LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice

The key paradox of international human rights law is that the recent proliferation of treaties and adjudicative bodies has not significantly diminished serious human rights abuses.

The LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice engages students in a critical and nuanced examination of this paradox, while providing them with the practical skills necessary to apply global norms at the local level.


Why study International Human Rights at York?

I was awarded an Inner Temple scholarship for the Bar course. I believe that the advocacy skills I gained through the LLM’s interactive and engaging weekly simulations gave me an edge in the selection process. Those transferable skills will also be invaluable in my future as a lawyer.

Abdoulie Fatty, LLM Student 2011/12

The LLM in Human Rights Law and Practice provides the knowledge, skills and networks necessary for mid-career professionals and recent graduates to work in the human rights field. The LLM is offered on both a full-time and part-time basis.

Our LLM is distinctive because students:

  • Work on real human rights issues, which gives practical skills, hands-on experience and improved job prospects
  • Get the opportunity to work alongside human rights defenders during a two-week field visit to Malaysia (student numbers permitting) or placement in York
  • Learn from international human rights defenders based at the Centre
  • Explore how international human rights law interacts with national public policy in various states

Course content

LLM structure

I was a solicitor in the UK, litigating social welfare and other human rights issues, and wanted to transition into international human rights work. The Centre's LLM was my first choice because of its 'applied' focus and the opportunity to do field-based research with a Malaysian NGO. The LLM equipped me with the skills and confidence needed to gain an internship with Human Rights Watch's Africa Division and to refocus my career.

John Foley, LLM Student 2011/12

Three core modules cover international human rights law, policy and advocacy. Optional CAHR modules cover several topical issues through a human rights lens: culture, migration, and post-conflict justice.

The programme requires you to undertake a placement with human rights organisations in Malaysia (student numbers permitting) or the UK. This is an important part of the degree programme and will develop your practical skills and provide hands-on experience, both of which will prepare you for working in this field and improve your career prospects.

The LLM is taught in weekly lectures and seminars covering specific case studies and including skills training on oral presentations, advocacy, report writing, and memos.

Compulsory modules

The compulsory modules reflect the three sides to human rights activism: law, policy and practice.

  • Defending human rights (40 credits; terms 1-2)
  • Applying international human rights law (20 credits; term 1)
  • International human rights law and advocacy (20 credits; term 1)
  • Dissertation (60 credits; terms 3-4)

Optional modules

In the second term students will be able to take two options.

Four optional modules taught by Centre staff will explore areas where rights are being used in new and innovative ways. Students may take also choose optional modules taught by other departments, from the list below.

Optional modules taught at CAHR

  • Asylum, migration and trafficking
  • Culture and protest
  • Truth, justice and reparations after violence
  • Development Alternatives: Development, Rights, Security

Optional modules taught at the York Law School

  • Corporate responsibility and law
  • Financial citizenship and social justice

Optional modules taught in other departments

  • Conflict and development (Politics)
  • Globalisation and social policy (Social Policy and Social Work)
  • Global social problems (Social Policy and Social Work)
  • International organisations (Politics)
  • New security challenges (Politics)
  • Teaching and learning citizenship and global education (Education)
  • Women, citizenship and conflict (Centre for Women's Studies)

Please note that optional modules may not run if the lecturer is on leave or there is insufficient demand.


A key part of the LLM is exposing students to the practice of international human rights law at the domestic level. Thus students have the opportunity to pursue a placement and related project with our NGO partners in Malaysia and York. The fieldwork takes place over a two week period in weeks 9 and 10 of the autumn term in either Kuala Lumpur or York. Please note that the Malaysia trip/placements will only run if there are sufficient student numbers.

Students will be expected to work together in small groups in partnership with a human rights organisation. This will include:

  • extensive background research on country context, the host organisation, relevant thematic issues etc.;
  • devising a project prior to the field visit, in collaboration with the host organisation;
  • two weeks of intensive work in Malaysia (student numbers permitting) or York in November and December; and,
  • ongoing discussions about project completion once students return to York.

To get an idea of previous years' placements, have a look at student feedback on the experiences in York and Malaysia.


During the summer term students start work on a dissertation of up to 12,000 words on a topic of their choice. The dissertation is due for submission in early September.

Full-time/part-time study

The course may be taken on a part-time basis. In year one, part-time students normally complete two compulsory modules in the Autumn term ('International human rights law & advocacy' and 'Applying international human rights law') and one optional module in the Spring term. In year two, part time students normally complete the 'Defending human rights' compulsory module (including the Malaysia field visit or a placement in the UK), their second optional module, and the dissertation. This part-time schedule is somewhat flexible and can be adjusted to accommodate individual needs.


Compulsory modules

Applying International Human Rights Law

Instructor: Lars Waldorf

The module begins by asking the question whether human rights have become too legalistic. It then looks at key aspects of international human rights law: rights, obligations, derogations, limitations, subjects, and remedies. Next, it examines the existing architecture of international human rights protection (international, regional, and domestic) while also considering whether we need a World Court of Human Rights. Seminars will apply the concepts discussed in lectures to a specific case study: the legal ban on Muslim women and girls wearing headscarves. Seminars focus particularly on how headscarf bans have been adjudicated in international, regional, and domestic human rights bodies.

Key texts: Daniel Moeckli et al., eds., International Human Rights Law (Oxford, 2010); Joan Wallach Scott, The Politics of the Veil (Princeton, 2007).

Defending Human Rights

Instructors: Paul Gready, John Gray, Martin Jones, Alice Nah, Lars Waldorf

The main aim of this module is to have students develop the practical, problem solving, and reflective skills needed for human rights work. At the start of the year, students will be placed in Project Groups linked to placements with Project Partners in South Africa (for the MA), Malaysia (for the LLM), or UK (for MA /LLM students who do not travel abroad). (Please note the placements in South Africa and Malaysia will only run if there are sufficient student numbers.) Each group is required to produce a Project Output together, which is submitted to their Project Partner in the Spring Term. Throughout the two terms, students engage in tasks designed to develop specific skill sets, accumulating portfolios of work for assessment. Centre staff, experienced practitioners, and international human rights defenders based at the Centre will lead and participate in the lectures, seminars and workshops for this module.

Key texts: Aengus Carroll, Make it Work: Six Steps to Effective LGBT Human Rights Advocacy (ILGA Europe, 2010); Ron Dudai, "Advocacy with Footnotes: The Human Rights Report as a Literary Genre," in Human Rights Quarterly 28:3 (2006); Frontline, Workbook on Security: Practical Steps for Human Rights Defenders at Risk (Frontline, 2011); Peter Rosenblum, “Teaching Human Rights: Ambivalent Activism, Multiple Discourses, and Lingering Dilemmas,” in Harvard Human Rights Journal, vol. 15 (2002).

International Human Rights Law and Advocacy

Instructor: Martin Jones

This module examines how to conduct human rights advocacy based on international human rights law. Particular attention is paid to the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998) which shifted the paradigm from states to individuals and from law to implementation. The Declaration is used as a case study throughout the module to explore the interpretation of legal texts and to understand the challenges facing those advocating for the rights of others. Students will learn methods of analysing human rights problems and evaluating the applicability of theories on change, framing and political opportunity in human rights work in their own contexts. Students will learn how to design and select context-appropriate advocacy strategies. The module will also provide a forum for students to engage with the Centre’s visiting human rights defenders.

Key texts:"Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms" General Assembly Resolution A/RES/53/144 (9 December 1998); R. Charli Carpenter, "Governing the Global Agenda: Gate-keeping and Issue Adoption in Transnational Advocacy Networks." in Deborah Avant, Martha Finnemore and Susan Sell, Who Governs the Globe? (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2010); Daniel Joloy, "Mexico's National Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders: Challenges and Good Practices" (2013) 5(3) Journal of Human Rights Practice, 489-499.



Please note the offering of option modules will vary from year to year depending on student numbers and lecturer availability.

Asylum, Migration and Human Trafficking

Instructor: Martin Jones

This module will examine the phenomenon of human movement, including both forced and voluntary migration, and the legal frameworks that govern the rights of various categories of migrants. The module will focus on the specific policies which states put in place to advance (and to hinder) the enjoyment by migrants of their rights. The module will explore the general category of “migrant” and its various sub-categories (as defined by location of movement and by degree of volition), including the internally displaced, labour migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking. The module will examine the legal tools available to human rights defenders seeking to assist these groups. It will also examine the extent to which human rights law and policy have managed to challenge two of the remaining bastions of state sovereignty: the related powers of a state to control entrance and egress and its power to control its membership.

Key texts: Carol Batchelor, "Transforming International Legal Principles into International Law: The Right to a Nationality and the Avoidance of Statelessness", 25(3) in Refugee Survey Quarterly 8 (2006); Report of the Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons, UN Doc. No. A/HRC/13/21 (5 January 2010); UK Border Agency, "Chapter 26: Unaccompanied Minors" (Enforcement Instructions); US Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 (June 2012).

Corporate Responsibility and Law

Instructor: Carrie Bradshaw

Provocatively, Joel Bakan describes the modern, Anglo-American corporation as a ‘psychopath’, pathologically pursuing profit at the expense of others. Throughout this course, we will reflect on this statement by examining the nature of the corporation theoretically, doctrinally, and sociologically. Understanding what a company ‘is’ matters immensely in thinking about how we go about controlling or regulating companies. Can we make the corporationresponsible, as advocated by proponents of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), or is corporate psychopathy inevitable? In answering this question, we will explore a range of tools which states can invoke, ranging from ‘criminalising’ the corporation to reflexive measures which force companies to ‘think’ about their negative impacts on society. We also look at the ‘regulatory’ activities of non-state actors, such as NGOs and company investors. These questions will be explored in more (practical) depth through series of case studies on labor relations in developing countries, environmental harm, corporate killing, and bribery and corruption.

Key texts: Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (Constable & Robinson, 2005); Bryan Horrigan, Corporate Social Responsibility in the 21st Century (Edward Elgar, 2010); Carrie Bradshaw, Corporations, Responsibility and the Environment (Hart, 2015); Carr and Outhwaite, "The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Combating Corruption: Theory and Practice" 44(3) Suffolk Law Review 615 (2011).

Financial Citizenship and Social Justice

Instructor: Sarah Wilson

The module takes as its starting point the global financial crisis and its domestic repercussions in the UK. It considers the manifest importance of access to basic banking facilities for every-day life interfacings which are attached traditionally to employment and home ownership, but which are also becoming increasingly embedded into welfare provision by the State and its private partners. It also focuses centrally on exploring finance initiatives in developing nations, and discourses generated by promoting sustainable finance and microfinance initiatives for some of the world’s poorest people and nations lacking the administrative, economic and regulatory infrastructures associated with western economies and societies.

Key texts: J Hacker, Shared Responsibility, Shared Risk: Government, Markets and Social Policy in the Twenty-First Century (Oxford University Press, 2012); M Robertson, The Microfinance Revolution: Sustainable Finance for the Poor: Sustainable Finance for the Poor (World Bank, 2001); R Wilkinson and K Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone (Penguin, 2009); M Yunus, Banker to the Poor: The Story of the Grameen Bank (Aurum, 2003).

Legal Clinics in Context: Street Law and Law Reform

Instructor: Richard Grimes with Martin Jones and Lars Waldorf

Access to justice is an important right that enables victims of human rights violations to seek accountability and remedy. This module, which is being offered by York Law School’s new LLM in Clinical Legal Education, will be taught through supervised practical casework and weekly meetings. Students will be exposed to the theory and practice of both the professional regulatory and educational dimensions of clinical legal education.

Key texts: Lee P. Arbetman and Edward L. O’Brien, Street Law: A Course in Practical Law 8th ed. (Glencoe, 2009); Frank S. Bloch, The Global Clinical Movement: Educating Lawyers for Social Change (Oxford University Press, 2011); Francesco Francioni, Access to Justice as a Human Right (Oxford University Press, 2007); Deborah L. Rhode, Access to Justice (Oxford University Press, 2004).

Truth, Justice and Reparations after Violence

Instructor: Lars Waldorf

This module begins by locating victims’ rights to truth, justice, and reparations in treaty law and "soft law". It then critically examines the workings and impact of various transitional justice mechanisms – amnesties, criminal tribunals, truth commissions, and reparations – in specific international, national and local contexts. In doing so, the module explores key tensions within transitional justice: truth versus justice; peace versus justice; and civil/political wrongs versus socio-economic wrongs. Throughout the module, we will pay close attention to the question of what victims and survivors actually want.

Key texts: Priscilla Hayner, Unspeakable Truths: Transitional Justice and the Challenge of Truth Commissions (Routledge, 2010); Tricia D. Olsen, Leigh A. Payne and Andrew G. Reiter, Transitional Justice in Balance: Comparing Processes, Weighing Efficacy (United States Institute of Peace, 2010); Rosalind Shaw and Lars Waldorf, eds., Localizing Transitional Justice: Interventions and Priorities after Mass Violence (Stanford, 2010); Kathryn Sikkink, The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011).


Development Alternatives: Development, Rights, Security (new for Spring 2016)

Instructor: Paul Gready

This module explores the intersections between development, human rights, and security on the grounds that both in theory and in practice these sectors are increasingly interlinked. A second core concern addressed in the module is to explore the ways in which these intersections are creating alternatives to dominant approaches, such as neo-liberalism in the economic sphere/development and a focus on law and civil and political rights within human rights. The term alternatives is understood in various ways - for example, alternatives at both a global or systemic level and in relation to local innovation; and progressive but also illiberal or authoritarian alternatives.
The module is split into three equally weighted sections: key concepts; global contexts; and local responses. The conceptual frameworks set out at the start will provide the spine of the module, and global and local case studies will refer back to conceptual frameworks provided at the start of the module. The module will be taught by a team of staff from the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR) and Department of Politics, and all of the case studies draw on current research being undertaken by these staff members.

Culture and Protest

Instructor: Paul Gready and others

This module aims to analyse the diverse ways in which forms of culture are currently deployed in protest and community engagement, and the broader political context of such deployment.

Recent political protest, from the Arab spring to the Occupy movement, has seen a revival of cultural forms of mobilisation and protest. The cultural forms used range from street theatre and cinema, to graffiti, public art and music. Cultural media also have a secure place in more conventional NGO advocacy, conflict resolution and public outreach. Human rights film festivals are now a regular feature of the cultural calendar, while participatory photography, video and theatre work are used to empower local constituencies to advocate on their own behalf.

A cross-cutting theme in the module will be the exploration of participatory cultural methods in activism. The module starts with three foundational lectures on culture, protest and 'unruly politics'; arts project management and participatory methods; and the right to cultural expression and the ethics of cultural practice. These introductory lectures will be followed by case studies on film festivals/documentary film, literature, photography, social media, theatre, and community arts. As a means of applying the insights gained from the module, students will organise the annual York Human Rights Film Festival and/or human rights reading groups in the city in the spring term/vacation. A small budget will be available for these activities, and the student groups will choose relevant themes and project manage the events.



A key part of the LLM is exposing students to the practice of international human rights law at the domestic level. Thus students have the opportunity to pursue a placement and related project with our NGO partners in Malaysia and York. The fieldwork takes place over a two week period in weeks 9 and 10 of the autumn term in either Kuala Lumpur or York. Please note that the Malaysia trip/placements will only run if there are sufficient student numbers.

Students will be expected to work together in small groups in partnership with a human rights organisation. This will include:

  • extensive background research on country context, the host organisation, relevant thematic issues etc.;
  • devising a project prior to the field visit, in collaboration with the host organisation;
  • two weeks of intensive work in Malaysia in November and December; and,
  • ongoing discussions about project completion once students return to York.

To get an idea of previous years' placements, have a look at student feedback on the experiences in York and Malaysia.


Admission Requirements

Applicants will normally be expected to have obtained an undergraduate degree with honours (2:1 or higher, or its equivalent). Some academic study or practical experience of law is desirable though not required. Applications are also welcomed from candidates with a good 2:2 degree (or equivalent) and at least 3 years of relevant work experience.

English language requirements

If your first language is not English, and you have not completed an undergraduate degree in English, you will need these minimum English test scores: a minimum overall IELTS of 6.5 (with a minimum 6.0 for each component);  Pearson (PTE) of 61 (with a minimum of 55 in each component); CAE and CPE 176 (with a minimum of 169 in each component); Cambridge Proficiency A, B or C; or GCSE A, B, C.

LLM fees and expenses

Information on fees for 2016/17 is available at the University website for fees and funding. Please note postgraduate fees will not be increasing in line with undergraduate fees.

Students will need to budget approximately £1,200 for the Malaysia field visit over and above LLM tuition fees and living expenses. Students undertaking placements in York do not incur additional costs, apart from potential limited local travel.

For details about potential sources of funding, students should consult the University of York Graduate Study website. Home (i.e. UK) students may be able to qualify for government backed loans. Please visit the University's website for the UK Government Postgraduate Loans Scheme for more information.

Scholarships 2016/7

CAHR scholarship for UK/EU student in 2016/7

The Centre for Applied Human Rights offers one scholarship for a student on the LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice in 2016-17. The value of the scholarship is £2,770. The scholarship is only open to UK/EU applicants who have received a conditional or unconditional offer for full-time study. Applications will be assessed on the basis of academic promise, practical experience, and human rights commitment. The 2016-17 scholarship application form (MS Word  , 29kb) should be emailed to Helen Fairburn (helen.fairburn@york.ac.uk) by 5pm UK time on Monday 11 April 2016.

The University of York and the York Law School offer postgraduate scholarships annually. For more information on scholarships and other funding opportunities, see Fees and Funding and the University's site for scholarships for international students.

International students: the International Office offers Scholarships for Overseas Students (SOS). Students from Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico are also eligible for Santander Scholarships. Both scholarships are normally advertised in early spring.

Home/EU students: York Master's Opportunity Scholarships are available for students paying fees at home rates. These are normally advertised in early spring.

CAHR regularly hosts Chevening scholars on its MA programme. Please visit the secretariat's website for more information on Chevening Scholarships and check out what Chevening scholars at CAHR have to say about applying for the scholarship as well as studying at CAHR.

How to apply

You can apply for this course using our online application system. If you've not already done so, please read the application guidance first so that you understand the various steps in the application process.

Apply now button

For more information about studies at the University of York, open days, funding and scholarships, please visit the Postgraduate study website.

Those interested in applying or already admitted are welcome to visit us here in York , where you can sit in on classes and meet with staff and current students. Alternatively, you can arrange for discussions with staff by phone. Please contact cahr@york.ac.uk to arrange visits or phone calls.


Where after the LLM?

Our LLM provides career advice, networking opportunities, hands-on experience, and personalised reference letters to help our graduates find good jobs with human rights NGOs, humanitarian organisations, charities, policy think-tanks, national governments, and UN agencies.

For example, recent graduates are working with:

  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • UK-based bar association
  • Egyptian human rights NGO
  • Development NGO in West Africa
  • East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Pakistan's judicial sector
  • UK-based NGO working with sub-Saharan children affected by HIV/AIDS

Some of our students specifically credit the LLM with helping them advance their careers.

"After a year of working on refugee issues, I wanted to develop my education in order to increase my career opportunities both within and outside the government. I chose the LLM at the Centre for Applied Human Rights for a number of reasons: the practical dimension to the learning, the truly international flavour of the course and the human rights defenders programme. The LLM has not disappointed – it has provided me a thorough academic understanding of international human rights through interactive and applied learning. Doing the LLM part-time has allowed me to simultaneously pursue my career, and the faculty has been extremely accommodating and supportive of my sometimes competing priorities. The knowledge and practical skills I developed during the LLM have already resulted in new career opportunities for me and have helped me to progress to more senior levels within government."

Michaela Throup, LLM Student 2010/12 (part-time)

For more details, please see our Alumni pages.

Studying for the LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice

Student experiences »

Virtual open days logo November 2015

As an academic and practitioner (at the UN) in human rights, I can only congratulate the course team for putting together such an attractive package of learning and practice. It strikes me as very much a 'leading edge' programme in its area.

Patrick Thornberry CMG, Professor of International Law, Keele University, and Member, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination