Summer Schools

Human Rights

Essex Human Rights Online Summer School

Monday 28 June - Friday 9 July 2021

The Essex Human Rights Centre presents our popular summer school on Human Rights, taught by a faculty of leading academics and practitioners. 

The Human Rights Summer School will be held virtually in 2021. We will be delivering our course in an online live, interactive format, split over two weeks. These sessions will run on week days (Monday – Friday), from 1pm - 2.30pm and from 3pm - 4.30pm GMT.

Applications for our 2021 Human Rights Online Summer School are now closed. 


Human Rights Centre on social media:

“It is remarkable to have the opportunity to hear from practitioners how different research methods can make an impact in their work and real people’s lives.”
Ana Maria Essex human rights summer school participant, 2019


The Essex Human Rights Summer School will resume in 2021 with an expanded focus on professional practice. Taught by a faculty of leading experts in the field, the Summer School will cover sessions on human rights research methods, advocacy and campaigning strategies, and professional development. The programme also responds to growing challenges faced by human rights professionals and includes sessions that examine opportunities to overcome them. The Summer School will cover areas that are essential for human rights professionals and postgraduate students.

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

Building on the success of our pioneering Human Rights Research Methods Summer School, this year’s offer includes key modules on research methods and expands the thematic focus to cover key elements of human rights practice. The latter includes sessions on advocacy, organisational management, coping strategies and practitioner case studies. Participants will acquire knowledge in human rights research methods as well as a range of practical skills vital for professional development. 

The sessions offered include the following: 

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. 

Quantitative Methods: Databases, Survey-based and Standards-based Indicators

Some databases attempt to track human rights outcomes on the ground, while others seek to identify, classify, and quantify implementation of human rights obligations. This session will provide a review of existing human rights databases, explore the types of questions that databases can help us answer, and highlight critiques of the use of databases. It will also examine the use of ‘standards-based’ measures of human rights practices that code country performance on ordinal scales for comparative analysis and survey-based measures based on perceptions and experiences of human rights practices. For both types of measures, discussion will focus on sources of information, types of samples, external and internal validity, and the limitations of each style of measurement and assessment. 

Documenting Harm and Claiming Reparations in Countries Undergoing Transition 

Human rights research in countries undergoing transition presents a unique set of challenges. The session will deal with how to document harm in such contexts as well as where and when to claim reparations and how to submit strong claims without producing re-victimisation. The session will look into various forms of doing this while taking into account gender, cultural and religious issues.

Challenges of Researching on Race

How can we research on ‘race’, and make a contribution to combating discrimination and dismantling structural racism, when race itself has become such a contested term? Against the backcloth of challenges posed to research by the Black Lives Matter and de-colonisation movements, this session will look at how ‘race, ‘inequality’ and ‘anti-racism’, are understood both by governments and movements and b) examine the provenance of terms and concepts like institutional racism, discrimination, integration, ethnic disadvantage, unconscious bias and racial disproportionality.

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.


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 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 and Risk Mitigation Strategies

This session will focus on the ways of supporting 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.

Working with HR 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. The session 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.

Teaching team

Please note the teaching team for 2021 is subject to final confirmation. 

In the past the summer school has been taught by the following human rights academics and practitioners: 

  • Judith Bueno de Mesquita, Lecturer, School of Law & Deputy Director, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex
  • Dr Koldo Casla, Lecturer, School of Law, and Deputy Director, Essex Human Rights Centre Clinic, University of Essex
  • Barbora Cernusakova, PhD Candidate, University of Manchester & Researcher at Amnesty International
  • Dr Cosette Creamer, Benjamin E. Lippincott Chair in Political Economy, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Minnesota
  • Dominik Duell, Lecturer, Department of Government, University of Essex
  • Dr Andrew Fagan, Director, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex
  • Liz Fekete, Director of the Institute of Race Relations, London, and Head of European Research Programme at IRR.
  • Dr Carla Ferstman, Senior Lecturer, School of Law & Human Rights Centre, University of Essex, Former Director of REDRESS
  • Daniel Genberg, Consultant on not-for-profit organisations, former Director of Governance at Amnesty International
  • Dr Nazila Ghanea, Associate Professor of International Human Rights Law, University of Oxford
  • Professor Geoff Gilbert, School of Law and Chair of the Global Academic Interdisciplinary Network of the Global Compact on Refugees, University of Essex 
  • Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
  • Dr Elizabeth O’Casey, Advocacy Director, Humanist International, Brussels
  • Rose Richter, Executive Director, Impact Iran and Freedom of Religion or Belief Unit, Ralph Bunche Institute, City University of New York.
  • Dr Rosin Ryan-Flood, Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Essex
  • Professor Clara Sandoval, Director, Essex Transitional Justice Network, School of Law and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex
  • Dr Ahmed Shaheed, Senior Lecturer, School of Law and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex and UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
  • Dr Chris Tanner, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic and Studies, University of Essex

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 human rights experiments
  • Understand how to do research in different country contexts including in closed and challenging societies, and countries in transition
  • Learn to design research projects with a strong methodology, including for grant applications and 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. 

The summer school will be delivered in English.

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. 

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

Applications for our 2021 Summer School are now closed. 

The fees for 2021 are: 


Early Bird

Until 31/05/2021


01/06/2021 - 20/06/2021

Full fee (i.e. commercial organisations)

£750.00 £900.00
Essex student discount £562.50 £675.00
Essex staff/alumni £600.00 £720.00
Non-Essex student discount £600.00 £720.00
Non-Essex academics £637.50 £765.00
Public sector/NGO/
£637.50 £765.00

Discounts are available for students at partner universities - please get in touch for details.

Early bird discount deadline is 31 May 2021. 

Applying to the Summer School

Applications are now closed for 2021.

Applicants should complete the online application form. On receipt of the application, the Human Rights Summer School team will send a link to the Webshop as well as details on how to complete the next steps of your application. Once you have paid you will receive confirmation of your place. Full payment for the course must be received by 31 May 2021 in order to claim the early bird discount. Applications will need to be finalised by 20 June 2021 in order for you to be given necessary access. 

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 University of Essex 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. 


Please note as this summer school will be delivered online in 2021 – accommodation will not be available at this time.

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