessed compared to a human rights legal framework. I’m now also writing fundraising applications, and doing evaluations to fund the work I’m doing. We did some work on social media and developing other forms of media. We made a short film in the course and that skill in tailoring a message to a certain audience was excellent during the course.

What would you say to anyone considering this course?

In terms of someone just starting out in this career I’d say go for it, don’t be afraid that there is a lot of other people out there interested in this work. I started in an administrative role here at Amnesty, and just being in the organisation and showing enthusiasm and getting to know people and what else is going on was the best thing that I think I did in my career.