Human Rights MA

Why choose this course?

This course explores how human rights are connected to politics, culture, institutions, movements and values. It can help you start or promote a career in areas such human rights advocacy, policy or communication. You will examine the history, status and scope of human rights, and gain essential practical skills required in the field, eg advanced research training, campaign design, policy analysis and impact evaluation.

You will benefit from teaching from human rights practitioners and specialists. Course leader Stephen Bowen has 25 years' experience as an international human rights practitioner, including Campaigns Director of Amnesty International UK, Chief Human Rights Officer for the United Nations Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Director of the British Institute of Human Rights, and Legal Adviser to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

You will receive support to arrange a placement in a human rights or social justice organisation as part of the course, to gain valuable practical experience. Previous student placements have been undertaken at Liberty, Peace Brigades International, Amnesty International, and Refugee Action.

You will have the opportunity to arrange a placement in a human rights organisation, increasing your employability in the field.

Lively discussion is encouraged, with visiting speakers, leading academics and figures from human rights and international organisations contributing to the debate.

Mode Duration Start date
Full time 1 year September 2020
Part time 2 years September 2020
Location Penrhyn Road

Reasons to choose Kingston University

  • This course is taught in collaboration with Kingston University's Centre for Human Rights Practice. Staff include human rights practitioners, specialists and researchers.
  • Guest lecturers, from human rights and international organisations, have included politician and activist Shami Chakrabarti, and the Directors of some of the UK's leading human rights and social justice organisations.
  • You will gain valuable experience through a placement in a human rights or social justice organisation, such as Liberty, Peace Brigades International, Migrant Voice, Amnesty International or Refugee Action.

Find out more about this course

What you will study

You will look at the organisations and activities involved in the protection of human rights. You will explore social and campaigning movements, pressure groups, nation states, international and transnational organisations, and examine the scope of their contributions to the development of human rights and social justice.

You will analyse current international situations and relations between states and non-state organisations where conflicts have resulted in considerable violations of human rights.

You will investigate the challenges and demands that arise from the continual movements of peoples, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who flee conflicts and disasters, seeking realisation of their fundamental rights.

Key topics in the curriculum are compiled on an annual basis, so your learning is based on major contemporary issues in human rights. For example, recent case studies in the core modules have addressed the human rights implications of the use of drones in the "war on terror"; the status of UN negotiations to create a legally binding treaty on human rights and transnational corporations; the challenge of rising populism; and the question of extreme poverty and human rights in the USA.

You will take 4 core modules and choose 1 option module from a broad selection.

Core modules

Option modules

Core modules

Politics Dissertation

60 credits

The masters programme culminates in the dissertation, an extended project that allows you to engage in independent research, applying and developing the content of the taught modules to a topic of your choice.

The dissertation is prepared for in Semester 2, and is then fully engaged in what is effectively a third semester.

Your dissertation research is supported by supervision, with the primary emphasis on independent study.

Research Skills and Dissertation/Project Proposal

30 credits

How is research conducted? What constitutes good research? How do you develop and carry out an independent piece of research?

This module is an integral part of this masters course. You are trained in the use of research sources, such as libraries and archives. The module guides you through a range of research techniques and methods and enables you to analyse how to choose the most suitable for a particular research project.

The module is designed to support other content-led teaching, especially the relevant core modules. In the first semester you are encouraged to apply skills to their course modules and evaluate what constitutes reliable, accurate and verifiable information. In the second semester you design a research proposal drawing on the lessons from the first semester. This will then form the foundation for you researching and writing a dissertation over the summer.

Human Rights: Architectures, Actors, Activism

30 credits

This module is one of two core modules for students on the MA Human Rights, and can be taken as an option by some students in related fields who are interested in learning about the human rights architecture, its actors and their activism. It is aimed at clarifying central themes in the history and evolution of human rights, and looks also at the institutions and mechanisms operating at the international and regional levels to protect, promote and defend human rights. Through case studies, you will learn about the roles, functions and activities of key human rights actors and institutions at the international, regional and domestic levels. The module will include a critical evaluation of the challenges facing human rights actors and institutions in defending, protecting and promoting human rights and end with a critical consideration of the interplay between human rights actors, institutions and activism.

Strategies for Achieving Human Rights

30 credits

This module is one of two core modules for the students on the MA Human Rights, and can be taken as an option by some students in related fields who are interested in learning about practical strategies for campaigning for human rights. The main premise of this module is to critically assess the possibility of achieving human rights in various different contexts. You will explore what is meant by human rights and the protection of human rights. You will consider, in detail, the scope and content of a number of core rights. Through case studies illustrating various campaign methods and strategies, you will gain practical knowledge of how to design and deliver campaigns that have impact. You will simulate practitioners in the field and gain relevant expertise in campaign design. This module blends contemporary debates and contested issues with practical strategies of how to achieve the protection of human rights.

Option modules (choose one)

Crime, Harm and Justice

30 credits

This is a core module on the MA Criminology programme that aims to deconstruct the fundamental elements of criminology. In so doing, it develops a critical understanding of the concepts of ‘crime', ‘offender' and ‘victim', and their relationship to each other and to broader concepts of ‘harm'. The first part of the module explores a range of contemporary issues in crime and victimisation, fostering a critical awareness of their theoretical underpinning and of the role of power in defining and enforcing crime, and in labelling offenders and victims.  

In the second part of the module you will engage critically with the concept of ‘justice' and criminological debates concerning to what extent justice is or is not accomplished through formal responses to crime. Within this section you will study the development, transformation, and the politics of policing as the gate keeping institution to ‘justice'. You will then study the philosophical justifications to punish, its theoretical explanations, and analyse its historical and contemporary forms. The module recognises the increasingly international nature of crime control and incorporates a comparative analysis of criminal justice. In so doing you will think critically about the role of structure and agency in understanding convergent and divergent practice in crime control and punishment.

Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

30 credits

This module will be examining some deeply troubling events in recent history and politics and the various ethical, legal and political responses that they have generated. It has been argued that the Holocaust was a critical turning point, a catastrophe which required a fundamental ethical, legal and political rethinking of how the rights of human beings could be protected when states in the modern world engage in the systematic attempt to murder large numbers of people, including many of their own citizens. The module begins with reflections on the Nazi attempt to eliminate a whole group of people (the Jews) and to murder and enslave millions of others. It then considers a range of responses, including the Nuremberg trials, the Genocide Convention, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It examines a number of cases of genocide and crimes against humanity that have nevertheless occurred subsequently. It evaluates the repeated failure for decades to halt or prevent these crimes and then considers the rethinking caused by the genocides in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and the setting up of ad hoc tribunals and an International Criminal Court to prosecute perpetrators and provide justice to victims. It concludes with reflections on how much progress has been made in protecting citizens in a world of sovereign nation states and what forms of justice can work after such crimes have been committed. These are highly contested questions and the module is designed to encourage the critical analysis and evaluation of a wide range of arguments that have been put forward from a variety of perspectives.

Conflict Theory and Resolution

30 credits

This module covers two aspects key to understanding and managing conflict within international relations.  First, it looks at theoretical and analytical approaches to conflict.  Drawing on insights from a range of social science disciplines – including history, psychology, anthropology, sociology, politics and international relations – this module critically examines the range of theories that have been put forward to explain how conflict arises and how it escalates.  It also explores the way in which identity (such as religion and ethnicity), structural inequality, frustration and aggression can all play a part in creating the conditions for confrontation and conflict.  Second, the module explores the wide range of ways in which international conflict can be managed and resolved and how a sustainable peace can be built in post-conflict situations. The module therefore explores topics such as

  • The role of international law and international organisations in the management of conflict;
  • The prevention and containment of conflict;
  • Humanitarian intervention and peacekeeping;
  • Mediation and negotiation;
  • The role of NGOs and aid organisations in conflict; and
  • Reconciliation and reconstruction.
Contemporary Issues and Case Studies in Security and Conflict

30 credits

This module approaches questions of security and conflict in the contemporary world by providing opportunities for their in-depth analysis in two contrasting ways: first, by focussing on a range of contemporary issues and dynamics raised by recent conflicts and security questions, each of them discussed with the help of a range of contrasting examples. Then, the second part of the module will provide an opportunity to explore two cases of conflicts and/or security crises, the study of which will allow in-depth discussion several of the issues explored in the first part of the module together.

Both parts of the module provide opportunities to use and challenge various theoretical and conceptual approaches of conflict and security issues at an advanced level. The range of issues analysed and studied in the first half of the module, as well as the choice of case studies selected each year for the second half, will evolve through time, but both will offer rich and contrasting grounds for an in-depth practical and critical understanding of contemporary security and conflict situations and management.

So for instance, issues, themes and dynamics explored and analysed in the first half will include: New forms of conflict in the post-Cold War period; Ethnicity and national citizenship in contemporary conflicts; Terrorism, insurgency and political violence; Issues of gender in conflict; Sovereignty, the Nation-State and international intervention; New forms of international conflict management,  etc… Then, in the second half of the module, examples of case studies which will be developed may include: Recent conflicts in West Africa; Conflicts in Bosnia; the Northern Ireland conflict; etc. In analysing each of these conflicts, several of the issues and themes developed in the first part will be highlighted and explored within the case study itself – for instance the West African conflicts case study will provide ample opportunities to revisit and discuss issues such as ‘New forms of conflicts in the post-war period'; ‘Refugees, mass migration and citizenship', ‘Ethnicity and national citizenship in contemporary conflicts'. Students select two case studies in the second part of the module.

Terrorism, Political Violence and Human Rights

30 credits

This module introduces you to the study of terrorism and political violence, and engages with the primary debates in the field. The first half of the module addresses definitional, epistemological and methodological issues raised by the study of political violence. The module will also outline the history of modern political violence and the evolution of the way it has been defined and studied. In this context, the module will explore the nature and evolution of various forms of contemporary political violence, including: wars; ‘new wars'; insurgency and counterinsurgency; irregular warfare; guerrilla warfare; state and non-state terrorism; and counter-terrorism. Throughout, focus will be given to a range of mainstream and critical approaches to the field, ensuring that you become aware of the rich variety of perspectives which can be adopted in relation to the subject. In the second half of the module, time will be given to examining a range of human rights issues and debates which arise in relation to political violence and terrorism.

From State to Global Politics

30 credits

This module will enable you to acquire a thorough understanding of the multifaceted character of politics by outlining key orthodox and critical paradigms in political theory as well as examining different normative frameworks within an evolving global politics. It combines the examination of theories and ideologies concerning the state with a historical and issue-based exploration of the interplay between different political actors including states, intergovernmental organisations, multinational corporations, NGOs and the civil society in the context of normative frameworks for global governance.

The Theory and Practice of International Relations

30 credits

This module is a core module for the MSc International Relations.  It can be taken as an option module by those studying in related masters fields.

How do we understand the contemporary international system?  The module: 1) explains and critiques a number of the leading theories that have been put forward to explain how the international system operates; and 2) applies those theories to a series of case studies. This combination facilitates the exploration of international relations through the practical application of theoretical standpoints.

In the first part of the module we explore the key ideas and philosophies underpinning the study of international relations (IR), including:

-          traditional realist theories of interstate relations and great power politics;

-          Marxist inspired theories of structural inequalities;

-          contemporary pluralist theories focusing on the interaction of state and non-state actors.

In the second part we apply the theories explore in Part 1 to a series of student led international relations case studies of major international issues, both historically and contemporary. The cases will be chosen by you with guidance from the module leader.

As a bridge between Part 1 and Part 2 the students will explore a case study provided by the module leader to give you a framework for what is expected in the student led case studies.

Working within the Human Rights Movement

30 credits

You have the opportunity in this module to gain valuable placement experience in human rights or political communication organisations which use these, and reflect critically on this.

The information above reflects the currently intended course structure and module details. Updates may be made on an annual basis and revised details will be published through Programme Specifications ahead of each academic year. The regulations governing this course are available on our website. If we have insufficient numbers of students interested in an optional module, this may not be offered.

What our graduates say

My decision to study at Kingston was influenced by several factors. The course content played an important part, as it covered areas that interested me, but the fact that it was taught by practitioners was another big factor.

The standards on the course were really high, and the amount of work and reading that we had to do was enormous, but it honestly paid off in the end. It made it easier to understand the importance of human rights and made the course even more challenging.

My placement with World Development Movement was also a really interesting experience. As I came from a business environment, working in a non-governmental organisation (NGO) helped me to understand how an NGO functions.

Having an MA has helped me a lot. Since graduating I am now working with Amnesty International and can already feel the benefit of the course. I understand the international, national and regional mechanisms of human rights, the importance of a public campaign, the logic behind lobbying and action plans and the importance of the law to protect and defend human rights. I believe the MA Human Rights course is a key for opening doors.

Monica Vecchi - Human Rights MA

Entry requirements

Typical offer

One or more of the following:

  • a second class degree or above or equivalent; and/or
  • relevant non-certified learning or work experience

We particularly welcome applications from people working in human rights organisations.

Prior learning - AP(E)L

Applicants with prior qualifications and learning may be exempt from appropriate parts of a course in accordance with the University's policy for the assessment of prior learning and prior experiential learning. Contact the faculty office for further information.

Pre-Masters programme

If you don't meet these entry requirements, our Pre-Masters programme can prepare you for the course.

International

Please note: most students from countries outside the European Union/European Economic Area and classified as overseas fee paying, are not eligible to apply for part-time courses due to UK student visa regulations. For information on exceptions please visit the UKCISA website or email our CAS and Visa Compliance team.

All non-UK applicants must meet our English language requirement, which is Academic IELTS of 6.5 overall with no element below 5.5. Make sure you read our full guidance about English language requirements, which includes details of other qualifications we consider.

Applicants who do not meet the English language requirements could be eligible to join our pre-sessional English language course.

Applicants from a recognised majority English speaking countries (MESCs) do not need to meet these requirements.

Teaching and assessment

Guided independent study

When not attending timetabled sessions you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. This typically will involve reading journal articles and books, working on individual and group projects, preparing coursework assignments and presentations, and preparing for exams. Your independent learning is supported by a range of excellent facilities including online resources, the library and CANVAS, the online virtual learning platform.

Support for postgraduate students

As a student at Kingston University, we will make sure you have access to appropriate advice regarding your academic development. You will also be able to use the University's support services

Your workload

10% of your time is spent in timetabled teaching and learning activity

Type of teaching and learning

Type of teaching and learning
  • Guided independent study: 1613 hours
  • Scheduled teaching and learning: 187 hours

Contact hours may vary depending on your modules.

How you will be assessed

Assessment typically comprises practical assessments (eg presentations, performance) and coursework (eg essays, reports, self-assessment, portfolios, dissertation). The approximate percentage for how you will be assessed on this course is as follows, though depends to some extent on the optional modules you choose:

Type of assessment

Type of assessment
  • Coursework: 90%
  • Practical: 10%

Feedback summary

We aim to provide feedback on assessments within 20 working days.

Your timetables

Each student receives a personalised timetable. This is usually available after you have completed your online enrolment, which is typically accessible one month before the start of your course.

Class sizes

You will be part of an intimate cohort of students which supports dedicated academic guidance and advice and the opportunity to build a life-long network of colleagues. Some modules are common across other postgraduate programmes therefore you will be taught alongside students who are on these courses within the School.

Who teaches this course?

You will be taught by an experienced teaching team whose expertise and knowledge are closely matched to the content of the modules on this course. The team includes senior academics and professional practitioners with industry experience. The following group of staff members are currently involved in the delivery of different elements of this course. This pool is subject to change at any time within the academic year.

Fees for this course

Home and European Union 2020/21

  • MA full time £8,190
  • MA part time £4,504

Overseas (not EU) 2020/21

  • MA full time £14,500
  • MA part time £7,975

Funding and bursaries

Kingston University offers a range of postgraduate scholarships, including:

If you are an international student, find out more about scholarships and bursaries.

We also offer the following discounts for Kingston University alumni: