About the course
Our Human Rights Centre is one of the world’s oldest and most highly-respected environments for the multi-disciplinary study of human rights. Studying human rights at Essex will enable you to become a member of one of the world’s largest, most culturally diverse and professionally successful community of human rights students, practitioners and academics.
Our interdisciplinary course, MA Theory and Practice of Human Rights, examines the history, theoretical development and implementation of human rights. Beyond the practical problems of human rights lie many unresolved theoretical and philosophical issues. These form the basis of this course, which provides you with a solid grounding in fundamental human rights matters within:
Studying this course will enable you to undertake practical or legal work for human rights organisations.
Our interdisciplinary Human Rights Centre is the UK’s leading centre for the study of the theory and practice of international human rights, and has a worldwide reputation for research, teaching and practice. In February 2010, we were awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of our work in advancing human rights across the globe.
At Essex we specialise in commercial law, public law, and human rights law. We are top 20 in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014), and we are ranked among the top 200 departments on the planet according to the QS World [University] Rankings  for law.
This course is also available on a part-time basis.
Our expert staff
Our work has always been informed by human rights practice and our senior staff have held - and continue to occupy - key positions in the United Nations human rights and development fields. We have also conducted numerous cases in Strasbourg, establishing far-reaching precedents that have shaped the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.
At Essex, our objective is to ensure you receive a rigorous academic education that also prepares you for working as a human rights advocate. Every member of our teaching team is a leading human rights academic, as well as a practitioner in the field.
Our team includes former UN Special Rapporteurs, members of UN treaty bodies, the UK member of the UN Human Rights Committee, a member of the Government’s new Advisory Group on Human Rights. We are also advisers to a range of international organisations (like the OHCHR, UNHCR and WHO), as well as to NGOs around the world, and litigators before national courts, regional human rights commissions and courts, international courts and tribunals, and the UN treaty bodies.
- Participate in various legal competitions to hone your debating, mediation and negotiation skills
- Work on key human rights projects at our Human Rights Clinic
- Network at our student-run Law Society, Human Rights Society, and Bar Society, which provides legal advice to the Commonwealth Students’ Association (CSA)
- Our Essex Street Law project is one of the first of its kind and is the primary pro-bono project provided by our Law Society
- Volunteer at the Essex Law Clinic where you can work alongside practicing solicitors to offer legal advice to clients
- Gain commercial awareness at our Business and Legal Advice Clinic
- Join our Model United Nations society, which can improve your skills of argumentation, oral presentation and research
- Take advantage of networking opportunities throughout the year with visiting law firms
We also offer a range of opportunities for working with projects associated with our Human Rights Centre:
- Essex Transitional Justice Network
- International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy
- Human Rights in Iran Unit
- Essex Autonomy Project
- Detention, Rights and Social Justice Programme
Graduates of the MA courses within our Human Rights Centre go on to a variety of careers in the governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental sectors, and undertake further research.
Recent graduates of our MA Theory and Practice of Human Rights have found employment as:
- Director of investigations for Malawi Human Rights Commission
- A human rights officer for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
- An experimental learning director for CIEE
- A web writer for the British Red Cross
- Grants Manger for the American Councils for International Education
- A project officer for Relief International
- Women and housing rights programme officer for the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)
Other graduates now work for the Council of Europe, the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Save the Children, Shelter, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists.
We are first university in the UK to sign a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). This creates internship and research opportunities for our postgraduate students and is based on our long-established expertise in international humanitarian law.
During the year, we hold a careers session for our students in which we reflect upon our own careers and how they have been built as well as those from former students. We are always available to discuss career options and if you are interested in a particular area of human rights, we can link you up with the relevant alumni to offer advice.
We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
UK entry requirements
A degree with an overall high 2:2 in Law. Relevant professional experience and/or traineeships or professional qualifications/certifications issued by professional bodies such as Bar Associations will be taken into account. Graduates in subjects other than law will also be considered, with relevant professional experience.
International and EU entry requirements
We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries.
for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the
undergraduate qualification you have already completed or are currently taking.
English language requirements
IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5 except for 6.0 in writing
If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.
You can apply for our postgraduate courses online. You’ll need to provide us with your academic qualifications, as well as supporting documents such as transcripts, English language qualifications and certificates. You can find a list of necessary documents online, but please note we won’t be able to process your application until we have everything we need.
There is no application deadline but we recommend that you apply before 1 July for our taught courses starting in October. We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.
If you are applying to one of our taught courses in the Human Rights, you will need to provide a copy of your CV with your application.
We hold postgraduate events in February/March and November, and open days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:
- tour our campus and accommodation
- find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
- meet our students and staff
If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.
If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.
Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.