MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights


This degree offered by the Human Rights Consortium is the longest-running interdisciplinary, practice-oriented human rights MA programme in the UK. Its priority is to provide students with practical skills essential to working as human rights practitioners, including advocacy, fundraising and research. The degree develops students as human rights professionals and is therefore particularly suitable for individuals who are, or seek to become, human rights practitioners in the NGO, governmental and inter-govermental sectors This degree addresses essential questions and debates within the field of human rights, such as: where do rights come from? What are their foundations and justifications? Can the discourse of rights secure social justice?

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Degree code: MTCHR
Credit value: 120/180

Required modules:

  • Understanding Human Rights I: Ideas and Contexts
  • Securing Human Rights I: Actors and Mechanisms, Skills and Strategies
  • Translating Human Rights into Law I: The Foundations of International Human Rights Law

Optional modules*:

  • Understanding Human Rights II: Genocide, Gross Human Rights Violations and Reconciliation (Optional) [10 ECTS]
  • Securing Human Rights II: Securing Human Rights in Development and in Conflict [10 ECTS]
  • Translating Human Rights into Law II: Topics in International Human Rights Law [10 ECTS]
  • The Politics of Human Rights in Latin America [10 ECTS]
  • Researching Human Rights: Social Research Methods [10 ECTS]
  • Business and Human Rights [10 ECTS]
  • Indigenous Peoples, Minorities and Human Rights [10 ECTS]
  • Citizenship and New Social Movements in Latin America  [10 ECTS]
  • Human Rights and Everyday Life in Latin America [10 ECTS]

*All modules are subject to availability.


All students must complete a minimum of three compulsory modules and three optional modules, plus a 15,000-words dissertation, in order to fulfil the requirement for the MA (totalling 90 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System)). In addition, students may wish to select one extra optional module (equalling 10 ECTS) and / or the internship (20 ECTS) for additional credit, totalling between 110 and 120 credits.


The MA is assessed through essays and examinations, along with more innovative forms of assessment such as legal reports, a media project, mock funding proposal presentations and class participation.

Mode of study

Study options: full-time over one year, or part time over 24 months or 36 months.
Part time students may choose at least three optional modules during the spring term of years 1 or 2. Part time students may undertake more than one internship, e.g. in both years and/or during the summer between years 1 and 2.

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Most students take the MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights with a view to becoming human rights professionals and activists. Some choose to go on to do further academic study. Former students have secured paid employment with organisations including ActionAid, Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International, International Committee of the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, Minority Rights Group, Oxfam, Rights and Humanity and UNICEF. On several occasions employment opportunities have arisen as a result of the student placement programme. Some overseas students have also been seconded to do the degree and after completing the MA return to their jobs in government or the non-governmental sector.

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What our students say

"This MA provides the perfect balance between theoretical and practical approaches. As a student, I have benefited from access to invaluable academic resources, such as a wide range of bibliographic material, conferences and courses. Guest speakers attend our classes and share with us their experience of being practitioners or academics working on specific areas of human rights. The course also includes an internship scheme and a study visit to Geneva, aimed at helping students develop a deeper understanding about the work of UN human rights bodies and international non-governmental organisations. This MA has complemented my practical experience with a solid theoretical foundation. It has broadened my perspective on the field of human rights and it has given me the tools and skills to improve my professional development and become a qualified public servant. It has been an enjoyable and rewarding professional and personal experience.”

Helietta Gonzalez-Hernandez (Mexico)

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