The side of the Radcliffe Camera through a black gate
The Radcliffe Camera, seen from the Bodleian Quad
(Image Credit: Christopher Wills)

MSc in International Human Rights Law

About the course

This is a part-time degree offered over two academic years. It is designed in particular for lawyers and other human rights advocates who wish to pursue advanced studies in international human rights law but may need to do so alongside work responsibilities.

The MSc in International Human Rights Law is offered by the Faculty of Law. This course was previously offered by the Department for Continuing Education as an MSt, in association with the Faculty of Law. There have been no changes to the established admissions requirements, mode of examination, course offerings, curriculum, or directorship of the programme.  

This course includes two periods of online distance learning as well as two summer residentials held at New College, Oxford.

A central objective of the course is to ensure that you not only know about but can also effectively and expertly apply human rights law. The curriculum places equal emphasis on the substance of human rights law, its implementation and research. 

Students come from all over the world and from a variety of advocacy settings; from various international and non-governmental organisations, governments, universities, foundations, the media, the armed forces, medicine and other fields and from private and corporate practice. The faculty is also diverse and includes internationally recognised human rights scholars and advocates. The programme seeks the widest possible diversity among both students and tutors.

The first period of distance learning comprises guided online study over two terms, with each of its units including reading periods followed by tutor-guided asynchronous seminars.

For the second period of distance learning students work independently on researching and writing their dissertation with one-to-one online support from their supervisor.

For both periods of distance learning, students will require consistent, ready and reliable internet access.

Summer residentials in Oxford comprise three weeks of tutor-led small group seminars plus a week for independent revision and two exams. In addition, the first summer session includes dissertation-related exercises to prepare students for the independent dissertation work they will undertake in their second year.

Past students have found it beneficial to immerse themselves within the MSc in International Human Rights Law community during the residential sessions. If your personal circumstances permit therefore, we strongly encourage you to consider booking your accommodation during the residential sessions with New College, which will be facilitated by the course organisers. This may help you to benefit from what the course offers in terms of additional opportunities for discursive engagement and networking. Lunches and dinners are already included in the course fee and will also be provided at New College. If you have any concerns around this, for example regarding dietary restrictions, please get in touch with the Course Administrator to discuss them.

Supervision

An important person in helping your intellectual development during the degree programme will be your academic supervisor. This person will oversee your academic work and submit progress reports.

For the first three terms of your degree, your academic supervisor will be your tutor for the online Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law course. For the next two terms, your academic supervisor will be the person allocated to supervise your dissertation. The allocation is dependent on the subject area of your dissertation. For the final term, your supervisor is expected to be another Oxford University faculty member.

For this course, the allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Law Faculty and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff.

Efforts will be made to meet the preferences of graduate students to work with a particular member of the course team for the dissertation. Tutors and supervisors join as academic contributors to the programme from around the world, and there is therefore a wide range of experts supporting its offerings.

Assessment

The degree is assessed by coursework (20%), examinations (50%) and a dissertation (30%).

Your first period of distance learning is assessed by way of assignments, and the second by way of a dissertation. You will sit two examinations during each of the two summer residentials.

Graduate destinations

Students have gone on to work as prosecutors and defence lawyers at the International Criminal Court, other UN criminal tribunals, and various regional human rights bodies. They work in private and multi-national corporate practice; in various ministries in their national governments and as UN officials ranging from refugee legal protection officers to country representatives. Others are judges, university professors, lawyers with their national armed forces, heads of NGOs and journalists.

Graduates from the course also include economists, obstetricians, epidemiologists, psychiatrists and forensic anthropologists. They are senior advisors in government around the world, Foreign Ministries, Defence Ministries and each and every one of the regional human rights bodies. They are defence counsel at Guantanamo Bay, do front-line community work in Afghanistan and emergency co-ordination in Sudan, Haiti and many other places. They represent indigenous peoples in northern Canada, Western Australia, the Philippines and Brazil.

Changes to this course and your supervision

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

Applicants are normally expected to have achieved the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any relevant subject.

Applicants with a lower second-class (2.2) degree or a GPA lower than 3.0 are unlikely to be admitted. This is the case even if you took your degree long ago, have extensive experience or hold a senior position.

The degree is designed primarily for mid-career lawyers (with at least 3 years full-time human rights law experience or its equivalent) and the majority of admitted students have a legal background and experience of international human rights law. However, in certain circumstances, applications from persons with degrees in other subjects who have extensive human rights experience will be considered.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Professional experience is a requirement for admission. Work experience in human rights may be either paid or voluntary. No matter how outstanding your academic record, if you cannot demonstrate a commitment to human rights based on your work, volunteer activities or concentration on human rights and international law at university, you are unlikely to be admitted. The selection committee looks closely at your statement of purpose and your CV/résumé to assess your eligibility. 
  • Publications are not required for admission to this course but may be helpful. 
  • Your degree experience will be enriched by the diversity of your classmates. How one views human rights is influenced by one’s background. Diversity means more than gender and nationality, although these of course are considered. The sector you work in is also important, as are other factors. The course does not ‘preach to the converted’ and applicants from all ideological, religious and cultural backgrounds are welcome. Diversity is an important admissions criterion but your academic record, work experience and commitment to the advancement of human rights are more so.

English language proficiency

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.

Declaring extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

References

You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.  

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.

An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed

Shortlisting and selection

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
  • country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

Other factors governing whether places can be offered

The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
  • the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
  • minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.

Offer conditions for successful applications

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions

In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Resources

Members of the University are entitled to use a wide range of academic, welfare, social and sporting facilities. This includes access to the University’s main reference library, the Bodleian Library, and the Bodleian Law Library which keeps also extensive electronic resources.

In addition to the services and facilities offered by the central University and the Faculty of Law, you will also be entitled to use the resources and facilities at  your college. Apart from the Bodleian Law Library, the Law Faculty building also houses a café/study space and the Faculty itself organises many academic events intended for graduate students (mainly in the form of ‘discussion groups’), some of which are available online. The Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, which is part of the Faculty of Law, convenes a range of interesting events and seminars during the year focused specifically on topics related to human rights, the rule of law and democracy, some of which are hosted online. Students on the course would be welcome to attend these events.

The Law Library offers the vast majority of its holdings - some 550,000 items - on open shelves across four floors. Selected low-use material is housed in a book storage facility and is retrievable within half a day. The library serves a large community of graduate readers and academics in their research requirements. The strength of the collection lies in the depth of its UK holdings, combined with extensive holdings for European and Commonwealth jurisdictions. In addition the library holds materials relating to international law, Roman law, and jurisprudence. To complement the paper collection, the Law Library provides a wide range of online legal resources. The Bodleian’s collection of Official Papers is also housed in the Law Library.

The library has 40 reader workstations, which provide access to the internet, legal databases, and Microsoft Office applications. There is a Graduate Reading Room, a large seminar room, two IT rooms and three small ‘discussion rooms’ for private study or group work. The wireless network extends throughout the library. The law librarians offer a range of classes and one-to-one sessions to support the specific research needs of graduate students.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.

Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the faculty's website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2023-24

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£15,455
Overseas£15,455

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

Information about course fees

Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

Deposits

If your application is successful, you will be asked to pay a deposit against your course fees at the application stage as a condition of your offer. The deposit amount and date by which payment must be made are shown below.

Amount of deposit

Date by which deposit must be paid

£1,000 15th May 2023

The department's website provides further information about deposits for this course.

Where can I find further information about fees?

The Fees and Funding section of this website provides further information about course fees, including information about fee status and eligibility and your length of fee liability.

Additional information

This course has residential sessions in Oxford so you will need to meet any travel, accommodation and breakfast costs you will incur in attending these sessions. The tuition fee includes the cost of all compulsory reading materials plus lunches and dinners at the summer residential sessions. Students will need to pay accommodation (‘bed and breakfast’) costs whilst attending the summer residential sessions (five weeks in Year 1 and four weeks in Year 2). Accommodation is usually offered to students on the MSc by New College, and this accommodation is likely to cost approximately £55 daily (‘bed and breakfast’) for each of the two summer residential sessions – approximately £2,000 per residential. Students who wish to make other arrangements will need to book accommodation in central Oxford. The estimated cost of this is approximately £2,000 to £3,500 per residential. Further, as part of your course requirements, you will need to choose a dissertation topic. Depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.

College preference

All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). 

For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges. 

The following colleges accept students on the MSc in International Human Rights Law:

Before you apply

Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. We recommend that you submit your application well in advance - two or three weeks earlier. 

Application fee waivers

An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:

  • applicants from low-income countries;
  • refugees and displaced persons; 
  • UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and 
  • applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.

You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.

Contacting the department

You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.

Completing your application

You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.

Referees:
Three overall, academic and/or professional

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Your references should be from people who can provide an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. Professional references are acceptable as long as they are relevant to the course of study but academic references are preferable. Where possible, at least one reference should be from one of your academic advisors. Personal references, such as those from family and friends, are not acceptable.

If you are a current or recent master’s student, one of your referees should be your supervisor, teacher or course director from that master’s programme. If you do not provide a reference of this kind with your application, we will usually ask you to do so before completing the assessment of your application.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement and motivation.

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

You should include the titles of any publications on your CV/résumé, if you have them. Please do not include the text of any publications in the application.

Professional experience relevant to the course should be set out in your CV/résumé together with a summary of your qualifications, publications and any other experience relevant to your application.

Personal statement:
A maximum of 500 words

Your personal statement should be written in English and should explain your motivation for applying to this particular course and should focus on your academic, professional and voluntary experience in the human rights field.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for your education and work experience related to human rights, your reasons for applying and your career plans.

Start or continue your application

You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide Apply

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