MSt in International Human Rights Law | University of Oxford
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MSt in International Human Rights Law

About the course

This is a part-time degree offered over two academic years, involving both distance learning and summer schools. It is designed for lawyers and other human rights professionals who wish to pursue advanced studies in international human rights law.

This course is offered jointly by the Department for Continuing Education and the Faculty of Law. It is conducted on a part-time basis over two years and includes two periods of distance learning via the internet as well as two summer sessions held at New College, Oxford.

The course 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. A central objective of the course is to ensure that you not only know but can also use human rights law. The curriculum places roughly 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: in private and corporate practice, with various international and non-governmental organisations, the armed forces, universities, foundations, the media, medicine and other fields. The faculty is also diverse and includes internationally recognised human rights scholars and advocates. The department seeks the widest possible cultural, belief, identity and socio-economic diversity among both students and tutors.

The first period of distance learning comprises six units of guided online study each of four weeks duration. Each unit includes a reading period, tutor-guided online discussions and submission of a 2,000-word assignment. For the second period of distance learning students work independently on researching and writing their dissertation with one-to-one support from an online supervisor. Summer sessions in Oxford comprise three weeks of tutor-led small group seminars plus a week for independent revision and two examinations. In addition, the first summer session includes a further week of dissertation–related exercises to prepare students for the independent dissertation work they will undertake in their second year.

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

Graduate destinations

Students have gone on to work as prosecutors and defence lawyers at the International Criminal Court, other UN criminal tribunals, and the European and Inter-American Human Rights Courts. 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 advisors in the White House, the Australian Foreign Ministry, the German Defence Ministry and the EU Commissioner for Foreign Affairs. 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.

Other courses in this area

Changes to the course

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. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2019-20

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, 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 early and mid-career lawyers 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 you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

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

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

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


Publications are not required for admission to this course but may be helpful. 

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. 

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

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

  • The ability of the Department for Continuing Education to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Department for Continuing Education and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department for Continuing Education.

Students are likely to have different supervisors for each part of the course depending on class allocation/choices and of course it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

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

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

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.

This course is taught partly online and you will need to have reliable email and internet facilities plus access to a conventional computer (either a PC or a Mac) to submit coursework assignments. The computing facilities required to take this course are set out at the Department for Continuing Education support website. Advice about using mobile devices can also found on the site.


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 extensive electronic resources. In addition to the services and facilities offered by the central University, you will also be entitled to use the resources and facilities at your own college as well as those at the Department for Continuing Education at Rewley House.

Facilities at Rewley House Residential Centre include the Department for Continuing Education's Graduate School, a library (where dissertations are archived), online resources and accommodation - all of which may be useful for students who choose to come to Oxford during the year, in addition to the summer sessions.


There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

Further information on scholarships and funding opportunities specific to this course is also provided on the MSt IHRL funding webpage.


Annual fees for entry in 2019-20

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£13,480

The fees shown above are the annual course fees for this course, for entry in the stated academic year.

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. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.

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 likely increases to fees and charges.


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.

Fee status

Amount of deposit

Date by which deposit must be paid

(including Islands)
£1,00015 May 2019

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

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

This course has two summer residential sessions in Oxford. The course fee includes the cost of board and lodging at these sessions plus all compulsory reading materials. Students who do not stay in the accommodation provided at New College during the residential periods receive a reduction or refund of fees (please see the fees information on the course website for further details). You will need to meet any travel costs you may incur in attending these residential sessions. 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 tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2018-19 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,015 and £1,555 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. 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.


When you come to choose your college as part of the application process you may wish to consider its facilities, resources, funding opportunities and location within Oxford before making a decision. Please note however that your accommodation during the summer residences, unless you are coming with children, is provided at New College regardless of college membership.

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

How to apply

It is not necessary for you to contact an academic member of staff before you apply, though you should consult the course website before applying.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

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.


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. Please do not include the text of any publications in the application.

Your 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:
Up to 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.

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

References/letters of recommendation:
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 or course director from the 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.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.

Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.

Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.

Application GuideApply

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