Human Rights & International Politics MSc

Human Rights building

This programme offers a thorough academic analysis of one of the most salient and pressing issues in the contemporary world: the place of individual human rights in a system of international relations in which states’ rights have traditionally been paramount.

Key facts

Why this programme

  • If you plan a career with non-governmental organisations, in related domestic, European and other global institutions, or in higher education, or want to learn more about human rights and international politics, this programme is designed for you.
  • You will have the opportunity to participate in a 5-day study trip to Geneva to visit the UN and non-governmental human rights organisations.
  • The degree is genuinely interdisciplinary in content and structure, and is designed to ensure that you will encounter both legal and political perspectives, unlike most other human rights programmes which are exclusively focused on law. You can choose to focus on one domain more than the other.
  • The programme draws on recognised expertise in international institutions, security, gender, political philosophy, theories of rights, and ethics and normative theory, as well as a wide variety of country and regional expertise.
  • You will benefit from access to a number of organisations within and beyond the University, including the Glasgow Human Rights Network; The Glasgow Refugee, Asylum & Migration Network; The Glasgow Centre for International Development; and the annual International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival.
  • If you wish to combine the study of this subject with additional advanced training in research methods, you should consider the closely-related MRes in Human Rights & International Politics.

Programme structure

You will take 4 core and 2 optional courses. Courses will be delivered via lectures and seminars. Some courses contain an exam. You will also submit a dissertation at the end of the programme.

Core courses

  • Critical perspectives on human rights (Politics)
  • Fundamentals of international law (Law)
  • Human rights and global politics (Politics)
  • Qualitative research methods OR Social science statistics

Optional courses (two chosen, one from politics and one from law)


  • Challenges in international politics
  • China's international politics
  • Chinese politics and society
  • Comparative European politics
  • Ethics in global politics
  • EU in international politics and development
  • Foreign policy of the United States 
  • Freedom of expression
  • Globalisation and European integration
  • Institutions and policies of the European Union
  • International relations theory
  • International security and global politics
  • Internet and civil society 
  • Media and democracy
  • Political institutions, crisis and communication
  • Political legitimacy: contemporary perspectives
  • Politics of gender in development.


  • British constitutionalism c1600-1800
  • Freedom, security and justice in the European Union
  • Globalisation, constitutionalism and human rights
  • Law and democracy
  • United Nations law.  

Note: Some courses might not be available every year. You may also be able to choose from courses in the other subjects in the School of Social & Political Sciences and the School of Law.


The dissertation, written during the final phase of the programme, is your opportunity to explore your own specialist interest in human rights and international politics and to demonstrate the research and writing skills you have developed during the programme.

Background and aims

The MSc in Human Rights and International Politics has been running since 2004. It is unique in providing a truly interdisciplinary approach to the study of human rights, including politics, law and other disciplines. This is enhanced by being within the interdisciplinary School of Social and Political Sciences.

The programme gives students key knowledge and analytical tools relevant to a career a variety of organisations related to human rights, such as international and domestic nongovernmental organisations, international governmental organisations such as the United Nations or European Union, and government agencies, or for further academic research in a PhD programme.

The programme is enhanced by a number of elements, most notable of which is the optional 5 day study trip to Geneva, held after classes and exams end. The purpose of the trip is to introduce students to a range of human rights and humanitarian organisations based in Geneva in order to provide more in depth engagement with those who work in the field of human rights, connect what students have learned in their classes to real world institutions, and to get a sense of possible career opportunities.

The programme attracts around 25 students a year, and we actively promote student-centred teaching and guarantee individual dissertation supervision. Our students benefit from intensive teaching by political scientists with strong publishing profiles and international reputations in their areas of expertise.

While studying here, you can benefit from various organisations within and beyond the University:

What our students say

These testimonials come from students on the MSc programme, which is closely related to the MRes.

Boel Marcks von Würtemberg (Sweden), 2012-13

Boel Marcks von Wurtemberg

'The programme provided me with theoretical subject knowledge in global politics and international law, which has worked well as a complement to my more practical undergraduate degree in journalism, and really helped my career develop. After the programme I was accepted to the Department for International Development’s graduate development scheme, as a result of presenting a rights-based approach to development. This position introduced me to the practical side of delivering overseas development and humanitarian assistance, and the critical perspective I had gained from my master’s degree proved very useful for identifying programmatic challenges and risks. After the graduate scheme I was offered a permanent contract with DFID, and I have since then been seconded to the Stabilisation Unit, which is a civil-military operational unit for coordinating and implementing the government’s work in fragile and conflict-affected states.'

Mark Girvan (UK), 2013-14

‘My experience of the programme has been overwhelmingly positive. Over the course of the last 12 months, I have been challenged by the course material and by the teaching staff to push the boundaries of my understanding in an encouraging environment. The curriculum examines the relationship between the theoretical perspectives upon which the human rights movement is founded, the global structures intended to promote human rights, and the "grassroots" contexts in which human rights play a vital role.

A pleasant surprise from this year had been the way in which I have learned from my student peer group. Through discussions inside and outside of the classroom, my perspective on human rights issues has been broadened in a way that would not have been possible had I conducted my research in isolation. This was something that was encouraged by the teaching staff from day one. I would highly recommend this programme to anyone who wishes to broaden, or deepen, their understanding of human rights.’

Andrew Marshall (UK), 2013-14

'My time here so far has been fantastic. I chose the MSc Human Rights and International Politics as it is ideally suited to my academic interests and tailored to the fields of employment I’m hoping to build a career in, though I’ve also long wanted to study at University of Glasgow due to its impressive academic reputation and vibrant student community. My favourite aspects of studying here by far have been immersion in an environment of intensive learning and critical discussion, within which difficult questions and presuppositions are all directly tackled alongside leading experts and peers in the fields of human rights and international politics, as well as many new friends made both on the course and within the many groups and societies active on campus. I would highly recommend the University to anyone seeking to challenge themselves, to test and expand their own ideals and knowledge and to advance themselves and their prospects by engaging in a hugely rewarding academic and social environment.'

Piper Hart (Canada), 2010-11

'I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. After spending a year working as a policy analyst for the Canadian government I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Human Rights and International Politics at the University of Glasgow. The University of Glasgow is an excellent institution offering a quality education. The teaching staff are of incredibly high calibre and help students to tailor the course to ensure everyone gets the most of their masters experience. 

The MSc in Human Rights and International Politics helped me deepen my critical thinking and analytical skills. While completing my masters, the course leaders helped me secure a volunteer position that allowed me to put my education to practical use. The combination of the knowledge I gained, the skills I developed, and the work experience I got meant I was able to seamlessly transition into employment after graduation.


I am now at my dream job, working for the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office in Harare, Zimbabwe. My work here includes facilitating information sharing between United Nations agencies working in Zimbabwe to develop flagship programs for each of the Zimbabwe’s development priorities, acting as a liaison between the United Nations and the Government on new program development, and researching monitoring and evaluation tools and using the results to provide recommendations on which tools will be most effective in Zimbabwe.'

Davide TundoDavide Tundo (Italy), 2007-08

'I joined the University of Glasgow in September 2007 when I enrolled in the MSc in Human Rights & International Politics. Previously I had completed a bachelor of law in Italy and a Master in International Studies at the University of Barcelona. As I wanted to work in the human rights field, I felt that I had to get an in-depth knowledge of the main issues, in both theory and practice. The MSc programme was then my choice and it proved decisive for my professional career.

I took fundamentals of international law, challenges of international politics and qualitative methods of research in my first semester; and United Nations law, international security and global politics and human rights & global politics in the second one. For my final dissertation I carried out a research into the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people, which I framed under a legal and moral approach.  Overall I found the program to be of great quality vis à vis the university professors and staff, subjects covered, teaching methods and support materials, as well as learning facilities provided for students. In particular, the course allowed me to critically engage the main human rights issues and theories through written works and class debate with my fellow students from all over the world.


Upon successful completion of all the course modules - while researching for my final dissertation- I was admitted to a six-month internship program of the Geneva-based International Labour Office (ILO) in the Partnership & Development/External Relations Unit, where I assisted in reviewing and mainstreaming relations between the ILO and INGOs in the framework of the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda. I believe belonging to the University of Glasgow resulted decisive for my recruitment. After the ILO, I worked as intern at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, and I assisted the mandates on racism and freedom of expression and opinion in the context of the Special Procedures within the Civil and Political Rights Department. During this time I also completed my final MSc dissertation which was marked with merit.

Afterwards – once completed a short term assignment as external relations officer with an Italian NGO- I moved to the Gaza Strip, where I worked as a human rights consultant within the International Unit of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR).  

In a few days I will be now flying to South Sudan to work as UNV human rights officer within the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). I will be facing new challenges in the newest UN country but I am ready and I look forward to beginning my work. At this point, I turn back and notice once again how decisive turned out to be my experience at the University of Glasgow vis à vis my professional and personal commitment to human rights. Yes, I took the right decision in September 2007 when I joined the MSc in Human Rights & International Politics of the University of Glasgow.'

Catriona Clunas

'I joined the programme as a mature student, studying part time whilst working as an Ecosystem Analyst. Although my background is in Ecology the programme complemented the human rights and politics elements of my work on international issues in climate change, natural resources and forest carbon. I found the change in discipline and being part-time hard at times, but the support given by the university and lecturers has helped. I can see now the merit of studying full time and the benefits you receive by being immersed in the course and the subject!

In addition to the compulsory human rights modules I really enjoyed the classes in global security and development economics, both complement the direction I wish to take in the future.

Completing the masters has helped broaden my understanding of international human rights issues; I am now able to better articulate and understand the issues that I am presented within the context of natural resources and the environment. I feel the masters has given me the confidence to pursue future work in the field of human rights and the environment particularly in relation to the impact of climate change; a rapidly expanding field.

Whilst completing the masters I also had the opportunity to work as a research intern for the Scottish Human Rights Commission, a position that without the basic tenets of human rights law and issues learned through the MSc would not have been possible.'

William Hassall

'My MSc in Human Rights and International Politics taught me about current conflict, development and other human rights issues from a political as well as a legal perspective. Having this background proved to be invaluable while interning within the Security Monitoring Section of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo. While most students had an understanding of either politics or law, having a knowledge of both proved to be a distinct advantage in understanding both the political situation and the work of the section. As a result, while working on institution-building and accountability within the Kosovo police, I was able to gain practical experience in the areas of children's rights, minority rights, the rights of arrested persons, community policing and more. Consequently, I would recommend this program to anyone interested in international human rights.'

David Lawson, Scotland

'My Masters degree really helped me prepare for my fledgling career, by giving me a great overview of the overarching themes relating to human rights and international politics, and teaching me practical skills which became invaluable when I started to work 'in the field'. After graduating I completed an internship at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, then spent six months as a volunteer on the Thai-Burma border with a Burmese pro-democracy NGO comprised of refugees from Burma's eastern ethnic states. I formed a great relationship with my colleagues and they graciously offered me a full time paid position as 'Editor and Advocacy Coordinator'. My varied duties include journalism, human rights documentation and coordinating local and international advocacy and awareness raising campaigns.'

Ewen McIntosh, Scotland

'The Human Rights & International Politics programme offers a staggeringly broad array of pertinent and challenging courses to choose from, both within the politics department, and other related disciplines. Whilst the work load is demanding, this strong foundation in human rights issues, their place within international politics, and experience of research, provided me with the knowledge and confidence required for a subsequent internship in a humanitarian relief NGO and to begin a PhD. Looking back on my experience, it is clear that this one year of concentrated study has provided me with a qualification that may change the course of my life and has unlocked an international job market previously closed to me. Leading authorities in their varied specialities, the staff within the department are highly approachable and willing to go the extra mile to aid understanding and advance academic development. I have made strong bonds with many members of staff on an intellectual and personal level. My MSc experience was greatly enhanced by the vibrant and diverse makeup of my fellow students. What better for the study of international politics than a truly international debate between class mates from every continent? I have doubtless made life-long friends from around the world.'


‌Students on the MSc and MRes in Human Rights and International Politics can optionally participate in a 5 day trip to Geneva after the exams.

The trip will introduce you to a range of human rights and humanitarian organisations based in Geneva, providing more in depth engagement with those who work in the field of human rights. It will also help you connect what you have learned in classes to real world institutions, and give you a sense of possible career opportunities.

The most recent trip involved visits to:

  • UK Mission to Geneva
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Program for Israel and Palestine
  • Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies
  • Oxfam

The cost of the trip - including airfare, accommodation, and meals - is borne by students and is approximately £650-700. Please feel free to contact the course convenor, Kurt Mills, if you have any questions. 

Politics students at the United Nations 

Entry requirements

for entry in 2015

You should have a 2.1 honours degree or equivalent (e.g. B/3.0 GPA) in politics, law or related social science subject.

We will consider applications from graduates from other fields, but the applicant should submit a statement indicating why they are interested in changing fields or the connection to their previous study. We will also take relevant work experience into account.

International students with academic qualifications below those required should contact our partner institution, Glasgow International College, who offer a range of pre-Masters courses.

English language requirements

For applicants whose first language is not English, the University sets a minimum English Language proficiency level.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module (not General Training)

  • overall score 6.5
  • no sub-test less than 6.0
  • or equivalent scores in another recognised qualification (see below)

Common equivalent English language qualifications

All stated English tests are acceptable for admission for both home/EU and international students for this programme:

  • ibTOEFL: 92; no sub-test less than 20
  • CAE (Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English): 176 overall; no sub-test less than 169
  • CPE (Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English):  176 overall; no sub-test less than 169
  • PTE Academic (Person Test of English, Academic test): 60; no sub-test less than 59

For international students, the Home Office has confirmed that the University can choose to use these tests to make its own assessment of English language ability for visa applications to degree level programmes. The University is also able to accept an IELTS test (Academic module) from any of the 1000 IELTS test centres from around the world and we do not require a specific UKVI IELTS test for degree level programmes. We therefore still accept any of the English tests listed for admission to this programme.

Pre-sessional courses

The University of Glasgow accepts evidence of the required language level from the Language Centre Pre-sessional courses. We also consider other BALEAP accredited pre-sessional courses:


What do I do if...

my language qualifications are below the requirements?

The University's Language Centre offers a range of Pre-Sessional Courses to bring you up to entry level. The course is accredited by BALEAP, the UK professional association for academic English teaching; see Links.

my language qualifications are not listed here?

Please contact the Recruitment and International Office:


For further information about English language requirements, please contact the Recruitment and International Office:

Fees and funding

Tuition fees for 2016-17


Home and EU
Full time fee£6950
Full time fee£15250


Home and EU
Full time fee£4633
Full time fee£10167

Fees are subject to change and for guidance only

Funding opportunities

Career prospects

Career opportunities include positions in higher education, government/foreign ministry, intergovernmental organisations, non-governmental organisations and think tanks.

How to apply

We ask that you apply online for a postgraduate taught degree. Our system allows you to fill out the standard application form online and submit this to the University within 42 days of starting your application.

You need to read the guide to applying online before starting your application. It will ensure you are ready to proceed, as well as answer many common questions about the process.

Guide to applying online

Do I have to apply online for a postgraduate taught degree?

Yes. To apply for a postgraduate taught degree you must apply online. We are unable to accept your application by any other means than online.

Do I need to complete and submit the application in a single session?

No. You have 42 days to submit your application once you begin the process. You may save and return to your application as many times as you wish to update information, complete sections or upload additional documents such as your final transcript or your language test.

What documents do I need to provide to make an application?

As well as completing your online application fully, it is essential that you submit the following documents:

  • A copy (or copies) of your official degree certificate(s) (if you have already completed your degree)
  • A copy (or copies) of your official academic transcript(s), showing full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained
  • Official English translations of the certificate(s) and transcript(s)
  • Two supporting reference letters on headed paper
  • Evidence of your English Language ability (if your first language is not English)
  • Any additional documents required for this programme (see Entry requirements for this programme)
  • A copy of the photo page of your passport (Non-EU students only)

If you do not have all of these documents at the time of submitting your application then it is still possible to make an application and provide any further documents at a later date, as long as you include a full current transcript (and an English translation if required) with your application. See the ‘Your References, Transcripts and English Qualification’ sections of our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Do my supporting documents need to be submitted online?

Yes, where possible, please upload the supporting documents with your application.

How do I provide my references?

You must either upload the required references to your online application or ask your referees to send the references to the University as we do not contact referees directly. There is two main ways that you can provide references: you can either upload references on headed paper when you are making an application using the Online Application (or through Applicant Self-Service after you have submitted your application) or you can ask your referee to email the reference directly to See the 'Your References, Transcripts and English Qualifications' section of the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

What if I am unable to submit all of my supporting documents online?

If you cannot upload an electronic copy of a document and need to send it in by post, please attach a cover sheet to it that includes your name, the programme you are applying for, and your application reference number.

You may send them to:

Recruitment & International Office
71 Southpark Avenue
G12 8QQ
Fax: +44 141 330 4045

Can I email my supporting documents?

No. We cannot accept email submissions of your supporting documents.

What entry requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

You should check that you have met (or are likely to have met prior to the start of the programme) the individual entry requirements for the degree programme you are applying for. This information can be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab on each individual programme page, such as the one you are viewing now.

What English Language requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

If you are an international student, you should also check that you have met the English Language requirements specific to the programme you are applying for. These can also be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab for each specific programme.

Further Information

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on applying to a postgraduate taught programme.

Guidance notes for using the online application

These notes are intended to help you complete the online application form accurately, they are also available within the help section of the online application form. If you experience any difficulties accessing the online application then you should visit the Application Troubleshooting/FAQs page.

  • Name and Date of birth: must appear exactly as they do on your passport. Please take time to check the spelling and lay-out.
  • Contact Details: Correspondence address. All contact relevant to your application will be sent to this address including the offer letter(s). If your address changes, please contact us as soon as possible.
  • Choice of course: Please select carefully the course you want to study. As your application will be sent to the admissions committee for each course you select it is important to consider at this stage why you are interested in the course and that it is reflected in your application.
  • Proposed date of entry: Please state your preferred start date including the month and the year. Taught masters degrees tend to begin in September. Research degrees may start in any month.
  • Education and Qualifications: Please complete this section as fully as possible indicating any relevant Higher Education qualifications starting with the most recent. Complete the name of the Institution (s) as it appears on the degree certificate or transcript.
  • English Language Proficiency: Please state the date of any English language test taken (or to be taken) and the award date (or expected award date if known).
  • Employment and Experience: Please complete this section as fully as possible with all employments relevant to your course. Additional details may be attached in your personal statement/proposal where appropriate.
  • References: Please provide the names and contact details of two academic references. Where applicable one of these references may be from your current employer. References should be completed on letter headed paper and uploaded on to your application.

Standard application deadlines

  • International applications (non-EU): 22 July 2016 
  • UK and EU applications: 26 August 2016

Classes start September 2016 and you may be expected to attend induction sessions the week before.

Apply now