Approaches to Human Rights

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Chetan Bhatt TW3.8.02A


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Human Rights. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

The course is capped but a limited number of places are usually available to students from outside the MSc in Human Rights who wish to take this as an option. Priority is given to postgraduate students in the Sociology Department and those registered on the LLM. The course is also available as an outside option for other MSc degrees where regulations and numbers permit. Students from other programmes who wish to apply for a place on SO424 must complete the online application form on LSEforYou stating reasons for wishing to take the course.

Course content

This is a multi-disciplinary course that provides students with a rigorous and focused engagement with different disciplinary perspectives on the subject of human rights including philosophy, sociology and international law. It provides students with contending interpretations of human rights as an idea and practice from the different standpoints that the disciplines present (including debates from within and between the disciplines), and investigates the particular knowledge claims and modes of reasoning that the respective disciplines engage. The course applies the insights of disciplinary frameworks of understanding to key human rights issues such as universality, the right to life, free speech, humanitarian intervention, war, genocide, human rights activism, globalization, and states of emergency.


10 hours of lectures and 18 hours of seminars in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 20 hours of seminars in the LT. 1 hour of lectures and 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

Reading weeks: week 6 MT and week 6 LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT and 1 essay in the LT.

Active participation in the workshops is expected and students will be asked to make a presentation to their group.

Indicative reading

Indicative reading: No one book covers the entire syllabus and students are expected to read widely from more general texts on human rights, to more specific texts outlining the debates on human rights from a particular disciplinary perspective.

Introductory reading: Jack Donnelly, Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice; Michael Freeman, Human Rights; Philip Alston and Ryan Goodman, International Human Rights (2013).

Philosophy: P. Jones, Rights, (1994); A. Swift, Political Philosophy: A Beginners' Guide for Students and Politicians, (2006).

International Law: A. Cassese, International Law, 2nd ed. (2005), chapter 19; P. Sieghart, The Lawful Rights of Mankind (1985), S.Greer, The European Convention on Human Rights - Achievements, Problems and Prospects, Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Sociology: L. Morris, Rights: Sociological Perspectives (2006); B. Turner, Vulnerability and Human Rights (2006); A. Woodiwiss, Human Rights (2005).


Exam (70%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (30%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Two hard copies of the assessed essay, with submission sheets attached to each, to be handed in to Sara Ulfsparre, Centre for the Study of Human Rights, TW3.8.02, no later than 16:30 on the first Tuesday of Summer Term. An additional copy to be uploaded to Moodle no later than 18:00 on the same day.

Student performance results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 10.5
Merit 72.8
Pass 14.7
Fail 2.1

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2015/16: 63

Average class size 2015/16: 31

Controlled access 2015/16: Yes

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills