PhD Programs in Human Rights 2017


by Inge Van Der Helm

A PhD study in Human Rights is recommended if you wish to pursue an academic or research related career in Human Rights. Here is a summary of several renowned Human Rights PhD programs that can help kick-start your career.

PhD Studies in Human Rights Studies at Lund University

The PhD Studies in Human Rights at the University of Lund focuses on the field of Human Rights from a multidisciplinary perspective. This PhD is ideal for students who want to engage with human rights on a historical, legal, political and philosophical level and explore the field from a multitude of angles. The university is specifically looking for proposals from students which match their research interest in human rights and activism, women’s rights, freedom of religion, citizenship and nationality as well as rights discourses in civil society. The program also provides you with a pedagogical training, which is perfect if you want to teach in higher education.

The program will cover 4 years of full-time studies and takes place at the Faculties of Humanities and Theology in the Department of History. It is also possible to study part-time, but the program must be completed within eight years. For admission to this PhD program, students must have finished their Master’s degree. At least 120 credits of students’ previous studies must be relevant to the field of human rights and students must have completed a master thesis based on the field of human rights specifically. A doctoral student at Lund University does not have to pay any tuition fees, since all students accepted for a PhD position are seen as staff members and will therefore receive a salary. More information about how to apply for this program (and PhD programs in Sweden in general) can be found on There is no deadline for applying and PhD students are generally accepted all year long, based on the availability of supervisors and funding.

Center for Human Rights runs a Joint Ph.D. program in ‘Peace, Federalism and Human Rights’

The PhD program titled ‘Peace, Federalism and Human Rights’ is a joint program given by the Center for Human Rights, the Institute of Federal Studies and the Institute of Peace and Security. This program’s aim is to bring forth researches and teachers in the field of peace, human rights and federalism as well as to promote interdisciplinary research between those fields. When you complete your studies you will therefore be able to work as an expert in the field of conflict management, but you can also become a teacher in higher education.

The program lasts 3 years and takes place mainly at Addis Ababa University, but students will also spend half a year abroad at the Graduate Centre of Humanities and Social sciences at the University of Leipzig in Germany. The tuition fee for this doctoral program is €15.000 for the total three years of studies. In order to qualify students must have a Master’s degree in political science, social science, law, humanities, economics, peace and security studies, history or international relations. It is possible to apply to this program until May 31. More information about the admission criteria can be found on the website of Leipzig University and Addis Ababa University.

PhD in Political Science — Human Rights Minor at the Central European University in Hungary

This PhD program is especially interesting for students who have an interest in political science as well as human rights. The program focuses on research related to political institutions and their processes, political philosophy, public policy and political and economic sociology. The human rights minor looks at the interaction between politics and human rights. This program will give students detailed knowledge about politics and ethics and is therefore perfect for students who want to work in government agencies or non-profit organizations.

In order to be eligible for this program, students need to have a Master’s degree and need to be able to show an academic interest in human rights. The program’s workload depends on personal preferences, but must be completed within 6 years. The first year of the program students are required to take mandatory courses and in the second year students have the opportunity to follow elective courses next to their individual research. The tuition fee for the first year of the doctoral program is €15.000 and after that the tuition fee is €7.500 per year. The Central European University offers a doctoral scholarship that you can apply for. If accepted, it covers the tuition fee for three years as well as accommodation costs during those three years. There is an additional scholarship available for students who will do their research on human rights called the Human Rights Scholarship. You can apply to the scholarship for this PhD program until February 1.

PhD in Human Rights and Peace Studies (International Program) at Mahidol University in Thailand

This PhD program is at the moment the only PhD in human rights in Asia and is primarily focused on the interdisciplinary field of human rights and peace. Students will get in-depth knowledge about theories and concepts of human rights and peace as well as research skills. The program is very academically orientated and is therefore perfect for students who want to conduct an academic career.

The program’s duration is estimated to be between 2 and 4 years. The first year consists of mandatory courses which are meant to improve students’ research skills and human rights knowledge. The following three to five semesters are spend on individual research. The tuition fee for the program in total is $13.500, but there are several scholarships available to help students with the tuition fee. The Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies has a scholarship available for students from developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America and two scholarships for nationals from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippines. The deadline for applying is April 30, 2017.

Research PhD in Law at the University of Leeds in England

The PhD program at the Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law at the University of Leeds is largely focused on research and is perfect for students who want to start a career in academics. The Faculty has five main research fields, which are Business Law and Practice, Criminal Justice studies, Law and Social Justice, Law and Emerging Technologies and Disability Law. In order to apply for this program, you must have a research proposal which fits within one of the five fields. Admission is based on the quality of your research proposal and the relevance of the research. Students will receive guidance from two supervisors whom are experts in the field of the topic of the PhD thesis. There are several professors on the list of possible supervisors who specialize in fields such as (international) human rights law, social justice, non-discrimination and other relevant fields for students who want an academic human rights career.

The program’s duration is between three and four years for full-time students and between five and seven years for part-time students. In the first year students will work on a detailed research proposal as well as a literature review. The rest of the years, if the research proposal is accepted, students will work on their individual research under constant supervision of the two selected supervisors. The tuition fee for the program in 2018 is a yearly fee of £4.250 if you are a European Union resident and £15.750 if you are an international student. There are several scholarships available, such as the scholarship offered by the White Rose Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership (WRDTP) and a scholarship of the White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities. You can apply all-year round for this PhD program and the related scholarships.

PhD at the School of Law at the University of Liverpool in England

The PhD program at the School of Law of the University of Liverpool is a very suitable program for students looking to start an academic career in human rights law. The School of Law has a wide variety of research interests and students are encouraged to identify potential supervisors based on their research topics. There are several academic and research staff members who focus on human rights related topics such as human rights law, children’s rights, the rights of minorities and the rights of refugees. The University of Liverpool encourages students to contact potential supervisors and discuss their research proposal before applying, which could be useful to identify points in your research proposal that need some improvement.

The program takes between 2 and 4 years of full-time studies, but it is also possible to study part-time. All PhD students are required to take the course Legal Research Training, which aims to improve the research and presentation skills of the students. At the end of the first year students will give a presentation on a conference hosted by the School of Law, the rest of the time students will work on their individual research with the help of their supervisor. The tuition fees for this PhD program are £4.121 for students from within the European Union and £13.855 for international students. There are many different scholarships available for both EU and international students and on the website of the University of Liverpool you can find a funding tool that gives you a list of all the scholarships that you are eligible for. You can apply to this PhD program all-year round.

About the author

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.