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Top 5 Universities Offering E-learning Human Rights Courses for Free

Universities around the world recognize the increasing demand for human rights knowledge among their students. In times of COVID-19 the need for accessible quality education is even more evident. More and more universities offer self-paced e-learning human rights courses that everyone can take for free. We have collected a list of the best e-learning training courses offered by leading universities.

#1. Harvard University (United States)

Among the top 10 best universities in the world Harvard, offers several e-learning courses related to human rights and humanitarian action. With more than 180,000+ participants so far, Child Protection: Children’s Rights in Theory and Practise is among the most popular human rights e-learning courses of all time. In this course you will learn how to protect children from violence, exploitation and human rights abuses through human rights law, policy and practise. The course is free to audit but you can opt-in for a verified Harvard certificate to add to your CV for an extra fee. Another course that is accessible fully online is Harvard’s Humanitarian Response to Conflict and Disaster. In this course you will learn about the principles of humanitarian response and what can be done to alleviate human suffering. With more than 100,000 participants this course ranks among the top humanitarian courses globally.

#2. Stanford University (United States)

Stanford University is dedicated to finding solutions to big challenges and to preparing students for leadership in a complex world. One of the world’s leading research and teaching institutions, Stanford is offering a course on International Women’s Health and Human Rights. This course will tackle some of the most crucial issues that affect women’s rights including female genital mutilation, domestic violence, child marriage and sexually transmitted diseases from a human rights perspective. You will learn the basics of women’s rights and investigate topics such as violence against women, women in war and refugee settings, sex trafficking, escaping poverty and more. This course is free to audit but participants who would like to add a Stanford certification to their CV can opt-in for a verified certificate for a small fee.

#3. Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium)

Founded in 1425 Louvain is offering a course in International Human Rights Law taught by UN Special Rapporteur on poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter. In this course you will learn how human rights are protected on a domestic and international level. You will learn about international human rights bodies and mechanisms, apply human rights law to case studies and discuss current challenges in international human rights law with your peers. Beyond that you will learn about the duties of states to protect human rights, what discrimination is and under which rare circumstances human rights can be restricted. This course is labelled as an advanced course but will be useful for everyone with a deep interest in human rights law.  To earn a paid certificate you must complete 12 weeks of coursework with a weekly dedication of 6-8 hours.

#4. Leiden University (The Netherlands)

The Netherlands are home to some of the most important human rights bodies including the International Criminal Court (ICC)  and the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The ICC is an intergovernmental organization which has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICJ settles disputes between states and gives advisory opinions on international legal issues referred to it by the UN. With this unique placement Leiden University is offering courses about International Courts and Tribunals and Investigating and Prosecuting International Crimes. In both courses you will learn from leading experts about International Law in Action.

#5. Columbia University (United States)

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in New York City. The University offers a massive open online course on Protecting Children in Humanitarian Crises. With the long-term impact of the refugee crises, the devastating effects of climate change and the current challenge of COVID-19, the contents of this course could not be more relevant. You will learn how children can be protected from exploitation, abuse and neglect during humanitarian crises and how to critically assess different approaches to child protection. This course will take roughly 12 weeks to complete with a weekly commitment of 3-5 hours. The course is taught by experts in forced migration, child protection, human rights and family health.

BONUS: Amnesty International (United Kingdom)

Amnesty International is not a university but one of the world’s leading human rights NGOs. In 2015 the organization and movement partnered with Harvard/MIT to start delivering high quality human rights courses from the ground to everyone. Today Amnesty International is offering a set of online courses featuring activists from the frontlines and providing unique insight into the challenges of human rights defenders. Amnesty’s courses are a valuable experience for everyone but more so for people who want to take action for human rights. The courses they offer include Refugee Rights, Human Rights Defenders and Digital Security and Human Rights.

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Human Rights Careers

Human Rights Careers (HRC) provides information about online courses, jobs, paid internships, masters degrees, scholarships and other opportunities in the human rights sector and related areas.