LL4AW      Half Unit
Foundations of International Human Rights Law

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Susan Marks


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Human Rights and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is part of the following LLM specialisms: Public International Law, Human Rights Law.

This course has a limited number of places and we cannot guarantee all students will get a place.




Course content

The course provides an introduction to key developments, issues and ideas that have given shape to the regime of international human rights law. We consider enduring debates around the foundations and universality of human rights, and look at a range of controversies relating to the interpretation and application of human rights treaties. Through the study of relevant concepts, norms, processes and debates, students are encouraged to develop an informed and critical assessment of the significance of international human rights law as a force for emancipatory change.


This course will have two hours of teaching content each week in Michaelmas Term, either in the form of a two hour seminar or an online lecture and one hour class. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term.

Students are expected to have done the set reading and be willing to participate in discussion.

Formative coursework

Class exercises will be set.

Indicative reading

Reading lists will be provided for each seminar on Moodle. Relevant readings may include: Charles Beitz, The Idea of Human Rights (2009); Conor Gearty and Costas Douzinas (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Human Rights Law (2012); and Philip Alston and Frédéric Mégret, The United Nations and Human Rights: A Critical Appraisal (2017).


Assessment will be based on submission of an 8,000 word essay.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills