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6 Fully-Funded PhD Programs in Human Rights

Many universities are aware that qualified doctoral students cannot afford to study and conduct their own research for three or four years without receiving any financial support. For this reason, more and more universities have created fully funded opportunities for a Ph.D. study, either allocating their own funding or collaborating with an external partner such as the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), for example. The scholarships awarded typically cover not only the student’s tuition costs but also provide the student with a stipend to help towards their living costs. Here are six fully-funded Ph.D. programs in Human Rights offered each year by European universities.

University of Essex, the United Kingdom – Ph.D. in Human Rights

The University of Essex is one of the most prestigious institutions in the UK when it comes to teaching Human Rights. Its Human Rights Centre has over 80 faculty members who explore human rights from a variety of academic disciplines, including Law, Philosophy, and Sociology.

The Centre has established thirty research clusters, such as Armed conflict, Transitional justice, and Trafficking and human rights. Prospective candidates are encouraged to write a research proposal that broadly falls under one of these categories to ensure that they can have appropriate supervision at Essex.

As a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Essex, students will have many opportunities to learn, network, and share their work. For example, the University is a part of the Human Rights Ph.D. Triangle platform where Ph.D. candidates from the University of Cambridge, the London School of Economics and the Essex Human Rights Centre present and discuss their research.

Ph.D. studies in Human Rights at Essex can be fully funded through studentships offered by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Consortium of Arts and Humanities South-East England (CHASE).  These studentships cover the cost of tuition and include a living costs stipend.  CHASE Doctoral Studentships are currently available only to home and EU students. To apply, students should first hold an offer from the University to conduct their Ph.D. study. Next, candidates have to submit an outline of their research proposal, two references, as well as a summary of their education, training, and professional experience. Selected candidates are invited for an interview with their school or department.

Occasionally, the Human Rights Centre advertises theme-specific Ph.D. projects which are funded by doctoral studentships and open for both domestic and international candidates. To stay updated, visit this webpage.

University of Sussex, the United Kingdom – Ph.D. in Human Rights

The Human Rights Ph.D. program at the University of Sussex is taught by faculty members from several different departments including Law, Anthropology, and Philosophy. Academic supervisors and Ph.D. candidates work together to explore the relationships and roles of humans in processes such as poverty, violence, identity, and globalization. Unlike most other doctoral programs, this course takes four years to complete. During their studies, Ph.D. candidates are invited to join one of the many research centers or projects, and actively participate in workshops and seminars across departments.

To be eligible, candidates must hold a Master’s degree in a subject which is of relevance to their research interests. Furthermore, all candidates should provide a proposal for a research project they wish to conduct at Sussex and suggest faculty members who could be their potential supervisors. The proposal should be up to five pages long and has to clearly explain primary research questions and the ambition of the project.

Human Rights Ph.D. students at the University of Sussex can fund their doctoral students via University or external funding. When it comes to the University funding, the prestigious Chancellor’s International Research Scholarship is given to eleven Ph.D. students across faculties. Only overseas students can apply for this fully-funded scholarship. Furthermore, home and EU students are also eligible for an ESRC scholarship which would cover their tuition costs and provide them with a living stipend.

Lund University, Sweden – Doctoral Studies in Human Rights Studies

Lund University’s doctoral program in Human Rights is the only such program in Sweden. It adopts a multidisciplinary approach and incorporates the study of History, Law, Philosophy and Political Science into its unique examination of Human Rights. The key objective of the program is to better understand the various political and legal contexts human rights ideas develop and are applied in. Students and faculty members do research on a variety of topics, including citizenship and nationality, women’s rights, and state and non-state agency.

The program lasts for four years and students need to fulfill 240 academic credits during this period. This means that, besides writing their dissertation, students also have to attend several compulsory and elective courses such as Human Rights as a Research Area and Human Rights as a Legal Phenomenon.

The eligibility requirements for admission include having a master’s or advanced degree. Prospective candidates should have completed at least two years of study in a field that is relevant to Human Rights and has given the student a solid background to conduct their planned research. Furthermore, candidates are also asked to have previously written a master’s thesis, worth at least 15 academic credits, on a human rights-related topic.

The University periodically advertises doctoral student vacancies in Human Rights, typically in January or February. The post will also contain instructions on applying and will list any specific eligibility criteria. All successful candidates are fully funded by the University.

Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy – Ph.D. in Human Rights and Global Politics: Legal, Philosophical and Economic Challenges

Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa runs an international, interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Human Rights and Global Politics, with a focus on legal, philosophical and economic challenges. The program lasts for three years and is entirely administered in English. The faculty and Ph.D. candidates adopt a strong sense of interdisciplinarity in research and explore intersections among the key research areas. The focus is on four different research areas – namely, Agriculture, food and agri-environmental law, Public international law, Political economy, and Political philosophy, and how they can be intertwined.

Ph.D. students attending this program take mandatory courses in addition to conducting research activities. More specifically, all students follow an issue-related course based on the research area they are writing their thesis in. Furthermore, students have an opportunity to spend a minimum of six months abroad doing research.

Prospective students must submit a research proposal which outlines a project that concerns at least two research areas. According to their proposed project, successful candidates will be assigned a supervisor with whom they are expected to meet on a regular basis.

The School publishes calls for applications once a year and usually accepts applications until late spring. All admitted students are entitled to a fully-funded place in the program, and one or more places are typically reserved for students from outside the European Union. To stay updated with the calls for admission, visit the program’s website.

Ph.D. in Human Rights, Society, and Multi-Level Governance – Multiple Universities

Four universities in Europe – the University of Padova in Italy, the University of Zagreb in Croatia, Panteion University in Greece and the University of Nicosia in Cyprus – together with Western Sydney University in Australia administer a unique, joint Ph.D. program in Human Rights, Society, and Multi-Level Governance. The program, which lasts for three years, incorporates legal, political, economic and philosophical approaches to analyzing Human Rights in a variety of geographical areas. The fundamental elements of the current multi-level governance system are in focus, therefore, international and regional human rights systems are continuously examined over the course of this program.

As a part of the curriculum, admitted students will have to do research, an internship and/or take courses at one or more partner universities, spending at least one semester away from their home university. The program is held in English across all institutions. Faculty members interested in supervising Ph.D. students offer a list of topics prospective students are invited to explore and propose a research project on. So far, these have included exploring issues relating to globalization, social justice, the external relations of the EU, and cultural pluralism.

To apply, students must demonstrate a proof of a Master’s degree and submit their academic transcripts. Furthermore, the Admissions Committee will be examining candidates’ CVs, proof of English language proficiency and, most importantly, their proposed research projects. Selected candidates will be invited for an interview.

Each year, some of these universities open several Ph.D. vacancies with one or more fully-funded scholarships. More information about the on-going applications can be found on the website of the administering institution, which in this case is the University of Padova.

Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York, the United Kingdom – Ph.D. in Human Rights

The Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York administers an interdisciplinary doctoral program in Human Rights which has gathered qualified students from all over the world. The Centre is broadly interested in admitting candidates who work on topics such as human rights defenders, refugee law and policy, transitional justice, and development.

The program is run jointly by the Department of Politics and the York Law School, therefore, students could potentially seek inter-departmental supervision. Furthermore, Ph.D. students can also join one of the inter-departmental research groups like Development and Conflict Working Group. They actively contribute to fostering the research environment at the Centre by organizing and attending lectures, workshops, and conferences, as well as writing for blogs and journals.

In the first year of their doctoral study, students are trained on different research methods and have the possibility to audit or enroll any postgraduate courses. The rest of the student’s time spent at the University of York is dedicated to completing the doctoral dissertation.

To apply, all candidates must submit an online application in which they will be asked to choose between Ph.D. in Politics and Ph.D. in Law, depending on their preferences and qualifications. The application process also requires candidates to put forward a doctoral dissertation proposal.

Admitted students have a number of funding opportunities. These include funding coming directly from the University as well as ESRC scholarships awarded to home and EU students. In addition, the University of York is a part of the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH) doctoral training partnership with the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, through which fully-funded AHRC studentships are allocated. More information about funding is available here.

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Human Rights Careers

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