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Master of Arts in Human Rights
Program Description
The MA in Human Rights Program combines social science, policy-based approaches with legal science and aims to provide theoretical and practical training in human rights for students who do not have a legal background. The problem-focused curriculum and the strong interdisciplinary and comparative approach offer students ample opportunities to understand the theoretical and legal foundations of human rights and engage with challenges to human rights protection in an age of skepticism and populism. The MA Program in Human Rights―like all other programs at the Department of Legal Studies―is committed to research-based teaching. Areas of research and teaching include international mechanisms for the protection of human rights in all international and regional human rights regimes, freedom of expression and freedom of religion, human rights and criminal justice, political rights, non-discrimination, minority protection, human rights and development politics, human rights in Africa, the constitutional protection of rights on a basic level, and more. Courses by our part-time (visiting) faculty build on the core content taught by permanent faculty, permitting us to introduce courses on contemporary human rights challenges as they arise. The program also benefits from close cooperation with other master’s programs at the Department via optional thematic specializations.
Teaching has a strong practical orientation and includes experiential learning and skill-building components in order to develop skills indispensable for successful human rights practitioners (such as negotiation, drafting, advocacy and presentation skills). Rigorous and closely monitored coursework provides the tools of advocacy, analysis, critical reading and writing necessary to enable students to make a significant and lasting contribution both to rights protection in their home countries and to the enforcement of human rights at large.  Courses prepare students to explore human rights issues across legal systems, to engage in advanced critical thinking, and to refine their arguments in oral interactions and group work. Classes are highly interactive, enabling students to benefit from the international composition of the student body; in-class discussions allow insight into contemporary developments as they evolve, enabling critical engagement with these developments in a manner that is sensitive to the multi- cultural composition of our academic community. Individual research skills are developed through problem-driven papers written for various courses, as well as in the final thesis or capstone thesis. Several courses offer first-hand experience for students in human rights advocacy and immersions to the work of civil society organizations, which remain unique assets of the Program. Students are encouraged to address practical human rights problems through comparative analysis, using a theoretic framework informed by inter-disciplinary insight. As a result, our graduates, with their advanced analytical skills which draw on critical inter-disciplinary analysis, are capable of responding effectively to human rights challenges with policy-relevant proposals.

Entry Requirements for the MA in Human Rights

In addition to meeting the General CEU Admissions Requirements, applicants to the HR MA program must also fulfill the Program-specific admission requirements.

In exceptional cases, applicants with a three-year bachelor’s degree may be allowed admission into one-year master’s programs. The applicants should be aware that they may not be able to pursue a doctoral degree in the European Higher Education Area if they have accumulated less than 300 ECTS credits in their prior university studies. Applicants wishing to pursue an academic career should choose their master’s program accordingly (two-year master’s in case they completed a three-year bachelor’s degree, and one-year master’s in case they completed a four-year bachelor’s degree). For the list of conditions under which exemptions may be granted, please refer to the program’s website.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course students will be equipped with

  • a substantial understanding of the institutional and procedural frameworks of human rights enforcement in major jurisdictions
  • considerable knowledge of the protection of particular human rights on national and supranational levels
  • a critical appreciation of the nature, efficacy and theoretical foundations of the international human rights regime
  • the ability to generate new ideas and advocacy strategies that provide genuine solutions to complex human rights problems using comparative arguments and interdisciplinary insight
  • the capacity to analyze human rights issues in a policy-relevant manner
  • the skills to envision a human rights-based approach to addressing diverse legal, regulatory and policy problems
Program level
Degree awarded
Program accreditation/registration
Program approved and registered by the New York State Education Department
Program accredited by the Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation Austria (AQ-Austria)
Country of accreditation
United States
Type of degree
Standard Program duration
1 year (10 months)
Start of the program
US degree credits
Austrian degree ECTS credits