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Understanding and Securing Human Rights

MA, PGDip and PGCert

This intellectually rigorous master's degree explores human rights from a diverse range of fields, including law, international relations, development and environmental justice.

This career-orientated and practice-focused MA will develop the next generation of human rights professionals by developing critical thinking alongside practical, solution-based skills, including campaigning, fundraising, legal analysis and research.

people protesting
Explore human rights from a diverse range of fields, including law, international relations, development and environmental justice.

Our cutting-edge and interdisciplinary approach widens the frame of debate, providing an extensive range of perspectives through which to understand contemporary human rights issues.

Course details

  • MA: You study 7 modules (3 compulsory, 3 electives, 1 dissertation).
  • PGDip: You study 6 modules (3 compulsory, 3 elective).
  • PGCert: You study 3 compulsory modules (excluding dissertation).

Each module runs for 18 weeks, starting in September or February.

View Modules

The programme is available online and is fully supported by a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), as well as study materials and help from academic staff. It allows you to study anywhere in the world and fit your studies around your other commitments.

Study materials

You receive individual module handbooks, assessment activities and digitised readings. The primary text for the first core module is a book, which will be a useful reference point throughout your studies.

For each module, you will be able to discuss your work with fellow students and tutors. Expert tuition is provided via podcasts and videos from leading academics.

Online support

When you register, we will give you access to your Student Portal. You can then access your University of London email account and two other key resources:

  • The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) enables access to course materials, resources, and forums to discuss course material and work collaboratively with others. Tutors are available to answer queries and promote discussion during the study year through the VLE.
  • The Online Library holds thousands of journal articles which you can access free of charge. A dedicated helpdesk is available if you have any difficulties in finding what you need.

Your time commitment

All modules run during two 18-week study sessions throughout the year. You register for up to two modules per session and should expect to devote between 15-20 hours per week to your studies during these periods.


  • Understanding Human Rights / Translating Human Rights into International Law: assessed by a seen written exam (70% of the grade) and two E-tivities (30%).
  • Securing Human Rights: assessed by two equally-weighted items of coursework (70% of the grade) and two E-tivities (30%).
  • All elective modules: assessed by one item of coursework (70% of the grade) and two E-tivities (30%).
  • Dissertation: assessed by a research proposal (15% of the grade) and a written thesis (85%).

Examinations are held twice a year (usually January and June) at exam centres located all around the world.

More about exams.

What qualifications do you need?

You will need either a bachelor degree in a relevant discipline from an institution acceptable to the University or relevant education and work experience that comprises suitable training for the programme.

If you have a qualification in an unrelated subject or an unconventional career path with diverse work experience, we will consider your application on its own merits.

English Language requirements

If your first degree was not taught in English, you will need to provide evidence of language ability as tested by the British Council or another registered body. This is equivalent to a score of 7.0 overall in the iELTS test, or 7.0 in both reading and writing.

Computer requirements

We set minimum basic computer requirements because your study resources are accessed via the Student Portal and it is vital that you can access this regularly. Certain courses may have additional requirements, such as software to manage spreadsheets and run macros.

See more about computer requirements.

The fees below apply if you begin during the 2018-2019 session and are subject to annual review.

Full course fee 
Postgraduate Diploma£6,480
Postgraduate Certificate£3,240
Pay per module 
Core / Elective module fee£1,080
Dissertation fee£1,620
Other fees (where relevant) 
Examination resit fee£230
Dissertation resubmission£230
Dissertation second deferral£230

Disclaimer: Currency conversion tool.

Additional Costs

You will also need to budget for examination centre fees, which are paid directly to the venues where you sit your exams.

We accept most traditional payment methods, including debit/credit card, international money order, and Western Union.

How to pay your fees.

This MA enables you to combine your studies with your ongoing professional and domestic commitments. This programme is designed for those who wish to pursue careers in a range of professional contexts in the human rights or humanitarian fields.

Graduates of the on-campus MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights have gone on to work for an impressive range of organisations, including major international NGOs like Amnesty International, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth and Anti-Slavery International, several UN agencies, businesses, academia and in government.

What do employers think of our graduates?

The School of Advanced Study unites ten specialist humanities and social science research Institutes at the University of London. It is the only institution of its kind in the United Kingdom, nationally funded to promote and facilitate research in the humanities and social sciences.

The Human Rights Consortium (HRC) of the School of Advanced Study was established to facilitate and promote inter-disciplinary research in human rights nationally and internationally. The Consortium's mandate includes:

  • organising and supporting events on human rights;
  • disseminating research on human rights;
  • fostering national and international networks of human rights researchers;
  • hosting visiting fellows working in human rights;
  • training research students, and enhancing the learning environment for graduate students;
  • raising funds in support of human rights research and research support.

Academic leaders

Dr Corinne Lennox is a Senior Lecturer in Human Rights and convenes the MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights. She also is Associate Director of the Human Rights Consortium. Her research focuses on issues of minority and indigenous rights protection, civil society mobilisation for human rights, and human rights and development.

Dr Damien Short is Director of the Human Rights Consortium (HRC) and a Reader in Human Rights at the School of Advanced Study. He has spent his professional career working in the field of human rights, both as a scholar and as a human rights advocate. He has published extensively in the areas of indigenous peoples’ rights, genocide studies, reconciliation projects and environmental human rights.

Without the cost of moving to London, studying for your University of London degree anywhere in the world represents excellent value for money. However, there are additional sources of support depending on where you live and how you choose to study.

If you are a UK or EU national and you have lived in England for three years, you could be eligible to apply for a Postgraduate Loan.

More on funding your study.

Can I get sponsored?

If you're employed, your employer may be willing to cover part/all of the programme fees if you can make a compelling case as to how this programme will boost your contribution to the workplace.

Our courses are ideal for employers because they get to retain you as an employee and benefit from your learning from the moment you begin.

How can I get sponsored by my employer?

SAS Activist Scholar Bursary

Two bursaries are available for the new MA Understanding and Securing Human Rights by distance learning.

The awards are worth 50 per cent of module fees for the MA programme (worth £4,050)

The bursaries are offered competitively and are available for talented students of any nationality.

Find out more about the SAS Activist Scholar Bursary

Hear from the programme director

Dr Damien Short and Dr Corinne Lennox, Programme Directors, MA Understanding and Securing Human Rights

We encourage students to explore their areas of interest. A lot of our assignments enable you to explore something you're passionate about.

The School of Advanced Study's Dr Corinne Lennox

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