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MSc Human Rights

About the MSc programme

The MSc Human Rights is a unique multidisciplinary programme that provides a concentrated year-long engagement with the foundations of human rights and key human rights issues. It is taught by leading scholars in the field. Human rights are not just an object of study, but also a matter of policy, intervention and practice. The programme links theory and practice in a multidisciplinary way and aims to equip students with knowledge of the key legal, sociological and philosophical issues relevant to human rights. During the programme, students will engage in an academically rigorous way with some of the most compelling issues in contemporary human rights. The MSc Human Rights is unique in linking legal, philosophical, sociological and political perspectives on human rights though a rigorous and analytical approach.

The degree will provide you with:

  • relevant background knowledge in sociology, philosophy and law
  • specialised knowledge in human rights thematic topics
  • focused engagement with the subject that you choose for your research dissertation
  • exposure to key national and international debates about human rights

Preference will be given to applicants with a good first degree in a core social science subject or law. We will consider applicants with a good first degree in any discipline who have (and can demonstrate) a special interest and/or practical experience in human rights.

The programme is run by the Centre for the Study of Human Rights. In addition to teaching and research, the centre runs a very active public events programme which includes public lectures, visiting speaker seminars and conferences involving the leading human rights academics and practitioners in the world. MSc Human Rights students also benefit from masterclasses and guest practitioner seminars organised throughout the year exclusively for students on the programme. MSc Human Rights students also have the opportunity to engage with visiting scholars and practitioners from the public, private and non-governmental sectors who are based at the centre. Through the Centre for the Study of Human Rights, students will have contact with policy makers and practitioners, especially those from London based human rights organisations. The Centre has an active research programme on which MSc students assist from time to time. Visit lse.ac.uk/humanRights for further information about the Centre for the Study of Human Rights.

Many staff work with activist and advocacy organisations. The degree programme is not, however, strictly vocational, nor does it offer any professional qualifications, whether in law or for the human rights practitioner. We offer you in depth graduate studies that serve as a guide to critical thinking about human rights.

Programme details

The compulsory multidisciplinary human rights core course, "Approaches to Human Rights", provides students with an overview of the philosophical, sociological and legal approaches to this subject. The course gets students thinking about the foundations, concepts and ideals of human rights, while taking a critical view of them as an academic subject and area of practice. The course serves as an introduction to the core standards and structures of human rights and discusses a range of key issues in the current, ongoing debates about the role of human rights. While these may change from year to year, thematic issues that the core course covers include: genocide, humanitarian intervention, militarism, war and warfare, religion, culture and human rights and transitional justice. The course provides a strong intellectual underpinning for your multidisciplinary study of human rights, which will be built on in your optional choice of courses and dissertation.

Professor Chetan Bhatt (sociology), Dr Ayça Çubukçu (sociology) and Dr Margot Salomon (international law) are the central course lecturers. LSE staff who are members of the Centre's Advisory Board are also working actively on research and policy projects in human rights and closely related areas and bring a rich array of expertise to the Centre and our students. A selection of topics that staff research are: climate change and human rights, conflict resolution, criminal justice policy, democratisation, development, ethical foreign policy, ethnic nationalism, genocide, globalisation and global government, hate speech and freedom of expression, media and public reactions to atrocities, minority and indigenous rights, policing, refugee and asylum studies, religious rights, terrorism, transitional justice, torture, women's human rights, humanitarian interventions, human rights movements, and world poverty.

In addition to the core course and optional courses, students write a 10,000 word dissertation, assessed as the equivalent of a whole course. You can choose any human rights subject that interests you, and you may take either an interdisciplinary approach or one that is more sociological, legal or philosophical, using original research or secondary sources. After consultation with your assigned supervisor, your topic is approved at the end of the second term. You will normally get started on the dissertation in the spring, but do most of the work in the summer months before the dissertation is submitted in August 2016. A wide range of human rights topics and approaches is welcome, from the theoretical to the practical.  We also encourage students to address key human rights issues through the lens of a particular case study, social problem or body of law. In recent years, subjects have included: reporting and representing genocide and mass atrocities, objectivity and bystander apathy; changes in American foreign policy in the Middle East after September 11; international financial institutions in sub-Saharan Africa; Japanese social structure and women's human rights; public protest and the freedom of political expression in the UK; the human rights role of the UN Security Council; transitional justice, child soldiers and African conflicts.

Compulsory courses

Students will be expected to choose courses to the value of two units from a range of options offered by the LSE departments and institutes associated with the Centre for the Study of Human Rights including the Department of Anthropology, Department of International Development, European Institute, Gender Institute, Department of Government, Department of International Relations, Department of Law, Department of Social Policy and Department of Sociology.

You can find the most up-to-date list of optional courses for MSc Human Rights in the Programme Regulations section of the current School Calendar.

You must note however that while care has been taken to ensure that this information is up to date and correct, some circumstances may cause the School to subsequently change, suspend or withdraw a course or programme of study, or change the fees that apply to it. The School will neither be liable for information that after publication becomes inaccurate or irrelevant, nor for changing, suspending or withdrawing a course or programme of study due to circumstances outside of its control. You must also note that places are limited on some courses and/or subject to specific entry requirements. The School cannot therefore guarantee places on its courses. You should visit the School's Calendar, or contact the relevant academic department, for information on the availability and/or content of courses and programmes of study. Certain substantive changes will be listed on the Updated graduate course and programme information page.

Graduate destinations

The degree will provide a strong foundation for a variety of academic and non-academic careers, including in: law, especially international law and advocacy (albeit usually with other qualifications); foreign policy; working for activist organisations in the humanitarian sector; international and domestic human rights; development; civil liberties; welfare; as well as in specialised agencies concerned with, for example, refugees; women's rights; torture victims; children's rights. During the programme, you will have opportunities to meet alumni of the MSc Human Rights who are working in a range of international, government and non-governmental organisations.


Application code: L3U9 (check availability)

Start date: 22 September 2016

Duration: 12 months full-time, 24 months part-time

Intake/applications in 2014: 59/273

Minimum entry requirement: 2:1 degree in law or any social science subject, or a degree in another discipline with demonstrable special interest in human rights or relevant experience as a practitioner (see entry requirements)

English requirement: Standard (see English requirements)

GRE/GMAT requirement: None

Fee level: UK/EU £14,208; overseas £20,736

Financial support: Graduate Support Scheme (see Fees and financial support)

Application deadline: None – rolling admissions