MSc Human Rights and Diplomacy

Our Human Rights and Diplomacy programme is taught in partnership with the leading training body of the United Nations: the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

Human Rights and Diplomacy

Key facts

  • Award Masters / MSc, Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate
  • Start date January 2023
  • Duration MSc full-time: 12 months
  • Mode of study full time
  • Delivery on campus

Overview

This is the only Human Rights and Diplomacy programme in the world taught in partnership with the leading training body of the United Nations: the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

This is an interdisciplinary course that combines Law, Philosophy and Politics of human rights. 

You’ll learn about the practice and theory of human rights laws and politics, the UN human rights institutions, their history and their philosophical foundations. You’ll be taught by top human rights researchers and will be given practical training from experienced UN personnel in negotiating draft documents, and learning how to make a difference.

The course includes a 5-day study visit to Geneva for all students, to observe the Human Rights Council in session. Additionally, for the final three months of the course, if your profile is strong enough then you’ll have the opportunity to apply for a highly desirable internship, or else to pursue projects with human rights organisations or to tackle a traditional dissertation.

 

Top reasons to study with us

Course objectives

  • Explain, analyse and apply international human rights law in both theory and practice
  • Engage in the theoretical framework of diplomacy, its history and the development of international relations
  • Engage and debate critiques of human rights
  • Draft documents and possess the skills needed to negotiate their progress in a range of human rights institutions
  • Find your way within the United Nations Institutions working on human rights matters and local NGOs
  • Apply a wide range of theoretical and practical methods to human rights research, activism and politics

Work placements

In the Autumn semester, students with a strong enough profile will be supported to apply for UN internships. These have recently included unpaid internships at the International Court of Justice, the UN Joint Inspection Unit, UNESCO and others.

Many other students pursue integrated professional projects in Scotland and the UK. Recent projects included the Forth Valley Welcome refugee organisation; Nourish Scotland on the right to food; Positive Action on Housing focused on rooms for refugees; Scottish PEN focused on journalists' and writers' rights; Howard League Scotland focused on the rights of prisoners; Stirling Council working on poverty sensitivity training; Leprosy Mission Scotland; Revive Campaign on the psychological effects of explosive violence; and with the UN Special Rapporteur for Cambodia.

Our Programme has partnered with UN Women (UN organisation dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women), the Institute for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (IHRDA) and the East African Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights) to deliver placement opportunities to some of our students.

Entry onto the MSc does not guarantee entry onto the UN internship module. There is a limited number of places on this module, so students for this module need to go through a further selective application and possible interview process during the MSc. Students who do not gain entry to the UN internship module are supported to pursue excellent placements in non-UN human rights organisations, or the dissertation.

Study abroad

As well as the integrated 5-day trip to Geneva for all students, the UN internships include options abroad. Those who pursue an internship will have living costs of approximately £1600 per month for internships in Geneva, approximately £1600 per month for internships in New York, and £1000 per month for internships in Rome – with variable costs for alternative internships.

We recommend you consult websites for cost of living in different locations if you are planning to pursue the UN internship. Those who pursue local Scottish or UK based projects or the academic dissertation also need to think about the cost of living in those locations. Go to the Which? website to see an estimated breakdown of student costs, helping you to work out your budget.

Research overview

Course Directors Dr Damian Etone, Professor Rowan Cruft and Professor Katie Boyle are widely-published in the areas of human rights and diplomacy. 

Professor Cruft’s monograph, Human Rights, Ownership, and the Individual, was published in 2019 by Oxford University Press. It offers an account of the philosophical foundations of human rights, defending their conception as rights rather than mere values, goals or duties. He is also co-editor of OUP’s 2015 volume, Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. 

Dr Etone’s recent monograph, The Human Rights Council: The Impact of the Universal Periodic Review in Africa was published in 2020 by Routledge, assessing and defending the universal periodic review process as an important addition to the international human rights monitoring framework. He also reports on international criminal law cases for OUP’s International Criminal Law Series. 

Dr Boyle’s monograph on Economic and Social Rights: Justiciability and Principles of Adjudication was published with Routledge in 2020. She has published widely on economic, social and cultural rights, incorporation, justiciability and models of constitutionalisation including in the International Journal of Human Rights. Her research has been adopted by national human rights institutions and has featured in UN Committee level proceedings. Katie recently published a report with the Scottish Human Rights Commission on Models of Incorporation and Justiciability for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. She qualified as a solicitor with the Government Legal Service and was appointed to advise the First Minister on the FM Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership in 2018.

Entry requirements

Academic requirements

A minimum of a second class honours degree or equivalent. Applicants without these formal qualifications but with significant appropriate/relevant work/life experience are encouraged to apply.

International entry requirements

View the entry requirements for your country.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your English language skills:

  • IELTS Academic or UKVI 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each sub-skill
  • Cambridge C1 Advanced (CAE) 176 overall with a minimum of 169 in each sub-skill
  • Cambridge C2 Proficiency (CPE) 180 overall with a minimum of 169 in each sub-skill
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic) 62 overall with 60 in each sub-skill
  • IBT TOEFL 80 overall with 18 in reading, 23 in writing, 19 in listening and 21 in speaking
  • IBT TOEFL Special Home Edition Test 80 overall with 18 in reading, 23 in writing, 19 in listening and 21 in speaking
  • Trinity ISE II Pass overall and Merit in all sub-skills, ISE III Pass overall and in all sub-skills, ISE IV Pass overall and in all sub-skills
  • Aptis (4 skills) CEFR B2 overall and B2 in all sub-skills
  • Duolingo 105 overall with a minimum of 95 in each sub-skill
  • LanguageCert International ESOL B2 Communicator - High Pass with a minimum of 152/200 overall and 33 in each sub-skill

Last updated: 24 March 2022

You must also check the specific English language requirements for your country.

For more information on ways that you can meet our English language requirements, including options to waive the requirement, please read our information on English language requirements.

Pre-sessional English language courses

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this course, our partner INTO University of Stirling offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for entry to this degree.

Find out more about our pre-sessional English language courses.

Course details

The programme offers a unique combination of theory and practice: alongside modules introducing students to human rights law and politics, the UN human rights institutions, their history and their philosophical foundations, students will be given practical training from experienced UN personnel in transferrable diplomacy skills such as negotiating, drafting documents, and learning how to make a difference.

 

Modules

The module information below provides an example of the types of course module you may study. The details listed are for the current academic year (September 2021). Modules and start dates are regularly reviewed and may be subject to change in future years.

Course Details

Teaching

For the legal, political and philosophical parts of the programme, your teachers will be top academic researchers: in pursuing their modules, you will be encouraged both to learn the latest legal, political and philosophical positions, and to develop your own analyses. The optional modules allow you to explore human rights and diplomacy within broader  settings. For the practical training, your teachers will be experienced UN practitioners who will use simulation exercises, role play and case studies to help you gain negotiating skills. All teaching will involve a mixture of group work, with the exception of the one-to-one discussions and training used to help students decide whether (and where) to apply for an internship, and the similar focused discussions for those who opt for the academic dissertation. 

Students taking the internship or professional project will have both a Stirling and a UNITAR mentor. Detailed preparation and guidance – including assistance applying, and preparation for interviews – will be offered in advance of the internships and projects, as part of the Preparation for Independent Work module. Students taking the dissertation will have a primary supervisor with expertise in the student’s chosen specialism.

The Approaches to Human Rights module will introduce students to a very wide range of approaches to human rights, and will also involve sessions aimed at allowing students to share their own varied human rights and/or academic experiences, including allowing students from a professional background to compare their views with those of recent  graduates.

Fieldwork

The Geneva Study Trip will provide the opportunity for a first-hand professional immersion within the United Nations and Geneva’s multilateral working environments. Students will learn more about the main decision makers and will have a unique opportunity to meet practitioners from the major institutions, including from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council as well as other institutions, enabling them to strengthen their knowledge of the UN System and other international organizations working on Human Rights matters. The content of the study visit will be customized to meet the needs of the student and can include meetings with senior officials from the UN agencies situated in Geneva in the fields of peace, security and disarmament; trade, economic and labour affairs; environment and sustainable development; health, intellectual property, science and telecommunication; and humanitarian law, human rights and migration.

Assessment

Assessment and Assessment Criteria

Academic modules will be assessed by coursework and some graded groupwork.  Modules focused on practice and skills will similarly be assessed by reflective coursework and practical assessment. A range of assessments will be used and will measure achievement of learning outcomes. The assessment criteria will be set out in advance of each assignment.  The internship and academic project will be assessed partly by means of a post-project self-reflective report written by the student, and partly by reports on the student’s performance offered by the internship/project provider.

Feedback on Assessment

You will receive feedback on coursework within three weeks of completion of the assessment. Feedback is usually provided electronically on formal coursework. Feedback and guidance sessions with teaching staff are available on all modules. These provide regular opportunities to discuss feedback further. See more information about feedback on assessment.

Key staff

Dr Damian Etone

Dr Damian Etone is an expert in International Human Rights Law and focus on the participation of African states in various international human rights mechanisms. He is author of the monograph The Human Rights Council: The Impact of the Universal Periodic Review in Africa published with Routledge in 2020 and he has prior experience teaching human rights law in different places including Australia and England. His current expertise includes International Human Rights Law, International Criminal Law and Transitional Justice. He has worked for over 6 years as an International Criminal Law Case Reporter for OUP and published over 12 reports in the OUP international criminal law series. Damian previously worked as an Assistant Human Rights officer at the Cameroon National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms between 2011 and 2012 and has previously received a Chevening Award (2012-2013) and a Beacon of Enlightenment Award (2014-2017). 

The Rt Hon Sir George Reid FRSE, Professorial Teaching Fellow, University of Stirling

Sir George is a former MP, MSP, Member of the Assembly of the Council of Europe, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and Lord-Lieutenant of Clackmannanshire. Between his time at Westminster and Holyrood, he spent 15 years working in disasters and conflicts worldwide as a director of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent. Since retirement, George has chaired strategic reviews in the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and is currently a Member of the Scottish Government's Standing Council on Europe.  

Mr Philippe Aubert

Philippe Aubert is Programme Specialist at UNITAR’s Division for Multilateral Diplomacy, where he started in 2013 working on online projects, and progressively transitioned into developing and implementing a wide variety of customized and face-to-face activities in Geneva, New York City, Vienna, Rome, Moscow, as well as throughout the world, for a total of more than 50 face-to-face activities implemented each year by the Programme. Prior to UNITAR, Philippe worked as an assistant for the economic and political affairs at the Embassy of Switzerland in Australia, as well as a teacher in Switzerland.

Vincent Irmay

Vincent Irmay, from UNITAR’s Division for Multilateral Diplomacy, specialises in face-to-face and online diplomatic trainings, tailored to the needs of various partners, including Academic Institutions, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, and International Organisations. Vincent is responsible for various trainings and high-level events taking place in Geneva, Nairobi, Bangkok, Kathmandu, and other locations across the globe. Areas of knowledge include (without being limited to) Human Rights, Multilateral Diplomacy, Negotiations Skills, Cosmopolitan Communication, and International Security.

Fees and funding

Fees and costs

  2021/22 2022/23
Students from the UK£8,700£9,200
Students from the Republic of Ireland£8,700£9,200
Overseas (non-EU) students£19,645£20,145
European Union students£19,645£20,145

Students from the UK

Course fees

Fees shown are for a full-time, one-year Masters course.

If you need to extend your period of study or repeat study, you will be liable for additional fees.

If you are studying part time, the total course fee will be split over the years that you study. The total fee will remain the same and will be held at the rate set in your year of entry.

For more information on courses invoiced on an annual fee basis, please read our tuition fee policy.

Students from the Republic of Ireland

Course fees

Fees shown are for a full-time, one-year Masters course.

If you need to extend your period of study or repeat study, you will be liable for additional fees.

If you are studying part time, the total course fee will be split over the years that you study. The total fee will remain the same and will be held at the rate set in your year of entry.

For more information on courses invoiced on an annual fee basis, please read our tuition fee policy.

European Union students

EU Postgraduate Scholarship

Eligible EU students will automatically receive our EU Postgraduate Scholarship, which provides a 40% fee discount on full-time, on-campus postgraduate degrees at the University of Stirling.

Course fees

Fees shown are for a full-time, one-year Masters course.

If you need to extend your period of study, you will be liable for additional fees.

If you are studying part time, the total course fee will be split over the years that you study. The total fee will remain the same and will be held at the rate set in your year of entry.

For more information on courses invoiced on an annual fee basis, please read our tuition fee policy.

Overseas students (non-EU)

We offer a range of funding options for overseas students.

Course fees

Fees shown are for a full-time, one-year Masters course.

If you need to extend your period of study, you may be liable for additional fees.

If you are studying part time, the total course fee will be split over the years that you study. The total fee will remain the same and will be held at the rate set in your year of entry.

For more information on courses invoiced on an annual fee basis, please read our tuition fee policy.

Postgraduate tuition fee loans

This course is eligible for a postgraduate tuition fee loan from one of the UK’s governments. See the section, below, for more details.

Additional costs

There are some instances where additional fees may apply. Depending on your chosen course, you may need to pay additional costs, for example for field trips. Learn more about additional fees.

The University provides all students with the opportunity to take part in a 5-day study visit to Geneva. There is no extra cost for this study visit, but if you require a visa to travel to Geneva then you would need to fund this yourself.

Scholarships and funding

Postgraduate tuition fee loans

Scottish students may be eligible to apply to the Students Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for loans of up to £10,000 to cover tuition fees and associated living costs.

English students can apply for a loan of up to £11,570 each year as part of the Postgraduate Masters Loan Scheme.

Welsh students can apply for financial support of up to £18,025 as a combination of grant and loan from Student Finance Wales.

Northern Irish students can apply for a postgraduate tuition fee loan of up to £5,500 from Student Finance NI.

If you have the talent, ability and drive to study with us, we want to make sure you make the most of the opportunity – regardless of your financial circumstances.

Learn more about available funding opportunities or use our scholarship finder to explore our range of scholarships.

Cost of living

If you’re domiciled in the UK, you can typically apply to your relevant funding body for help with living costs. This usually takes the form of student loans, grants or bursaries, and the amount awarded depends upon your personal circumstances and household income.

European Union and overseas students won’t normally be able to claim living support through SAAS or other UK public funding bodies. You should contact the relevant authority in your country to find out if you’re eligible to receive support.

Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

Payment options

We aim to be as flexible as possible, and offer a wide range of payment methods - including the option to pay fees by instalments. Learn more about how to pay

After you graduate

Our MSc Human Rights and Diplomacy course has a strong focus on employability.

Students who successfully undertake an internship or professional project will gain hands-on experience of human rights diplomacy, backed up by the academic theoretical and legal knowledge developed in the spring and summer modules. Students will also be well placed to pursue an academic career by continuing onto PhD or commensurate research career possibilities, a route that will be further supported by undertaking the traditional academic dissertation.

Work in the UN institutions or in NGOs are clear options for graduates of this course, and the networked development of the internship or professional project you apply for will be coordinated by UNITAR and Stirling staff together as a strong route into such employment. Likewise, graduates of the programme will be well placed for employment in the private sector. There is an increasing focus on business and human rights and companies seeking to align with international best practice, including compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals and international human rights obligations. Graduates in both human rights and diplomacy will be best placed as future leaders in terms of emerging best practice.

Through this programme, you will become reflective practitioners with an in-depth knowledge of current issues and developments within human rights. You will display the  attributes necessary to thrive in the work place, with highly developed communication, team-working and problem-solving skills gained through practical work informed by critical analysis and in-depth specialist knowledge.

Employability skills

Intellectual, Practical and Transferable Skills and other graduate attributes you will possess by the end of the programme:
  • An open-minded, critical outlook that is both morally and legally well-informed
  • Negotiating and drafting skills useable in an international context with multiple committed stake-holders
  • Networking and communication skills necessary to developing robust academic and practical contributions   

Values and Attitudes:
  • Critically reflective commitment to addressing the problems that human rights attempt to tackle, and the problems human rights themselves generate
  • Self-starting ability to find a role within human rights institutions and organisations
  • Strong team player embedded in a human rights based approach to working with others
  • Integrity in tackling the challenges of human rights diplomacy
  • An ethical approach to study and research

What our students said

Ntami Eborty
Ntami Eborty
Nigeria
MSc Human Rights and Diplomacy
My decision to move to Scotland to study for my MSc Human Rights and Diplomacy degree was one of the best things that ever happened to me. The course has set me up with confidence for my career and opened a window of opportunities for my career path.
Read Ntami's story
Rebecca Tivendale
Rebecca Tivendale
Scotland
MSc Human Rights and Diplomacy
This programme offers amazing opportunities to volunteer in the field, to apply the knowledge gained from classes, in a practical setting.
Read Rebecca's story

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