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, development, 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 also choose optional modules taught by other departments, from the list below.

Optional modules taught at CAHR

  • Asylum, migration and human trafficking
  • Culture and protest
  • 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: Martin Jones

The module 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. Along the way, it asks whether human rights have become too legalistic. Seminars will apply the concepts discussed in lectures to a specific case study: the legal ban on Muslim women and girls wearing headscarves/veils. Seminars focus particularly on how headscarf/veil bans have been adjudicated in international, regional, and domestic human rights bodies.

Key texts: Daniel Moeckli et al, eds, International Human Rights Law, 2nd edition (Oxford, 2014); Eva Brems, ed, The Experiences of Face Veil Wearers in Europe and the Law (Cambridge, 2014)

Defending Human Rights

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

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 corporation ‘responsible’, 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).


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.

Key texts: P. Gready. "Introduction – Responsibility to the Story". Journal of Human Rights Practice 2 (2) 2010: 177-90; A. Khanna et al. The Changing Face of Citizen Action: A Mapping Study through an 'Unruly' Lens, IDS Working Paper, Vol. 2013, No. 432; D. Iordanova and L. Torchin (eds) Film Festivals and Activism. St. Andrews Film Studies, 2012; C. Ramirez-Barat. Transitional Justice, Culture, and Society: Beyond Outreach. New York: Social Science Research Council, 2014; Report of the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights, Farida Shaheed: The Right to Freedom of Artistic Expression and Creativity. UN A/HRC/23/34, 14 March 2013.

Development Alternatives: Development, Rights, Security (expected to run in 2018)

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.



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.

 Kuala Lumpur

Student feedback on placement 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:

  • IELTS: 7.0, with a minimum of 7.0 in Writing and no less than 6.5 in all other components
  • PTE: 67, with a minimum of 67 in Writing and no less than 61 in all other components
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 185, with a minimum of 185 in Writing and no less than 176 in all other components
  • CAE (before January 2015): 75, with 'Very Good' in Writing
  • CPE (before January 2015): B
  • TOEFL: 96 with a minimum of 24 in Writing and no less than 23 in all other components
  • Trinity ISE: level 3 with Distinction in all components

Further guidance can be found on the International Applicants language requirements page.

LLM fees and expenses

Tuition fees and living costs

Find out about tuition fees and living expenses.

Field trips and placements

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


We offer a variety of scholarships for Masters students to help with the costs of tuition fees and loans.  You may also be entitled to 

Scholarships 2017/8

CAHR scholarships for UK/EU students

The Centre for Applied Human Rights offers one scholarship for a student on the LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice in 2017-18. 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 2017-18 scholarship application form (MS Word  , 27kb) should be emailed to Miriam Hemingway (cahr-admin@york.ac.uk) by 5pm UK time on Monday 15 May 2017.

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 the following Scholarships for Overseas Students (SOS). 

CAHR regularly hosts Chevening scholars on its LLM 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
  • EU Special Representative's Office in Afghanistan
  • 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.


LLM Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between the LLM and the MA?

There is not all that much difference between the 2 programs:

  • LLM students take a core module on "Applying International Human Rights Law" while MA students take a core module on "Social Sciences and Human Rights Practice"
  • The overseas placement for LLM students is in Malaysia while that for MA students is in South Africa.

Can I do the LLM even if I haven't studied law before?

Yes, approximately half our LLM students have not studied law before.

Can I get a start on preparing for the LLM?

We will send out some readings over the summer to help prepare you for your studies.

How big is the LLM class? What is the class like?

There are usually 15-20 students in our LLM each year. About a third come straight from university. Another third have been out of school for a few years. A final third are mid-career professionals. Some students have no human rights experience while others are human rights defenders. Students come from all over the world with about one-half coming from the UK and the EU.

How is the LLM taught?

The LLM is taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, problem-based learning, group work, and reflective learning.

What days will I have classes?

While we cannot confirm classroom timetabling until late summer, you might find it helpful to know the following:

  • Autumn Term has 8 weeks of classes and 2 weeks of placement (in Malaysia or the UK)
  • Spring Term has 9 weeks of classes
  • Summer Term is mostly independent study on your dissertation
  • Students typically have 8 hours of classes per week

Will I be able to work during my LLM?

Yes, many students do a combination of paid and volunteer work during the year. However, the University requires that full-time students do not work more than 20 hours per week.

How many contact hours will I have?

For full-time students, the contact hours are approximately:

  • Autumn Term: 36 hours of lectures and 28 hours of seminars
  • Spring Term: 40.5 hours of lectures and 31.5 hours of seminars
  • Summer Term: 16 hours of LLM dissertation training, presentations, and one-on-one meetings
  • There is also a sizeable amount of group work outside the classroom for the “Defending Human Rights” module in Autumn and Spring Terms

How is the LLM assessed?

Most modules have a 4000-word written assessment (ranging from academic essays to policy memos to shadow human rights reports) that counts for 100% of the total mark in that module. There are three exceptions:

  • "Applying International Human Rights Law" has a 3-hour, closed book exam that counts for 100% 
  • "Defending Human Rights" has a 4000-word group project output (40% of the mark) plus two 2,000 word reflective diaries (60% of the mark)
  • The LLM dissertation requires a 12,000-word dissertation (10% of the mark is an oral presentation and 90% the written work)

How can a student do well on the LLM?

The highest academic award is a Distinction, which requires that students earn a 70 or above in all their modules and a 70 or above on their dissertation. More details are available in the University's Guide to Assessment.

Which optional modules will be available in 2017/18?

The Centre is expecting to offer 2-3 optional modules in Spring 2017/18:

  • Asylum, Migration & Human Trafficking
  • Development Alternatives: Development, Rights, Security

You can also choose from a wide selection of optional modules in the Centre for Women's Studies, Education, Law, Politics, and Sociology. Availability varies year on year.

You will select your optional modules in August-September 2017.

Can I write my dissertation on any topic I'm interested in?

You can choose your own dissertation topic but it should have a human rights focus.

Will I have supervision or support throughout the process of writing my dissertation?

Yes, you will be assigned a dissertation supervisor. Where possible, we try to allocate supervision on the basis of your topic. Students also do one-and-a-half days of dissertation training at the start of the Summer Term.

Will it be possible to do a placement at International Service in York in 2017/8?

The NGO placements we have offered in prior years are illustrative. We negotiate placements with interested NGOs in Malaysia and the UK in Summer 2017 and send out information to students then.

You select your placements in the first week of Autumn Term. Please note that placements do not run if there aren't enough interested students.

What funding is available for the LLM?

There is information about funding opportunities on our website.

For overseas applicants, there is specific advice from recent Chevening Scholars on our website.

What is the deadline for my application?

There is no deadline for applications but there are deadlines for funding.

Prospective student enquiries

York Law School

Email: law-pg-admissions@york.ac.uk

Tel: +44 (0)1904 325802

Studying for the LLM in International Human Rights Law and Practice

KL fieldtrip 2012

Student experiences »

Chevening scholars

Saeed, Chevening video interview

Chevening scholars on the LLM in International Human Rights Law & Practice talk about their experiences of studying at CAHR.

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