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:
You do not need a Law or Human Rights based undergraduate degree to apply for this MA. We consider applicants for entry to this course with an undergraduate degree in Humanities or Social Sciences. Studying this course will enable you to undertake practical or legal work for human rights organisations.
Our students now have the opportunity to opt for one of four distinct pathways. This includes a generic pathway in which students can choose optional modules spanning across many academic disciplines.
For those students who have a more specific interest in specialising in a distinct area of human rights, we have created the following pathways:
To learn more about our pathways, visit the structure tab, or read a blog by Dr Andrew Fagan, Director of the Human Rights Centre.
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.
We are ranked 49th for Law in THE World University Rankings by subject 2024, which is 9th in the UK, and we are 3rd in the UK for research power in law (THE research power measure, REF2021).
This course is also available on a part-time basis.
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.
We also offer a range of opportunities for working with projects associated with our Human Rights Centre:
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:
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 Careers Services to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities. Take a look at our dedicated careers pages for Law and Human Rights.
A 2:2 honours degree, or international equivalent, in a Social Science, Law or any Humanities subject.
While prior academic study or professional experience of law is desirable, it is not a requirement for admission. LLM students who have not previously studied Public International Law will take a one-term module on this topic.
We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.
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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.
The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.
Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The following modules are based on the current course structure and may change in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.
Our students now have the opportunity to opt for one of four distinct pathways. This includes a generic pathway in which students can choose optional modules spanning across many academic disciplines. For those students who have a more specific interest in specialising in a distinct area of human rights, we have created the following pathways: human rights, global diversity and global challenges; human rights, social justice and social change; and finally, human rights, gender, race and identity.
1. Generic pathway
This pathway allows our students the opportunity to acquire a broad, generalist education in human rights without specialising on a specific set of themes and issues. The content of the generic pathway encompasses the vast range of optional modules available across all of the other MA Theory and Practice of Human Rights pathways.
2. Human Rights, Global Diversity and Global Challenges
This pathway offers students the opportunity to engage with a comprehensive set of normative and institutional challenges surrounding the complex relationship between the promotion of universal human rights and respecting regional, national and cultural differences. It also offers an opportunity to engage with principal regional approaches to international human rights law and to contextualise these within a global framework which continues to be deeply influenced by a variety of complex power relationships between, for example, the Global North and Global South. This pathway is great for students who wish to develop human rights careers in a changing global landscape, in which new challenges are emerging.
3. Human Rights, Social Justice & Social Change
Human rights are widely perceived as an integral component of wider attempts to promote social justice. To this extent, the complex relationship between normative theories of justice and key political, legal, social and economic institutions ought to be a core focal point for the study of human rights. Similarly, there are many sources of and factors within a broad array of forms of continuing injustice. It is essential that these factors are effectively understood and engaged with. Finally, all political, social legal and economic forms of life are subject to significant forms of change and alteration, which often have a profound impact upon our understanding and application of human rights. This pathway provides an opportunity for students to engage with this crucial area of academic and practical interest. This pathway is for students who are interested in political/social theory, focused upon combatting socio-economic injustices and inequalities, and those with more overtly practical motivations towards learning how to deploy human rights in the current global order.
4. Human Rights, Gender, Race & Identity
This pathway will examine the role of human rights in recognising, protecting and advocating for marginalised groups or identities – those at the social fringes who find it difficult access sites of power - the economy, politics, the enjoyment of rights & social capital on account of group membership. Linking to theories of social justice and social change, the pathway will introduce students to different paradigms from a range of disciplines to enable them to conceptualise ways (both theoretical and practical) to redress social imbalances between dominant and marginal groups (for example, how to address structural and institutional racism, how to address the economic, social, institutional and cultural effects of patriarchy, or how to address extreme income and wealth inequalities between groups), leading to fairer and more equitable societies.
5. Human Rights and the Arts
We offer the only MA in the UK that combines arts and human rights, that doesn't require a Law undergraduate degree
This pathway will provide students with an interdisciplinary introduction to and engagement with the relationship between human rights and the arts. Separate sessions will focus upon the specific contributions which a carefully selected range of artistic forms and genres have engaged with and contributed to the global defence of human rights. The pathway is taught by and will draw upon the expertise of colleagues in the areas of contemporary art, cultural studies, dance, literature, mass media and photography. It will enable students to situate key debates surrounding the significance and importance of art within wider human rights challenges. Key topics will include, photography and human rights, the art of protest movements and Holocaust and art restitution.
We understand that deciding where and what to study is a very important decision for you. We’ll make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities as described on our website. However, if we need to make material changes, for example due to significant disruption, or in response to COVID-19, we’ll let our applicants and students know as soon as possible.
Components are the blocks of study that make up your course. A component may have a set module which you must study, or a number of modules from which you can choose.
Each component has a status and carries a certain number of credits towards your qualification.
|Status||What this means|
||You must take the set module for this component and you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
|Core with Options
||You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component but you must pass. No failure can be permitted.|
||You must take the set module for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.|
|Compulsory with Options
||You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
||You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.|
The modules that are available for you to choose for each component will depend on several factors, including which modules you have chosen for other components, which modules you have completed in previous years of your course, and which term the module is taught in.
Modules are the individual units of study for your course. Each module has its own set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria and also carries a certain number of credits.
In most cases you will study one module per component, but in some cases you may need to study more than one module. For example, a 30-credit component may comprise of either one 30-credit module, or two 15-credit modules, depending on the options available.
Modules may be taught at different times of the year and by a different department or school to the one your course is primarily based in. You can find this information from the module code. For example, the module code HR100-4-FY means:
The department or school the module will be taught by.
In this example, the module would be taught by the Department of History.
|The module number.||
The UK academic level of the module.
A standard undergraduate course will comprise of level 4, 5 and 6 modules - increasing as you progress through the course.
A standard postgraduate taught course will comprise of level 7 modules.
A postgraduate research degree is a level 8 qualification.
The term the module will be taught in.
COMPONENT 01: CORE
COMPONENT 02: COMPULSORY
COMPONENT 03: COMPULSORY WITH OPTIONSHU930-7-AU or HU928-7-SP or HU931-7-SP or HU932-7-SP
COMPONENT 04: COMPULSORY WITH OPTIONSHuman Rights option(s) from list
COMPONENT 05: COMPULSORY WITH OPTIONSOption from list
COMPONENT 06: COMPULSORY
We hold 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:
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.
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.
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.
At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.
The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification 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, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the 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 students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications. The University would inform and engage with you if your course was to be discontinued, and would provide you with options, where appropriate, in line with our Compensation and Refund Policy.
The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.
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