Human rights

Impatient to advocate for social justice?

Human rights
Studying human rights develops the skills and confidence to advocate for individual and community rights, social justice and social change.

Human rights have no borders or boundaries. They are the global language of the world.

Our approach is interdisciplinary, with the theory and practice of human rights embedded in our work. Join our thriving community of expert staff, students and graduates who have genuine global impact in the field. We’re ranked 17th for promoting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (THE Impact Rankings 2023).

Dr Andrew Fagan, our Human Rights Centre Director believes it is a crucial time for Human Rights around the world. Our Human Rights Centre is internationally recognised for the breadth and depth of its research projects. Essex is one of only four universities with a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a development that recognises the breadth of education that Essex provides in relation to the protection of refugees.

Unsure of where a Human Rights degree may lead you? Our graduates have gone onto lead successful careers in organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, GirlPower and the European Network Against Racism. Find out more on our careers webpage.

Why study here?
  • Our lecturers are renowned experts in human rights and hold prestigious UN appointments.
  • Gain experience in the field through opportunities such as our Human Rights Clinic.
  • We have an active Human Rights Society which hosts a comprehensive programme of events.
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Our courses are informed by our unique interdisciplinary perspective, which gives you a deep and critical knowledge of human rights and their practical application.

At Essex we are concerned with confronting and overcoming oppression and discrimination around the world. We enjoy a worldwide reputation for research, teaching and practice, and our pioneering staff have held prestigious positions within the UN and other international organisations.

Why study here?
  • Our education offers many valuable opportunities to apply your human rights knowledge to the world beyond the classroom.
  • Join our Human Rights Clinic and develop your legal and transferrable skills to help you stand out from the crowd.
  • You join one of the largest and most effective human rights alumni networks in the world.
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Essex Law Clinic Live Webinars

Watch our webinars and learn about the student experience in the Clinic and the key areas of work in employment law, consumer law, family law, and more.

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Our research projects

Essex Human Rights Centre offers the opportunity for students to get involved with various different research projects. The Human Rights Centre Clinic also runs projects as part of the Human Rights Centre Clinic Module (HU902), which is open to postgraduate human rights students.

Projects address a range of human rights and humanitarian law-related issues and generally involve research that partners need in order to further human rights advocacy and implementation of human rights or humanitarian law norms. For example, supporting litigation, advocacy, policy and programme development or technical guidance on human rights.

Destroyed building in Raqqa, Syria
Digital Verification Unit students contribute to ground-breaking report by Amnesty International

Essex students have used social media content to help challenge official accounts of the bombing of the Syrian city of Raqqa.

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Our PhD programme draws upon the expertise of over 80 Human Rights Centre members from different academic disciplines.

Our research community encompasses internationally renowned scholars whose work ranges from research into the philosophical and normative bases of human rights, through to more practically-oriented interests in the legal, political and sociological application of human rights.

Expertise and supervision

We specialise in the application of theory to real human rights problems. Within Essex Law School our research has a particular focus on the right to health, civil and political rights; including the prohibition against torture and detention related issues, and the law of armed conflict and acute crises. To find out more about us read our biographies and then use our research finder to find a supervisor. Alternatively, search research finder for your interest as a supervisor may be from a different department but specialise in an area of human rights.


Doctoral Affiliates Network

Our Doctoral Affiliates Network is a community of PhD students at the University of Essex, who are engaged in some related aspect of human rights research, and who wish to benefit from sharing ideas and research within a more multi and inter-disciplinary environment than would typically be possible within a single department or discipline.

Membership of the Network is open to any student studying a PhD at Essex. 


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Explore our research

Discover cutting edge research from the University of Essex. Browse our site to find relevant publications, projects, groups, centres, postgraduate opportunities for research supervision and wider areas of interest. Simply search our site to find information relating to your subject.

Search our research
Why study here?
  • Our Human Rights Centre has consistently produced cutting-edge academic and policy research.
  • You have the option of being supervised by Human Rights Centre members.
  • You can apply through us for one of over 375 fully-funded PhD studentships.

Human Rights Centre

Our Human Rights Centre is a community of students, alumni and academics that provides excellence in human rights theory and practice through interdisciplinary research and education. We were awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize in 2010 in recognition of our work in advancing global human rights.

Our research groups include the Essex Armed Conflict and Crisis Hub along with the Business and Human Rights group.


Dr Andrew Fagan sitting on the steps on campus
Director Andrew Fagan stresses importance of human rights for us all

'The global human rights project faces many contemporary challenges - climate change, political instability, the rise of xenophobia and intolerance, growing inequality, and states' continuing failure to respect international human rights law.'

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Research clusters

We have extensive expertise across the following research clusters, amongst others. These clusters provide a focus for critical debate, research collaboration and teaching innovation. Postgraduate research students can get involved in the Law and Technology and Human Rights clusters.

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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.