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Top 12 LL.M. Programs for Human Rights Law

Human rights emergencies are taking place all over the world, and individuals who are interested in helping with these dire situations can do so after earning a Master of Laws or LLM degree in human rights.

What is an LLM in Human Rights?

An LLM in human rights is an advanced law degree that focuses on the laws that protect and guarantee human rights at the local, national, regional and international levels. Programs are often offered by universities that have established human rights research centers on their campus. In addition to providing educational opportunities, many programs also include mandatory or optional internships with non-governmental organizations.

Students in LLM human rights programs can expect to learn about a variety of legal fields, including international law, humanitarian law, international criminal law and refugee law. Schools may have a particular focus or be open to applicants with a broad range of interests.

Which law schools offer Human Rights LLM programs?

You can find LLM human rights programs all over the world, but many of the best programs are based in the United States, the United Kingdom and continental Europe. Students often prefer schools that are located near The Hague, Washington, D.C., New York City or London, as these are areas where human rights agencies and organizations are headquartered.

How much does an LLM in Human Rights Law cost?

The cost of these programs varies from university to university. Often, students can receive financial aid, scholarships, fellowships, grants and loans to offset the costs.

What are the career prospects for a graduate of an LLM in human rights program?

Graduates of LLM in human rights degree programs often work for international law firms focused on human rights. In addition, they may find employment with non-governmental organizations, advocacy groups, the United Nations and other international organisations.

Top 10 LLM in Human Rights Programs

Columbia University

Columbia’s LLM program is a joint effort between their Human Rights Institute and their Law school. Students who apply for the fellowship have the opportunity for a partial or full tuition waiver plus living stipends depending on demonstrated financial need.

Students in this LLM receive training from both institutes in the practical applications of human rights law. They receive career mentoring and have the opportunity to attend special events with leading figures in this field.

They also participate in the cutting-edge human rights clinic, an innovative approach to practical training. They learn to be strategic and creative while navigating through the difficulties of applying human rights law to international circumstances and pursuing social justice across borders. This teaches them to work with communities and to advance human rights scholarship abroad.

Students are expected to devote significant time to the research and development of human rights and to belong to Columbia’s vibrant and dedicated community of social justice and international human rights members.

Candidates from Africa, Latin America, and Asia, as well as candidates who face racial discrimination, are strongly encouraged to apply for the fellowship.

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

The Geneva Academy offers both full and partial scholarships for its LLM program in Human Rights. Full scholarships cover the cost of tuition and living expenses in Geneva for ten months.

This is a one-year postgraduate degree and one of the most innovative LLM programs in international human rights law in Europe. Students are presented with intellectually challenging material in some of the most hot-button human rights issues of the day.

It provides practical training in both international humanitarian law and human rights law, as well as international criminal law. The program highlights the ways all three affect each other and the delicate balance needed when conducting inquiries.

There’s a world-renowned faculty from some of the biggest names in human rights, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

While core classes offer a firm foundation in a variety of legal areas concerning human rights, students can tailor their program to a specific interest. Examples of these interests include armed non-state actors, the regulations concerning international courts or tribunals, and counter-terrorism.

At the end of the program, students can find internships to hone their skills and can participate in moot courts for exposure to practical work outside of the classroom.

United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute

The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute or UNICRI in Turin, Italy, is funded by the United Nations and is naturally a great institution for those who wish to specialize in human rights law. A Master of Laws degree is offered through a partnership with the University for Peace. This program is divided into two sections. During the first half, students participate in distance learning from their homes. The second half of the program is conducted on campus. As a result, this program is often preferred by individuals who are currently working as lawyers.

Oxford University

The Faculty of Law at Oxford University in Oxford, England, United Kingdom, offers a Master’s in International Human Rights Law by partnering with the school’s Department of Continuing Education. Although not an LLM degree, the program is considered an equivalent. The program is geared toward working professionals and offered on a part-time basis. Most of the two-year program involves distance education; however, during each summer, students complete a residency at the Oxford campus to take additional courses. Student share the opportunity to pick and choose classes related to their specific interests. Among the courses offered are business and human rights and the international rights of children. Research opportunities are provided by the university’s Bonavero Institute of Human Rights.

Leiden University

The Leiden School of Law at Leiden University in Leiden, the Netherlands, offers a prestigious human rights law LLM degree program, the focus of which is on international and European human rights law. In addition to course work, students have a chance to conduct field research in Geneva, Switzerland, and Strasbourg, France. The university also offers related Master of Laws degree programs in children’s rights and international criminal law.

Georgetown University

The Georgetown University Law Center at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., United States, has a Global health law Master of Laws Degree offered through a partnership with the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. This program is beneficial for individuals who are specifically interested in health care as a human right. Throughout the year, the university hosts human rights-related events that students can participate in. Human rights research opportunities are also offered.

The London School of Economics and Political Science

Based in London, England, United Kingdom, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) hosts numerous speakers and guest lecturers who work at the numerous NGOs based in the city. The school offers a Human Rights law degree that provides students with the opportunity to specialize in a variety of areas.

University of Essex

The School of Law at the University of Essex in Colchester, England, United Kingdom, runs the Essex Human Rights Center, a major hub for cutting-edge research in the field of human rights. Students in the International Humanitarian Law LLM program have an opportunity to participate in these studies. In addition, the school offers a Master of Arts degree in Human Rights and Cultural Diversity, and a Master of Arts degree in Theory and Practice of Human Rights.

Queen Mary University

Queen Mary University offers scholarships for the full cost of tuition for non-European students. Students must be studying full-time coursework to be eligible for this award.

Queen Mary’s program is the first association between a graduate school and a non-governmental organization. It’s designed to offer cutting-edge theory to students pursuing scholarship in human rights.

The program focuses on issues that are currently at the forefront of the world stage. These issues include international women’s rights, socio-economic rights and issues, the rights of children, and the rights of other just as vulnerable groups based on economic status, culture, language, and other areas.

It’s one of the top ten law schools in the UK, and many of the staff are nationally recognized experts, both in law and NGO experts in socio-cultural theory. The law center also offers specialized training in critical thinking and writing to give you the skills necessary to write effective briefs and hone your academic, legal writing skills.

You’ll also have access to some of the best databases and brick and mortar libraries in the world to do your research. The law center is located within walking distance to many law firms and the University of London Library at Senate House.

University of Dundee

The University of Dundee offers two full scholarships for students demonstrating honors level work in law and a commitment to work in human rights.

The University of Dundee is one of the top-ranked law schools in Scotland and focuses on criminal work in the area of human rights. Students are trained in international court systems and contemporary issues in the field.

The LLM focuses on issues such as organized crime, regional civil wars that cross borders and spill over into other affected territories, as well as international terrorist activity. The investigation of international crime and the effective prosecution across borders is paramount to a more harmonious global society.

Classes are taught by staff members nationally ranked in their field and dedicated to their work. Students have a combination of classes, seminar, and research methods. Students also participate in legal research courses to hone vital academic research skills in this field, culminating in a written dissertation at the end of two blocks of class.over the summer.

American University

American University’s Washington College of Law offers many opportunities for LLM students to apply for full tuition funding and fellowships. It offers scholarship assistance to students showing aptitude for law and a dedication to the areas of human rights and advocacy.

The LLM program is a hybrid masters program with both onsite and online curriculum offerings, allowing students a wide range of flexibility to acquire their advanced degree. It’s offered in both English and Spanish, making it one of the most accessible LLM programs in international human rights law in the world.

The residential component of the degree is taught by experts from the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian law during its summer intensive courses. These are specialized courses designed for an intensive introduction to the world of international human rights, and students are required to be available for two three-week sessions during the summer term.

The virtual courses are taught in live two-hour sessions in which students from around the world interact with the faculty and each other. Students participate in the coursework and gain global recognition from anywhere in the world.

The faculty themselves are experts in the field and practicing lawyers in Humanitarian Law. They are essential contacts for future employment and include NGO members, international tribunal judges, and members of UN treaty bodies, among other experts.

Find out more about human rights masters

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Human Rights Careers

Human Rights Careers (HRC) aims to help human rights students, recent graduates and young professionals to pursue a career in the highly competitive field of human rights.