Approaches to Human Rights

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Mai Taha STC S206 and Prof Monika Krause STC S207


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Human Rights. This course is available on the MSc in Gender, Peace and Security, MSc in International Migration and Public Policy and MSc in International Migration and Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po). 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 AT and WT, with 1 hour in ST.

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

Formative coursework

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

Students will have an opportunity to submit a formative essay in the AT.

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).


  • 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.


  • 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 spring 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 Spring Term. 

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

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2022/23: 47

Average class size 2022/23: 23

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Value: One 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

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