Summer Schools

Human Rights

Essex Human Rights Online Summer School

Monday 10 to Friday 21 June 2024

The Essex Human Rights Centre is delighted to present its pioneering and popular summer school on human rights taught by an interdisciplinary faculty of renowned academics and practitioners. 

The Human Rights Summer School will be held virtually in 2024. We will be delivering our course in an online live, interactive format, split over two weeks, from 10 - 21 June. 

Applications for our 2024 Summer School are now open.

Book your place

For all other queries please email

Human Rights Centre on social media:

“I would recommend this experience for two main reasons. Firstly, the opportunity to learn from exceptional professors with real-world experience in human rights offers invaluable insights. Secondly, the multidisciplinary approach allows you to tap into the latest discussions in the human rights field from various perspectives. As a lawyer, I particularly enjoyed learning from social sciences viewpoints to address human rights issues.”
Rebeca Huete Salazar Essex human rights summer school participant, 2023


The Essex Human Rights Summer School will cover a wide range of topics related to professional practice in human rights. Taught by an international faculty of leading experts in the field, the Summer School will examine human rights research methods, advocacy and campaigning strategies, and aspects of professional development. The programme includes sessions that address growing challenges human rights professionals face and highlights opportunities to overcome them. The curriculum is designed to build the capacity of both mid-career human rights professionals and postgraduate students to be successful human rights defenders and researchers.


Three books in a stack on a desk
"These are exactly the types of skills needed by researchers in NGOs and in the UN and other international organisations. Knowing the Human Rights Centre, I am confident that it will deliver a summer school that is not only strong in academic content but very relevant and applicable to practical contexts."
Ian Martin former secretary General of amnesty international and head of un human rights missions and peace operations in Rwanda, east timor, Nepal and libya

Teaching programme

Backed by continuing high demand and excellent feedback on the online delivery mode and the expanded curriculum delivered in the last two years, the sessions will cover a range of research methods and skills necessary for successful human rights practice and professional development in a challenging world. Thus, the sessions cover advocacy, organisational management, coping strategies and practitioner case studies to enrich the expertise of mid-career professionals and empower students who wish to embark on a career in human rights research or practice.

Below is an indicative list of sessions that will be offered:
Key Debates and Challenges in Human Rights Promotion

This session will provide an introductory overview of the key debates and developments around human rights promotion and how they affect the work of human rights defenders.
Operational Challenges and Opportunities: A Field Perspective

Drawing on decades of expertise of working on refugee-related issues, this session will provide practical perspectives on the challenges and opportunities of promoting human rights in one of the most pressing human rights concerns of our time.

Round Table on Professional Challenges: Participant Perspectives

This session is designed to facilitate self-reflective learning through a guided discussion to exchange experiences and expertise of participants, and to support networking amongst participants.

Research Design: Legal and Qualitative Single Case Study

The session will focus on how to carry out legal and qualitative single case studies, its effects and impact. Participants will be invited to consider the design and findings of a comparative (both country and thematic) funded research project. The purpose will be to prompt participants to suggest how a single case study could have been more illuminating and to identify what have been lost in a single case study. Attention will then shift to a single case study to assess the richness it can offer, and the selection justification it requires. The session will end with writing case-selection justification exercise and the evaluation of these justifications.

Use of Qualitative Data Methods

An essential session for human rights researchers, this seminar will cover different tasks related to qualitative data analysis: how to transcribe interviews; how to identify patterns in the data; and how to make sense of research material using discourse analysis.

Quantitative Methods: Statistics, Indicators and Human Rights

This session examines the use of socio-economic and administrative statistics, which involves using existing or creating new indicators for governmental activity that has a bearing on human rights, including input, process, output, outcome, and impact indicators. The United Nations has developed a framework for incorporating these kinds of measures into the work of treaty bodies, as well as other kinds of human rights project work.

Experiments in Social Science Research

Experimental methods are a field of growing importance in the social sciences and policy/impact evaluation. Experiments enable social scientists and applied researchers to draw valid inferences about cause and effect. This session will provide an introduction to experimental methods. It will discuss different experimental methods including field, survey, and lab experiments using applications from the study of human rights.

Documenting Harm and Claiming Reparations in Countries Undergoing Transition Working with Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

Reparation remains the most victim friendly tool of transitional justice. Nevertheless, ensuring reparation in a transitional justice context is more than a challenge. The session will deal with how to document harm in such situations (different methodologies), where and when to claim reparations in a survivor centred manner and doing no harm. The session will take into account gender, cultural and religious sensitive approaches. In particular, the session will focus on lessons learned dealing with documentation of conflict-related sexual violence, and co-creation with survivors.

Race, Colonialism and Human Rights

This session will look at how the history of human rights interweaves with histories of race and colonialism. In addition to exploring how human rights responded to the coterminous emergence of decolonisation and racial justice struggles in the twentieth century, this lecture will also debate some of the recent critical legal scholarship that argues for the significance of colonialism as an influence for emergence of modern human rights.

Human Rights and International Agendas

International human rights law increasingly addresses and becomes interwoven with key related international initiatives and agendas, including the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the rule of law, and the international climate change framework. This session looks at commonalities and differences between their goals and how working across different fora, terminology and frameworks could leverage each for maximum effect. The session will include example problems on framing human rights and development-related advocacy at both the international and national level, including a focus on use of data and indicators to evidence progress.


Our expanded focus on human rights practice includes a session on litigation. It will examine strategic choices taken in seeking to enforce human rights and how challenges that arise in the use of litigation to protect human rights can be addressed.

International Advocacy: Multilateral and Transnational

Amidst rising challenges to human rights, the importance of acquiring expertise in human rights advocacy cannot be overstated. Participants will learn about different ways in which human rights advocacy can be advanced in a range of settings, covering the UN's diverse human rights mechanisms as well as regional and country contexts.

Strategic Communications and Framing

The power of human rights advocacy greatly depends on strategic communications and framing. Campaigning and advocacy are stronger when they show awareness of the power of words, because power is constituted through accepted forms of knowledge and understandings of what's true and what's right. This session will focus on the importance of understanding not only what a target audience thinks, but also how they think. Human rights advocacy needs messages that stick and resonate with people's minds, messages that meet them where they are. The seminar will look at what it is said, how it is said, and who says it: Who is speaking on behalf of human rights?

Campaigning and Theory of Change

While good research is essential, this seminar will explore what makes good research impactful. Combining Social Movement Theory with practical examples, this session will introduce the idea of Theory of Change as a key component of campaign development. It will discuss the timeliness of political opportunities, and how to recognise them as they unfold. The seminar will discuss the importance of assessing what can be reasonably achieved with existing mobilising structures. As words and cognitive cues can make a difference, participants will identify how framing processes can shape the outcome of a campaign.

Governance of Human Rights NGOs

This year we have also included sessions to cover skills related to management and organisational development. This session will highlight the strategies and practices of a range of human rights NGOs in the identification of priorities and in the allocation of their resources; and the potential for increasing effectiveness and efficiency.

Psychoanalysis of Groups and Organisations

This session will explore how a psychoanalytic approach can illuminate the dynamics of groups and organisations, including insights into how an individual positions themselves in groups and the group dynamics that affects that role.

Working in Repressive States

Human rights research is most needed where it is often the most challenging to undertake them. This session will cover the challenges and opportunities for undertaking human rights research in countries lacking in the rule of law. It will address working with sources for primary research, the interaction of the researcher with authorities; the balance between legal analysis and empirical findings; dealing with bias; and security during in country research.

Building Resilience for Human Rights Work

Human rights defenders are especially susceptible to burn-out. Field-wide problems, such as a pervasive lack of adequate funding and ever-increasing workloads, often interact with individual circumstances such as personal trauma, poor coping mechanisms and a lack of healthy role models, to create a perfect storm of conditions that make the field of human rights advocacy one of the most difficult to work in. In addition, human rights defenders are often tasked with working with victims and gathering evidence of violations, which exposes them to the trauma of others and the risk of secondary or vicarious trauma themselves. Building resilience in the field of human rights advocacy requires several different approaches, from institutional reform to personal training. In this session, we will look at why resilience awareness and training are so important and what human rights organisations can do to make sure their employees have the right tools to protect themselves while working in these difficult conditions.

Working with Human Rights Defenders

Human Rights Defenders are increasingly under pressure around the world. This session will examine the challenges faced by human rights defenders in different contexts and the various opportunities and strategies that can be used to overcome them. It will focus on specific work undertaken by international monitors committed to supporting human rights defenders.

Maximising Impact: Working with International Monitors

Continuing the engagement with international human rights protection mechanisms, this session will provide case studies on effective NGO engagement with the UN's special procedures including research, networking and advocacy. Drawing on case studies on the UN Special Procedures system, the session will cover the experiences of both a country-specific mandate and a thematic mandate, and offer insights on maximising impact.

Teaching team

Please find below the provisional teaching team details for 2024 ; 
  • Professor Nazila Ghanea, Professor of International Human Rights Law, University of Oxford, and UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

  • Ed O'Donovan, Special Advisor to UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Guest Researcher, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights

  • Michael Phoenix, Office of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

  • Dr Kojo Koram, Reader in Law,  Birkbeck School of Law, University of London

  • Daniel Genberg, Consultant on not-for-profit organisations, former Director of Governance at Amnesty International

  • Dr Chris Tanner, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex

  • Dr Dominik Duell, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Innsbruck

  • Dr Barbora Černušáková, ESRC/SeNSS Postdoctoral Fellow Goldsmiths, University of London. Consultant Researcher on Technology and Workers' Rights

  • Dr Patricia Palacios Zuloaga, Lecturer, Essex Law School, and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex

  • Dr Koldo Casla, Lecturer, Essex Law School, and Director, Essex Human Rights Centre Clinic, University of Essex

  • Judith Bueno de Mesquita, Senior Lecturer, Essex Law School, and Acting Director, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex

  • Professor Geoff Gilbert, Essex Law School, and Chair of the Global Academic Interdisciplinary Network of the Global Compact on Refugees, University of Essex 

  • Professor Clara Sandoval-Villalba, Essex Law School, and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex and Co-Director of the Essex Transitional Justice Network

  • Professor Rosin Ryan-Flood, Department of Sociology and Criminology, University of Essex and Director of the Centre for Intimate and Sexual Citizenship (CISC)

  • Rose Richter, Executive Director, Impact Iran and Consultant, Religion and Equality Project, Essex Human Rights Centre

  • Dr Elizabeth O’Casey, Advocacy Director, Humanist International, Brussels

  • Steven Malby, Visiting Fellow, Essex Law School and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex

  • Dr Matthew Gillett, Senior Lecturer, Essex Law School, and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex and Member, UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

  • Dr Marina Lostal, Senior Lecturer, Essex Law School, and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex

  • Dr Aoife Duffy, Senior Lecturer, Essex Law School, and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex 

  • Professor Ahmed Shaheed, Essex Law School, and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex and former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and former UN Special Rapporteur on Iran

Learning outcomes

In taking this course, participants will: 

  • Acquire a strong understanding of the several methods used in human rights research covering qualitative and quantitative methods as well as emerging methods such as the use of experiments in the social sciences
  • Understand how to do research in different country contexts including in closed and challenging societies
  • Learn to design research projects with a strong methodology to have optimal impact on policy and practice
  • Gain a strong appreciation of a range of advocacy tools including litigation, international advocacy as well as of strategies on running campaigns to achieve change
  • Acquire insights into effective governance of human rights NGOs including group dynamics
  • Learn ways to build resilience and support the well-being of human rights advocates in the face of their constant or extraordinary exposure to various forms and types of trauma in their line of work
  • Gain insights into various aspects of field practice from a number of practitioners on promoting human rights in international contexts


It is an ideal course for postgraduate students, academics, lawyers and human rights professionals working in NGOs, government and international organisations.

We will conduct sessions via the video conferencing software Zoom. Participants must have access to appropriate computing facilities as well as a reliable internet connection to enable full participation in the online sessions. In addition, many of our sessions will be able to offer recordings that will be available to those enrolled.

We will ensure that each participant has access to the necessary software to participate in their course, along with other materials, as part of your course fees. 

For best learning success, participants should have the background knowledge necessary to follow a course by reading through the provided course instructions and reading lists. 

The summer school will be delivered in English.

Anyone who is uncertain about whether the Summer School is suitable for their needs or their background should contact the Human Rights Summer School team for advice:

Fees and application details


Fee type Early bird (until 01/05/2024)  Standard (02/05/2024 - 31/05/2024)
Full fee £750  £900 
Essex student discount and DAC £562.50  £675 
Essex staff / alumni £600  £720 
Non-Essex student £600  £720 
Non-Essex academics £637.50  £765 
Public sector / NGO / charity £637.50  £765 

To take advantage of our Early Bird Discount, please complete your application and submit payment before 1 May 2024. 

Participants from the DAC list of countries and territories eligible to receive official development assistance are able to attend under the Essex rate where appropriate. 

Please get in touch for details of further discounts that are available for the following:

  • Partner organisations wishing to send 5 or more participants
  • Returning participants

Applying to the Summer School

Applications for our 2024 summer school are now open. For information about future summer schools please email

Your application will then be reviewed by a member of  the Human Rights Summer School team and you will be contacted if you are successful.

You will then be sent a link to pay as well as details on how to complete the next steps of the registration process. Once you have paid you will receive confirmation of your place. Full payment for the course must be received by 1 May 2024 in order to claim the early bird discount. Applications will need to be finalised by 31 May 2024 in order for you to be given necessary access. 

For any payment issues or queries, please contact

Please note, to take part in the summer school virtually you will need access to a laptop/computer and have a reliable internet connection.


You can pay for your place online via our Webshop which you will be sent a link to after completing the application form. The University bank will accept Visa, Mastercard, and Eurocard.

Paying by Proficio

Essex Research students need to enrol via Proficio in addition to the online application

If you are paying for your course fee using University of Essex Proficio funds, you will need to use the Proficio platform.

Paying by invoice

If you specifically require payment via an invoice, please email us:

After payment

Once you've paid, we will send you our welcome pack with instructions on how to finalise your place. 

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Apply now

Applications are now open for the Human Rights Summer School. Complete the online form to submit your application.

Apply now
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Get in touch
Catherine Freeman Executive Officer - Events and Communications
Essex Law School