Human Rights and International Conflict - MA

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Why study this course?

Human rights and international conflicts confront us with the most urgent moral and political issues of our time. This course explains and explores these issues, addressing hard questions by drawing on diverse theoretical approaches and practical experiences. Taught by published experts in human rights, peace and conflict studies, international relations, politics, history, philosophy and women’s studies, the master’s degree will equip you with the kind of understanding necessary to work for peace, justice and human rights in the real world.

More about this course

The Human Rights and International Conflict MA explores the relation of states and their international organisations to the idea and practice of human rights. You’ll gain a strong grasp of the moral, ethical, political and legal issues at stake in international relations and conflicts, including the current conflict between Islamism and the international community of states.

You’ll confront the issue of how to reconcile theoretical unconditional rights with a consequentialist ethic of political responsibility and security. You’ll also explore particular interests, problems and conflicts that demand judgement and action.

The master’s degree will provide both a solid academic grounding in human rights and international relations, and offers a wide choice of optional modules. You’ll be trained in research methodology before completing a 12-15,000 word dissertation dealing with a subject of your choice.

Assessment

Assessment is largely by coursework. Core modules also involve two assessed presentations and two unseen examinations. One-third of the assessment is by dissertation.

Fees and key information

Course type Postgraduate
Entry requirements View
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Entry requirements

You will be required to have:

  • at least a 2:1 at undergraduate level in a humanities or social science subject (candidates with other qualifications or relevant vocational experience may be considered)

All applicants must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. Applicants who require a Tier 4 student visa may need to provide a Secure English Language Test (SELT) such as Academic IELTS. For more information about English qualifications please see our English language requirements.

Modular structure

The modules listed below are for the academic year 2018/19 and represent the course modules at this time. Modules and module details (including, but not limited to, location and time) are subject to change over time.

Year 1 modules include:

  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Tuesday

    History and Theory of Human Rights critically engages contemporary scholarship and debate about the political history and moral and political theory of human rights. It follows recent analyses of the mediaeval, Enlightenment and American histories of rights doctrine, paying especial attention to Immanuel Kant’s moral universalism, to the realism of his doctrine of right, and to his importance for contemporary liberalism and rights theory. It explores issues of historical relativism and cultural particularity in various ways but especially through analysis of UNESCO’s famous human rights symposium and of Alasdair MacIntyre’s infamously realist critique. The historical context and significance of Jacques Maritain’s theorization of human rights is evaluated, in relation to the formation Europe’s human rights regime and to non-European traditions, and so too is John Rawls’ retheorization of moral and political rights-based liberalisms. Contemporary academic debate about human rights focusses on the rival claims advanced by historians and moral theorists for the superiority of their respective approaches. Historians, led by Samuel Moyn, have recently had the best of this, although John Tasioulas has long promised a rebuttal. Participants in the module scrutinize such debate and engage in the intellectually demanding task of evaluating rival theories..

    Module aims

    To provide a historical and critical introduction to ideas, theories and arguments about human rights.
    To evaluate political, social, legal and economic institutions and actions by ethical criteria.
    To explore ethical ideas and to articulate such ideas in the construction of logical arguments.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester
    • autumn semester

    Dissertation of 12,000-15,000 words.

    Read full details.
  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Monday

    This module examines the theory and institutionalized practice of human rights and the significance of human rights politics for the structure of the changing world order, and of domestic politics for both rights and order. It contextualises, analyzes, evaluates and applies various conceptions of human rights that are operative within international relations, and in relation to academic paradigms used to explain international relations. Attention is paid to the transformation of state sovereignty by human rights discourse and practice. The relation of human rights to the international order is questioned in the context of the history and philosophy of human rights, liberalism and its critics and opponents, and institutions and systems of international governance and conflict. Conversely, ideas of realism and constructivism in international relations are questioned by liberal claims for human rights. The globalization and recent reverses of human rights are critically analyzed. Students ae encouraged to explore particular cases of international order or conflict and of human rights’ observance or abuse in a way that is sustained and rigorous.

    Module aims

    1 This module contextualises, analyses, evaluates and applies various conceptions of human rights that are operative within international relations, and within the study of international relations.
    2 Three subjects in particular are addressed:
    i the causes of, and reasons for, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the broader development of human rights as a universalizing, globalizing, Westernizing and institutionalizing force in relations between states;
    ii the variety of particular states, domestic and foreign policies, other political actors, cultures, and motivating ideologies with which human rights has come into conflict;
    iii the transformation of state sovereignty by human rights discourse and practice. These subjects are problematized in the context of the history and philosophy of human rights, liberalism and its critics and opponents, and institutions and systems of international governance and conflict.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Monday afternoon

    This module aims to:

    • Examine a range of approaches to the cessation of contemporary conflicts and the conditions that may be necessary for peace
    • Focus upon both the domestic and international actors involved in these processes
    • Provide students with an understanding of relevant theories and empirical material for comparative analysis
    • Explore the differing ways in which particular conflicts tend to be viewed by participants, external commentators and public policy-makers

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Tuesday afternoon

    The broad aim of this module is to develop a grounding in the fundamentals of U.S. foreign policy making in the context of contemporary International Relations and Security Studies, in particular to:

    • Analyse the policy making institutions and historical precedents underlying U.S. foreign policy, and to grasp the way those precedents affect America’s approach to global events since the end of the Cold War and the attacks of 9/11.
    • Assess the processes and limitations of U.S. foreign policy making, contemporary challenges facing the world and the American role in dealing with them, and expectations of U.S. influence in the world in the 21st Century.
    • Place American foreign policy within the larger theoretical frameworks and approaches of International Relations and Security Studies.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Thursday

    According to republican ideals, citizenship originally denoted being an active part of a city and its civil society, of a polis and its political community, not simply the possessor of a passport. This module explores the changing meaning and continuing potential of citizenship, including the modern separation of the politics of the sovereign, bureaucratic state from the market society of its economically active subjects, and the failure of twentieth-century attempts to use states’ representative democracy to democratize society and justify corporate and institutionalized power in terms of citizens’ participation. This failure has much to do with the massive scale of modern political and economic organization, and the module will explore recent arguments about both the politics of locality and community and the relation of citizenship and rights to duties, virtues, and justice.

    Module aims

    • To provide a historical and critical introduction to ideas, theories and arguments about
    citizenship and social justice.
    • To explore ethical ideas and to articulate such ideas in the construction of a logical argument.
    • To relate philosophical propositions to political, social and economic issues and to institutional, legal and policy prescriptions.
    Module learning outcomes
    By the end of this module students will be able to:
    • understand the sources and development of contemporary ideas and practices of
    citizenship;
    • analyze, articulate, criticize and defend ethical ideas, and apply such ideas in the
    evaluation of political ideologies and institutions and of social and economic policies;
    • present and defend a logical argument supported by relevant evidence.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Thursday afternoon

    This module will explore the concept of security as it is understood in international relations discipline. What has been the rationale for the development of a distinct concept of ‘human security’? What are the implications of the concept of human security for our understanding of security in the international system? It will then examine the application of the concept to substantive problems and policy areas. These include the impact of environmental degradation, mass population movement, human trafficking and international crime. Finally, it will assess the impact of the concept on the strategies and policies of international organisations and states.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Wednesday

    The aim of this module is to provide students with an understanding of (a) the practical reality of international law (b) the essentials of the existing international legal order and (c) the main politically effective alternatives to (b) proposed since 1945.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Thursday afternoon

    • Enables students to evaluate differing interpretations of the political importance of religious actors in international relations
    • Educates students about doctrines and organizational methods of major religious currents insofar as these are relevant to international relations
    • Informs students about Transnational Religious Actors and their role in international relations

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  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Tuesday afternoon

    By the end of the module students will

    1. Appreciate what is at stake in security, both as a theoretical concept and as an ontological category.
    2. Gain an understanding of how the concept of security has been rearticulated and challenged in our contemporary context through an engagement with some of the most pressing issues of our day.
    3. Be able to question the ethical dimensions of the Westphalian order based on notions of sovereignty and narrow State interests and determine whether theories highlighting human emancipation need to be strengthened.
    4. Be able to demonstrate a good grasp of public policy, especially the processes and structures of decision-making in the area of international security.
    5. Be able to examine the contemporary themes in international security, such as the legacy of the Cold War, the impact of terrorism, the proliferation of dangerous weapons, the rise of great powers and the impact of globalisation.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Thursday

    The module starts from the proposition that the study of social policy includes much more than the study of western welfare states. It examines critically the ways in which societies and communities from the local to the transnational, not just governments, address (or fail to address) basic needs. The module uses a selection of policy examples which aim to address a range of basic needs such as access to paid employment, healthcare, schooling, citizenship, family benefits, in and out of work benefits, pensions, affordable housing, adult care, early childhood education and care. It will look at aspects of these through various analytic lenses, including the impact of policies on social divisions, and the roles of neoliberalism, globalisation, social investment, human development, social development, antiracist and feminist perspectives. The module includes a ‘regional’ approach, covering some of the following: the European Union; Latin America; North America; sub-Saharan Africa; East Asia; the Indian sub-continent. The most prominent approaches to comparative social policy are pervasive, namely: regime analysis, path dependency/institutionalism, and convergent functionalism.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Wednesday

    This module aims to:

    (1) to enable students to understand and compare the wide range of contrasting contemporary theories and research ‘paradigms’ in international relations, bring out the key assumptions about the nature of international relations broadly shared in each tradition and the key concepts used by each school. At the same time the module will enable students to grasp the relationships between evolving theories in the field and real world issues and actors.

    (2) to enable students to understand debates, particularly among International Relations scholars about more fundamental issues in social science theory and research methodologies, concerning the nature of understanding and explanation in the social sciences;

    (3) to enable students to grapple directly with the operational problems of designing a research question of their own in international relations, and of working out which research methods they would employ for seeking answers to their question. Through achieving these aims, the module is designed to assist students in the other modules on the MA and to complement the separate dissertation workshops.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester

    This module introduces students to the range of forms of violence against women, their prevalence and consequences: intimate partner violence, domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, FGM and crimes in the name of honour. We will address explanatory frameworks and perspectives, including human rights, and critically assess current policy approaches. Within an intersectional framework we will:

    - introduce students to the range of forms of violence against women
    - familiarise students with the current knowledge base on prevalence of, relationships and contexts for violence and its short and long term consequences
    - locate the emergence of the issues within social movement and social problem analysis
    - critically assess explanatory frameworks and contemporary policy responses

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Modules for this course are to be confirmed. Please check back at a later date or call our course enquiries team on +44 (0)20 7133 4200 for details.

After the course

Graduates of this course have opportunities for employment in the private, public and third sectors. Graduates have gone on to work in private,  public and third sectors. Some graduates also go on to study a PhD.

Additional costs

Please note, in addition to the tuition fee there may be additional costs for things like equipment, materials, printing, textbooks, trips or professional body fees.

Additionally, there may be other activities that are not formally part of your course and not required to complete your course, but which you may find helpful (for example, optional field trips). The costs of these are additional to your tuition fee and the fees set out above and will be notified when the activity is being arranged.

How to apply

Use the apply online button to begin your application.

When to apply

You are advised to apply as early as possible as applications will only be considered if there are places available on the course.

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