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BA Politics with Human Rights

Why we're great

  • We confront opinions with evidence to understand how the forces that shape our world really work.
  • You have access to some of the best minds in politics and the biggest names in the field.
  • We have the only Regius Professor in Political Science in the UK, an honour conferred by the Queen.

Course options2017-18

UCAS code: L2M9
Duration: 3 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: LFM9
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: L219
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666

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About the course

What is the nature of the changing global system and how does it have an impact on individual well-being? What have been the major achievements, setbacks, and challenges to the global human rights movement? How do domestic and international politics interact in ways that are important for the promotion and protection of human rights?

If you are interested in politics with a specific interest in human rights, then this course focus on democracy, human rights and political theory should appeal to you.

You address the impact of politics and political events on domestic and international affairs, and look at how these events relate to the worldwide promotion and protection of human rights. We encourage you to explore different aspects of political science while developing an in-depth knowledge of human rights and different research methods.

You choose a wide range of topics including:

  • Forms of democracy
  • Principles and practices of human rights
  • Comparative politics
  • Ethics and public policy
  • Social justice

Our Department of Government is one of the most prestigious in Europe, with an outstanding record of teaching, research and publication. We are rated top in the UK for research (REF 2014), and have consistently been the highest-rated politics department in the country since national assessments began.

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond the classroom. You may also study a four-year variant of this course, the third year of which is spent studying abroad at a partner institution, or on a placement year. This additional year abroad is at no extra cost. The module structure for your first two years and your final year are the same as our three-year versions

We offer many opportunities for you to spend a term or a full year studying in another country and have exchange partners in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, the Middle East, Hong Kong and Japan.

Placement year

Alternatively, by choosing a placement year you can gain relevant work experience within an external business, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. You will be responsible for finding your placement, but with support and guidance provided by both your department and our Employability and Careers Centre.

A Placement-Linked Project module is also available as an alternative to the dissertation module in your third year. You attend shorter placements (a minimum of 150 hours in total), and use your learning on placement to inform a research project; fantastic work experience for your CV.

Our expert staff

Some of the biggest names in the field work at Essex, giving you unparalleled access to some of the best minds in politics. Our staff are advising the CIA on counter-terrorism, training politicians and civil servants in democratising countries, and commentating on political events in national and international media.

Members of our Human Rights Centre work closely with our alumni and extensive practitioner network to ensure that our research is focused on priority issues that are of direct relevance to beneficiaries such as victims of human rights violations, governments, NGOs, and international organisations such as the UN.

Specialist facilities

Take advantage of our extensive learning resources to assist you in your studies:

  • Laboratories of networked computers featuring extensive software for political analysis
  • The ESSEXLab provides opportunities for experimental lab research
  • Student societies for politics, debating, and Model UN
  • A dedicated study skills advisor in your first year for one-to-one advice
  • A personal tutor and peer mentor for every student
  • We organise the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis

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

Your future

All Essex, politics graduates have the distinction of a qualification from one of the world’s leading politics departments.

Our students are in demand from a host of employers, in politics, the civil service fast stream, management, journalism, police, armed forces, commerce, business, finance, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), teaching and graduate research.

Our notable alumni include the former President of Costa Rica and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr Oscar Arias, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, and our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies including:

  • The World Bank
  • NATO
  • Houses of Parliament Research Unit
  • United Nations Development Program
  • ICM research
  • IMG Media

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.

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Example structure

Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.

Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

What is “Politics”? How have people conceived of political analysis, the state, laws, wars and political parties, across cultures and over time? Gain an understanding of essential concepts in the study of politics and explore the economic, social and intellectual trends that have made democracy possible.

An often misused concept, “democracy” takes radically different forms in different democratic countries. You gain a real understanding of what is meant by “democracy” and investigate under what conditions and in what countries liberal democracy is most likely to occur.

What are human rights? How do we protect them? And what challenges do we face when promoting human rights on an international level? Discover the fundamental principles and practices, including topics related to international law and philosophy, which underpin the protection and promotion of our human rights.

How do we forge, manage, and maintain better relationships between nations? How do relationships between countries affect the decision-making of governments? You study specific historical events including the two world wars and the cold war, as well as contemporary issues including security issues, nuclear technology, and drone warfare.

Certain ideas shape the way we see ourselves and the world around us—ideas like democracy, free speech, individualism, free markets, and humans rights. These ideas took their definitive modern form during a politically and intellectually revolutionary stretch of history known as the Enlightenment (1650-1800). This interdisciplinary module examines this period and thus serves as an essential prerequisite for students who want to understand the intellectual currents that run through the world they live in. Graduating students often rank it among the most useful modules they’ve taken.

Develop the employability, citizenship, and life skills to successfully compete in the graduate job market after graduation. You complete a portfolio of employability skills and develop a critical understanding of the world of work.

Year 2

While a lot of the emphasis in the study of human rights is placed on the normative dimensions of specific rights, in human rights practice, an understanding of the institutional machinery that provides for complaints procedures (including formal courts), monitoring of state obligations and the review of periodic reports is imperative. You’ll be equipped with the skills and knowledge required to give meaningful effect of specific individual rights. Human rights institutions on the universal level (United Nations), as well as the regional level, are covered.

You’ll be introduced to sociology and human rights, and will learn how to research human rights in a sociological manner. You’ll consider two competing contemporary attempts to formulate a sociology of rights, as well as the problem of universalism versus relativism. Study the concept of cosmopolitanism, as well as rights across borders, the position of trans-national migrants as compared with the citizens of host countries, and investigate how far universal human rights can over-come state sovereignty in the granting of rights to non-citizens. You’ll also look at specific examples related to gender, immigration and asylum seekers, and what rich countries owe to poor ones.

What constitutes a good piece of research? You consider the basics of scientific work and procedures in the social sciences in order to understand the philosophy and theory of social scientific investigations, and to improve your research throughout your degree.

Are countries with high levels of trade less likely to go to war? Do election observers actually reduce election fraud? Learn how political scientists tackle these questions through understanding the basic strategies of comparative empirical analysis.

How should a society distribute resources and opportunities between individuals and groups? The principles of social justice we hold affect how we answer this question. You study different philosophical approaches to these principles and explore their implications for the current issue of climate justice.

Is torture ever morally justified? Should pornography be banned? Should prostitution be legalised? Take part in the intellectual search for the moral principles that should govern how we answer these questions and others in governing public policy.

Contemporary interaction between the Middle East and the West highlights the importance of understanding the history and political thought surrounding this interaction. Consider the impact of colonialism, nationalism pan-Arabism, Arab-Israeli conflicts, the politics of oil and water, and political Islam in the Middle East and North Africa.

How are decisions made in the EU? What impact do states and government have on European policy, and vice versa? Gain an understanding of the relationship between the EU and its members through studying the origins of European Integration and the institutional systems of the EU.

Develop the employability, citizenship, and life skills to successfully compete in the graduate job market after graduation. You complete a portfolio of employability skills and develop a critical understanding of the world of work.

Final year

How important are human rights today? What role do they play in contemporary society? And can you analyse their impact on topics like freedom of expression or global justice? Learn to identify and evaluate human rights issues in range of real-life situations, within a regional, national and international context.

Develop the employability, citizenship, and life skills to successfully compete in the graduate job market after graduation. You complete a portfolio of employability skills and develop a critical understanding of the world of work.

Explore how economic and political incentives interact to create and prevent opportunities that shape behaviour. You use rigorous logic and evidence to understand issues in classical political economy and to address contemporary policy questions in both domestic and international politics.

The field of security studies has become increasingly important over the last decade. While old conflicts are reigniting and new ones are emerging, scholars and decision-makers debate about changes to the concepts of security, the redundancy of military force, and the centrality of the state in order to face these ever-important issues.

Why are some states prone to authoritarianism? What are the effects of stateless groups? How are economies run in states that are virtually non-existent? Study the interplay between human rights, state-building, economic and political development in some of the most conflict-prone and unstable areas of the world.


On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.


  • Teaching is arranged to allow a lot of freedom in how you organise your learning experience
  • Lab sessions allow you to improve your technical research skills
  • Opportunities to gain work experience on placements and internships


  • Assessed through a combination of written coursework, presentations, class participation, and end-of-year examinations
  • If you undertake a placement, you will prepare an assessed report on this experience

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UK entry requirements

A-levels: BBB

IB: 30 points. We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.

Entry requirements for students studying BTEC qualifications are dependent on units studied. Advice can be provided on an individual basis. The standard required is generally at Distinction level.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)

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.

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.

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Visit us

Open days

Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. In 2017 we have three undergraduate Open Days (in June, September and October). These events enable you to discover what our Colchester Campus has to offer. You have 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

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

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.


Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.

Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.

Visit days and interviews

Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our visit days. These run from January to April and give you the chance to explore the campus, meet our students and really get a feel for life as an Essex student.

Some of our courses also hold interviews and if you’re invited to one, this will take place during your visit day. Don’t panic, they’re nothing to worry about and it’s a great way for us to find out more about you and for you to find out more about the course. Some of our interviews are one-to-one with an academic, others are group activities, but we’ll send you all the information you need beforehand.

If you’re outside the UK and are planning a trip, feel free to email so we can help you plan a visit to the University.

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The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its course finder is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep prospective students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

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