Human rights defenders strive for a world in which human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.
Applications for this course are closed to international applicants for 2022/23. Applications for 2023/24 will open in September.
Learn to bridge the gap between theory and practice by combining hands-on experience with interdisciplinary academic enquiry. Discover the theoretical frameworks and practical skills which make advances in human rights possible.
Study different aspects of human rights practice: the strategies employed and the debates, institutions and political structures that human rights defenders seek to influence. You'll learn directly from human rights defenders with first-hand experience in governmental, judicial, and grassroots roles.
You'll also develop a range of fieldwork, advocacy and legal skills and apply these on a placement in the UK or South Africa.
Gain direct experience of fieldwork on placement in York or Cape Town.
Our unique Protective Fellowship Scheme puts experienced activists at the heart of your learning.
We're proud to announce that we've been shortlisted for two prestigious University of the Year awards.
Taught over one year, the MA will familiarise you with different aspects of activism. The Autumn Term introduces key theoretical and practical elements, cemented by applying your knowledge on a group placement with a human rights organisation.
In Spring Term you'll explore international human rights law. You'll also choose two option modules, allowing you to focus your studies on an area aligned with your interests.
In Summer Term, you'll start work on a dissertation of up to 12,000 words on a topic of your choice.
Gaining direct experience of fieldwork is a key component of this course. You'll work with a partner organisation in Cape Town or York for several months, including a two-week placement at the end of your first term.
To get an idea of previous years' placements in Cape Town and York, have a look at our student feedback.
You will take core modules which may include:
You will take option modules which may include:
Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.
Our course structures are changing in September 2023. Find out more about how this course may be affected.
During the Summer Term and over the summer vacation, you will work on a dissertation of up to 12,000 words. You can choose your own topic to investigate, but it should have a human rights focus.
Recent students' dissertations have examined:
Throughout the project, you will have the support of your dissertation supervisor. Where possible we'll allocate you someone who is familiar with your chosen topic. Dissertation training at the start of the Summer Term will help you to clarify your ideas and refine your methodological approach.
You and your group will forge a relationship with an organisation, to develop and deliver a project. This includes:
Projects with partners have included researching and writing human rights reports, training manuals, annual reports, funding proposals, policy briefs, and communications to the special procedures of the UN.
Please note that the South Africa trip will only run if there are sufficient student numbers.
Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.
Having regular lectures and seminars coupled with this hands-on placement meant that our learning in the classroom was directly translated into practice. It taught me skills as varied as making participatory videos and using theatre in human rights, as well as leadership skills, team management and communication.Johnny, MA Applied Human Rights
Read about our students' experiences
|Study mode||UK (home)||International and EU|
|Full-time (1 year)||£9,290||£19,950|
|Part-time (2 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.
Students on a Student Visa (formerly Tier 4 Visa) are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.
For courses which are longer than one year, the tuition fees quoted are for the first year of study. Fees for subsequent years are subject to increase (no more than 2% each year).
UK (home) or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK (home) or international student. Check your fee status
Find out more information about tuition fees and how to pay them.
If you choose to undertake a placement in South Africa you will need to budget around £1,200 to £1,400, over and above MA tuition fees and living expenses. Placements in York do not incur additional costs, apart from potential limited local travel.
Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.
We'll confirm more funding opportunities for students joining us in 2022/23 throughout the year.
If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.
We expect to be able to offer one scholarship for the MA in Applied Human Rights in 2020/21. The scholarship is only open to UK/EU applicants who have received a conditional or unconditional offer for full-time study.
Awarded by British embassies and high commissions, Chevening Scholarships provide one year of fully-funded postgraduate study in the UK. They are offered to early and mid-career professionals with the potential to become future leaders. We have hosted 34 Chevening Scholars in the past five years and welcome further enquiries and applications.
You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.
You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.
You'll be taught using a variety of methods in a range of formats including:
Our teaching staff have wide-ranging experience in both academic study and human rights practice. You'll be able to put your learning into practice on placement in South Africa or the UK.
The Centre for Applied Human Rights is based in the Research Centre for Social Sciences on Campus West.
You will spend two weeks on placement, either in Cape Town (South Africa) or in and around York (UK).
Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.
You'll be assessed through essays, group projects and reflective diaries. Your dissertation makes up a large proportion of your final mark.
We'll be looking for evidence of your ability to communicate across cultures, bearing in mind diverse cultural and political viewpoints. You should be able to speak knowledgeably about unfolding international events to a range of audiences, and collect and interpret qualitative data to support your arguments.
As well as your assessed work, you'll be given assignments which don't count towards your final grade. The feedback you receive for this work will help you develop your skills and identify areas for improvement.
The Human Rights Defenders fellowship scheme at the Centre for Applied Human Rights has been amazing. In an academic setting we're so used to studying about issues that happen elsewhere, usually far away. The scheme brings that reality into the classroom.Brittany, MA Applied Human Rights
Read about our students' experiences
Our graduates go on to work with NGOs, humanitarian and development organisations, policy think-tanks, national governments and UN agencies. We provide advice, networking opportunities, hands-on experience, and personalised reference letters to support you as you establish your career.
Find out more about our graduates' careers.
I was employed by International Alert, a peace building INGO, as a Project Senior Officer within three months of finishing my studies. My responsibilities include establishing a mechanism of mitigating tensions, in partnership with the local community in a multi-sectarian region on the border of the endless war in Syria.Rony, MA Applied Human Rights
Read about our students' experiences
|Undergraduate degree||2:1 or equivalent. We will also consider a 2:2 with at least three years' relevant work experience.|
|International pre-masters programme||Pre-masters from our International Pathway College|
|Other international qualifications||Equivalent qualifications from your country|
If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:
|IELTS||6.5, minimum 6.0 in each component|
|C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency||176, minimum 169 in each component|
|Duolingo||110, minimum 100 in all other components|
|LanguageCert||B2 Communicator High Pass with 33/50 in each component|
|PTE Academic||61, minimum 55 in each component|
|TOEFL||87, minimum of 21 in each component|
|Trinity ISE III||Merit in all requirements|
For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements.
You may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language courses. These courses will provide you with the level of English needed to meet the conditions of your offer.
The length of course you need to take depends on your current English language test scores and how much you need to improve to reach our English language requirements.
After you've accepted your offer to study at York, we'll confirm which pre-sessional course you should apply to via You@York.
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