LL4AW      Half Unit
Foundations of International Human Rights Law

This information is for the 2023/24 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 Gender (Rights and Human Rights), 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 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 about 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 comprise one two-hour seminar each week in Autumn Term, except in Week 6, which is a Reading Week.

Students are expected to have done the set reading prior to each seminar and be willing to take active part in class discussion.

Formative coursework

Class exercises (which do not count towards the final assessment) will be set.

Indicative reading

Reading lists will be provided for each seminar on Moodle. Relevant readings may include: Conor Gearty and Costas Douzinas (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Human Rights Law; Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History; Jessica Whyte, The Morals of the Market: Human Rights and the Rise of Neoliberalism; and Philip Alston and Frédéric Mégret, The United Nations and Human Rights: A Critical Appraisal.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the spring exam period.

Key facts

Department: Law School

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: Unavailable

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills