Approaches to Human Rights

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Monika Krause STC S207


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Human Rights. This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Gender, Peace and Security, MSc in International Migration and Public Policy, MSc in International Migration and Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po) 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 has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). Students who have this course as a core course are guaranteed a place. Other than for students for whom the course is a core course, places are allocated based on a written statement. As demand is typically high, this may mean that not all students who apply will be able to get a place on this 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 and investigates the particular knowledge claims and modes of reasoning that the respective disciplines engage. The course applies the insights of international law, philosophy and sociology to understand key human rights issues such as universality, international institutions, genocide, non-discrimination, economic and social rights and citizenship.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures, online materials and seminars totalling a minimum of 40 hours across MT and LT, with 1 hour in ST.

Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in MT Week 6 and LT Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

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 summer exam period.
Essay (30%, 3000 words) in the ST.

An electronic copy of the assessed essay, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the first Tuesday of Summer Term. 

Attendance at all classes and submission of all set coursework is required.

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.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 6.8
Merit 73.2
Pass 20
Fail 0

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: Sociology

Total students 2020/21: 45

Average class size 2020/21: 15

Controlled access 2020/21: 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