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MA Human Rights

Connects students to the world of human rights practice and research

MA Human Rights

This programme at a glance

Programme title
MA Human Rights
Builds research skills and foundational knowledge in human rights principles, institutions, processes and practices, issues and methods, to produce high level researchers in human rights.
12 months (full-time) or 24 months (part-time)

Please see fees tab.

Application deadline

28 July 2017

Programme Director
Dr Tom Dannenbaum

Programme introduction

The MA Human Rights has been running for 10 years with graduates  working in an impressive number of international, national, governmental and non-governmental institutions and organizations as researchers, policy-makers and campaigners. 

From the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to Amnesty International, from the British Institute for Human Rights to the Council of Europe, and in countries as diverse as Croatia, Jordan, Brazil, United States, Argentina, Pakistan, Uganda, Georgia and Hong Kong, our students have gone on to become key workers in the human rights field.

The degree produces high-level researchers capable of undertaking independent human rights investigations in any research or policy environment. To that end the a strong emphasis is placed on human rights research methodology, writing skills, discussion and presentation skills, as well as on multidisciplinary training in the key disciplines of human rights. The degree gives a foundational knowledge in the central human rights institutions, processes and practices, but goes beyond this in developing student’s ability to critically analyse these.

Unlike any other human rights course currently available, the degree is designed to prepare students in all the foundational areas of human rights studies:

  • Theoretical Foundations of Human Rights
  • International Law and Human Rights
  • Human Rights Institutions (international and regional systems and standards-setting)
  • Normative, legal, and empirical research methods 

These form the compulsory and foundational components of the degree, in addition to more than 30 option courses to choose from. These come from disciplines as diverse as International Relations, Comparative Politics, Political and Legal Theory, Public Policy, Political Science, Law and Philosophy.

The course is taught and overseen by researchers and practitioners active in the human rights research field. There is an integrated research and teaching approach, where key and cutting edge areas are brought into the seminar room for discussion, and students are encouraged to carry out original research into these areas. This is displayed by the high caliber and originality of our student’s dissertation research projects.

We organise an annual study trip to the United Nations Institutions in Geneva and encourage internships in human rights organizations in the term three. The department provides advice, guidance and contacts (including alumni who have been on this course in the past),  where possible, and access to the Departmental internship database to assist students in finding a placing. 

Is the MA in Human Rights for me?

If you are interested in a career in human rights research, policy or advocacy, then this degree is for you.

The research preparation and tailor-made interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary training you will receive is one of the highest available in the world, in a university rated in the top 5 in the world. The degree itself connects practical application and theory, and connects students to the world of human rights practice and research.

Each year’s intake of students is from a wide range of countries and cultural backgrounds and socialising and getting to know the experiences of people from a different context to you are strongly encouraged by the degree coordinators. 

The degree also takes on students from a variety of academic backgrounds.

All in all the degree is a challenging, formative experience that provides the foundations for a variety of future careers.

Applicants wishing to study part-time should note that two core modules are required in term 1 of the first year and one core module is required in term 2 of the first year. This means that there will be two pre-determined weekdays in term 1 of year one and one weekday in term 2 of year one on which the student will need to be at UCL.

The programme is made up of the following elements, to total 180 credits:

1. You are required to take the following five compulsory modules:

2. Choose at least one of the following modules:

3. Choose any two further modules worth 30 credits in total (the following is a list of all courses available within the department):

at the School of Public Policy

Students may take graduate modules from cognate subjects available elsewhere in UCL but must seek approval from the Programme Director in the first instance. Each student's choice of options will require approval by the Programme Co-ordinator, to ensure that a coherent course of study is being pursued.

Students often find time in Term 3 and during the summer to engage in voluntary or paid internships with human rights NGOs and they are encouraged to do so. Students often find synergies between their internship experience and their dissertation work. Places in internship programmes are not guaranteed and internship participation does not contribute to the final mark.

UK/EU students (Full-time) Overseas students (Full-time) UK/EU students (Part-time) Overseas students (Part-time)
MSc Public Policy £12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MSc European Public Policy £12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MSc International Public Policy £12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MSc Democracy and Comparative Politics
£12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MA Human Rights £12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MA Legal and Political Theory £12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MSc Global Governance and Ethics £12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MSc Security Studies £12,570 £20,540 £6,225 £10,430
MPA Public Administration and Management
£17,190 £24,140 £8,470 £12,020

Please note: Part-time fees are per year. Subsequent years’ fees may be subject to increase. Any annual increase in fees will not exceed 5% per year.

For the Executive MPA in Global Public Policy and Management fees, please visit the EMPA page. The fees for this programme are quoted in US dollars and are set by and payable to NYU Wagner. 

I really enjoyed my time at UCL as a student in the MA Human Rights. Both UCL as well as the SPP have a very strong reputation; however, what first attracted me to the programme was their holistic and comprehensive approach to the subject of human rights. The programme's core courses offer diverse and complimentary perspectives on human rights - from legal, institutional, theoretical and philosophical standpoints - which make for a very strong foundation on the topic. The emphasis given to methodology during the programme was also very important for me to grow as a researcher and further develop my academic skills during the masters. Additionally, the great variety of extra-curricular activities offered by SPP; such as study trips, lectures, research opportunities and even a student-led journal; have also contributed immensely to my formation outside the classroom.

After finishing the masters, in September 2009, I moved to Washington, DC for an internship at the Inter-American Commission of Women of the Organization of American States. After the internship, they offered to hire a position as a Consultant and I've been working there ever since.
Amanda Caldeira, 2008-9 session.

The multidisciplinary MA in Human Rights gives students the opportunity to understand human rights from a variety of perspectives. Having studied law at undergraduate level, it was refreshing to study human rights from theoretical, legal, and policy viewpoints. The greatest strength of the program is the freedom it gives students to tailor the course to their own interests. Thus, I was able to place human rights issues within the context of other concerns, such as international political economy, development and security.

Lectures and classes work together to allow for animated debates. The formal teaching is enhanced by students’ contributions of their own experiences from their home countries.

A particular strength of the School of Public Policy is the effort made to expose students to experts from various related fields and professions. The Speaker Series allows students to challenge the views of experts on a number of issues, an opportunity embraced wholeheartedly by many. A ‘behind-the-scenes’ trip to the United Nations headquarters in Geneva gave Human Rights students the opportunity to attend a session of the Human Rights Council and to meet government and NGO representatives.

As a part-time student, I valued attending classes with the full-time students rather than having to attend evening classes. Studying part-time allowed me to undertake paid work at the same time as studying, and also to gain practical experience in the field of human rights by taking part in voluntary work. I spent three months interning part-time in the corporate responsibility department of a transnational corporation and volunteered at Liberty during the final months of my studies.

I found the MA to be challenging and fun, and I believe it is a good investment in a highly competitive field.
Natasha Ahmed, MA Human Rights, 2007 – 2009 (part-time)

I graduated from the MA Human Rights at UCL in 2010. When I started I had a very keen interest in human rights but did not know how to apply my skills to a job in human rights. The course offered me the opportunity to see how different academic fields approach the subject. I chose classes in public policy, development studies, political philosophy and law. This allowed me to gain wide-ranging knowledge of what human rights are both in practice and in theory, which I was then able to apply to a specific topic when doing research for my dissertation. I decided that law was the area in which I wanted to apply my knowledge of human rights and I therefore continued to do a Graduate Diploma in Law. I am currently doing the Bar Professional Training course, and aiming to become a barrister specialising in human rights.

Doing the course also allowed me to meet people who share my passion for human rights and to get involved in extra-curricular activities. I became a Grassroots coordinator for the University College London Student Human Rights Programme, a project aimed at teaching children about human rights. Spreading awareness of human rights is the first step in ensuring that they are respected, so by encouraging young people to think about their rights I felt that we were making a difference. This experience gave me the opportunity to design a workshop for young people for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, and I became the film festival’s outreach assistant.
Alice Cole Roberts (Graduated 2010)

“I greatly enjoyed my time as an MA in Human Rights student at the UCL School of Public Policy. Having a legal background, I was first attracted to the MA for its interdisciplinary nature and the variety of relevant subjects offered. During the Masters, I wasn’t disappointed. I learned about the philosophical, political and social – as well as legal – aspects of human rights. The classes were effectively designed toencourage debates, broadening our understanding of the topic under consideration. This has enormously expanded my horizons as a legal aid lawyer, as I learned how to think more critically about those same laws which I used to take as unproblematic when representing my clients. Tutors are also extremely concerned with research excellence, demanding from every student their best, which, I believe, contributed intriggering a significant change in my professional aspirations, as I developed a real passion for research, leading me to seriously consider doing a PhD. Overall, I might say that the MA in Human Rights at SPP has transformed me into a better lawyer, a prospective researcher in human rights, and a much more informed potential influence in the process forming public and professional opinion”.

Andrea Sepulveda Brito Carotti (Brazil), 2006-7 Session

"UCL’s MA in Human Rights gave me the opportunity to obtain a solid theoretical basis in human rights and the necessary knowledge in current human rights debates to understand and recognise the challenges involved in working in this field. The core modules were highly interesting and enabled me to understand the philosophical, legal and institutional approaches to human rights. The optional modules available offered a wide selection of topics that complemented my studies and presented a large range of research possibilities. Tutors were attentive and supportive, and SPP staff were always helpful and friendly. Lectures and seminars promoted knowledge through well informed arguments, discussions and tolerance of differing views, while conferences with guest speakers provided an additional forum for learning. Overall I found the MA in Human Rights at UCL very rewarding both in furthering my education and as a valuable instrument in my future career choices."

Andrea Rabiela Beretta (Mexico), 2006-7 session.

“What I enjoyed most about the MA in Human Rights was its variety – having studied politics and philosophy for my undergraduate, the MA not only allowed me to pursue those interests with a specific focus on human rights, but also to learn about international law and legal institutions. My tutors were generally very helpful and responsive– which greatly contributed to my learning experience at SPP. And it was amazing to study in such an international atmosphere – my fellow students came from all over the world and a broad range of different professional and academic backgrounds. Meeting so many interesting people was exciting and a lot of fun! The MA certainly inspired me to further pursue both my practical and academic interests in human rights – after finishing my current internship with a human rights NGO in Brussels I am planning to return to SPP and start a PhD in the field of human rights.”

Sabina Appelt (Germany), 2006-7 Session

“Human rights are a familiar, powerful idea, but with much confusion regarding their exact meaning. The program helped me understand the nature of human rights and their justification as well as the most coherent ways to defend them in theory and in practice. It equipped me with unique analytical and conceptual skills to deal with human rights issues and provided me with an outstanding training in theoretical and practical discussions in the field.

The program also familiarized me with important human rights cases and decisions made both by national and international courts, the legal and political institutional framework for the defense of human rights, and some real life problems in implementing human rights policies. In this regard, the Practitioners Speakers Series offered us an opportunity to be in touch with leading human rights activists, working for important NGOs and the UN.

I am now teaching and conducting research on 'Human Rights and Global Poverty' as a PhD student at a top then university and assist and advise some important national and international NGOs, such as Amnesty International Argentina and Fundacion Nueva Generacion. I think, due to its multidisciplinary nature, the MA in Human Rights is an important step for a career either an activist or as theorists in this field.”

Julio Montero (Argentina), 2005-6 Session

 “The MA Human Rights course at UCL was a great opportunity for me.

Before taking this course I had worked for years as a human rights activist in Romania, advocating, sometimes giving speeches and pressinterviews. However, I felt I needed to get a more comprehensive understanding of what human rights are about. In Romania, a recently emerging democracy, there were not too many people who could teach you about human rights so studying in the UK seemed at the time to be the best option, and it later proved to be so.I was lucky to be accepted onto the Human Rights course at UCL. For an East-European getting into the British academic system meant a complete change of perspective. At UCL you understand what quality education means: the chance to be taught by the best qualified professors, openness, encouragement of critical thinking, access to resources. All three of the main professors Basak Cali, Saladin Meckled-Garcia and Colm O’Cinneide are well trained, smart, tough but fun at the same time. I still find myself using the materials they gave us. As my work is related to the media, I am most grateful for the chance I was given by the MA Human Rights course to study with Eric Barendt, a well known professor of media law. Due to all these people my work has not only improved, but totally changed.”

Liana Ganea (Romania), 2004-5 session

Currently coordinates a program defending press freedom in Romania. Her NGO - the Media Monitoring Agency - is a member of the Reporters Without Borders Network. Liana studied at UCL with support from a Chevening Scholarship. After returning to Romania she has started teaching an optional course on Media Freedom at the College of Journalism – University of Bucharest.

 “The time I spent at the School of Public Policy enriched my life.

I chose the MA in Human Rights Program because its faculty offers a blend of expertise in philosophical and empirical studies of human rights that is unique. I really value the interdisciplinary aspect of the MA Program as it helped me to integrate my knowledge and thinking on human rights across different areas such as legal and political philosophy, public policy, international law, and international organizations among others.

Interaction with faculty members and my fellow classmates was what I benefited most from during my study on the MA Program. The School of Public Policy is small but very diverse. My fellow classmates came from all over the world. We had plenty of opportunities in exchanging views and sharing our home experiences of human rights development. The teachers were unusually available and ready to engage in discussions with graduate students. I am grateful for their excellence in teaching. I also benefited enormously from the Human Rights Seminars. To gain a more comprehensive understanding of the latest development of the human rights movement, it was very helpful that scholars and practitioners from other leading institutions visit the School regularly. I truly enjoyed in and benefited from the vibrant community and intellectually stimulating atmosphere of the School. The superb learning environment is unmatched.

I consider myself lucky to have been one of the graduate students in the MA Program. I have found my study in the MA program to be very transformative, full of both unexpected and purposeful learning. The MA Program not only helped shape my values and principles, but it also empowered me to enter the world with a solid understanding of the value of human rights and the difficulties often inherent in establishing and sustaining an effective human rights regime in both local and global contexts. I am now pursuing a Ph.D in Laws at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, conducting a research on the significance of equality as a principle in human rights adjudications.”

Chow, Chiu Tak (Hong Kong), 2004-5 Session.

"I was particularly attracted to the MA in human rights at UCL because of the wide range of course options available.

The compulsory courses give a solid base of human rights knowledge, while the optional courses allow you to develop your own interests more fully. The multi-disciplinary nature of the course was also appealing-it was very interesting to explore human rights issues from a broad range of perspectives. The tutors were always very supportive and encouraged you to develop your own ideas. The students on the course came from a diverse range of backgrounds and their experiences always made for lively tutorial discussions.

The course helped me to focus in on what I wanted to do following the MA, motivating me to continue in the human rights sphere. I am currently doing an internship at a UK human rights organisation, a position which I would have been very unlikely to get without having done the MA, and which I am greatly enjoying."
Lucy Matthews (UK) 2003-4 Session.

"I was one of the first students to take the MA Human Rights course at SPP and I found it highly rewarding.

The course covered a broad range of subjects across human rights theory, law and policy. As students are assessed more on course work than by examinations, I had a lot of freedom to research topics that I was particularly interested in.

The course stimulated new areas of interest for me too so after completing my MA, I decided to stay on at SPP to pursue one of these topics at PhD level. What I like most about SPP is that the lecturers are always approachable and responsive to student feedback. Furthermore, being part of UCL gives me access to an excellent range of facilities and events."

Catherine Da Costa (UK) 2002-3 Session.

MSc International Public Policy

Entry to all of our programmes is competitive so please apply early to increase your chances of success. This is particularly the case on our larger Masters programmes in Public Policy, International Public Policy, Security Studies and Human Rights. Candidates applying for these programmes are strongly advised to submit applications as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

Please note that all closing dates are final. We are unable to accept any further applications after these dates.

Applications for Masters 2017/18

We are now accepting applications.

Closing date: 28 July 2017

For further details and to apply online:

Applications for the Executive MPA

Applications for the Executive MPA in Global Public Policy and Management are managed by NYU Wagner. The deadline is TBC. For more information on the programme and entry requirements, please click here.

Applications for the Doctoral programme

Closing Date: June 2017

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Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 4999,
Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 4978,

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