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 2022, January 2023
  • Duration MSc full-time: 12 months
  • Mode of study Full-time, Campus based

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 equlity and the empowerment of wormen), 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.

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 Dr 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.

What our students said

Ntami Eborty
Ntami Eborty
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
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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