It’s no wonder that an increasing number of students are aiming to pursue an LL.M. in Human Rights Law: With so much happening in the world today, from wars and forced exile to environmental disasters, it’s essential to understand the overlapping legal frameworks and laws that affect human rights of people everywhere.
Today’s best LL.M.s in Human Rights Law instill critical insights into these topics by leveraging current research from human rights centers and hubs. Some law schools also provide the opportunity for students to pursue internships, either during or after their LL.M., with an international organization or human rights-related nongovernmental organization (NGO). Through these internships, students can get hands-on experience in humanitarian law and human rights law.
Proximity to these kinds of NGOs and international organizations allows for networking and connecting with important decisionmakers. This is why some of the world’s best LL.M. programs in Human Rights Law are located in important hubs like Geneva—home to groups like the Human Rights Council—and New York City, home to the United Nations headquarters
LL.M.s in Human Rights typically cover a variety of topics, and the best programs delve deep into concepts like international law, humanitarian law, international criminal law, refugee law, and other related topics. Some law schools also offer related masters programs, in subjects like humanitarian law and asylum law, while other schools offer programs that specifically address human rights in a region, such as Europe.
After completing a Human Rights LL.M., many graduates go on to work in international law firms dealing with human rights issues, as well as NGOs and other organizations.
Students who study at Columbia can take advantage of the school’s Human Rights Institute, which serves as a hub for human rights research and events. Although the school does not offer a specialized LL.M. in Human Rights, it does offer many relevant opportunities for LL.M. students interested in human rights law, including the Human Rights LL.M. Fellowship, which offers tuition waivers and in some cases a living stipend. LL.M. students also have access to a Human Rights Clinic and social justice initiatives.View School Profile
The Geneva Academy—which was launched in 2007 by the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies—produces a range of research in the international humanitarian law and human rights fields. Not only does the Academy run an LL.M. in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, it also offers a Master in Transnational Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law. The Academy’s location in Geneva means that LL.M. students don’t have to go far to network with important people and organizations in the human rights field.View School Profile
Leiden’s European and International Human Rights Law LL.M. addresses the legal challenges involved in European and international human rights law. The program also includes a study trip to Strasbourg and Geneva, so that students can experience these issues in the real world. The school also offers some related LL.M. programs, including an LL.M. in International Children’s Rights and one in International Criminal Law.View School Profile
By nature of its heritage alone, UNICRI—one of the United Nations’ five research and training institutes—is, for many students, an ideal place to study human rights law. The institute, in cooperation with the University for Peace, offers an LL.M. in Transnational Crime and Justice that combines distance learning with a residential portion and a research element. In addition to addressing a number of important topics for human rights law, the program also provides sessions on professional development in the UN system.View School Profile
Georgetown Law’s Human Rights Institute produces research in the field and puts on events as well. Although the school doesn’t offer an LL.M. specifically in human rights, it does offer a Global Health Law LL.M.; and, in cooperation with Geneva’s Graduate Institute, runs an LL.M. in Global Health Law and International Institutions. For students who are interested in human rights law and want to network with global decisionmakers, Georgetown’s Washington, DC location is a great place to start.View School Profile
LSE’s location in central London means that there’s a good flow of guest speakers from NGOs and other institutions operating in the human rights field. The school’s LL.M. specialism in Human Rights Law is delivered in close cooperation with LSE’s Centre for the Study of Human Rights and provides an overview of many aspects of human rights law.View School Profile
The University of Essex runs the Essex Human Rights Centre, which was launched in 1982 and serves as a hub for the study of human rights. The Centre—as well as others in the Essex network—gives students in the school’s LL.M. in International Humanitarian Law the opportunity to work on real-world projects during their studies. Essex also offers an MA in Human Rights and Cultural Diversity, which covers a range of topics in the field, as well as an MA in the Theory and Practice of Human Rights.View School Profile
Notre Dame’s LL.M. in International Human Rights Law is a well-regarded program that leverages insights from the school’s Center for Civil and Human Rights. After graduating from the program, students can pursue an internship with a human rights institution or NGO; past interns have gone into organizations like Human Rights Watch and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, for example. The school provides funding opportunities for these internships as well.View School Profile
For some students interested in studying human rights law, the Sweden-based Lund University, which offers a Master of Laws in International Human Rights Law, is something to consider. In recent years, the school has doubled-down on the subject, launching a research hub in partnership with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.View School Profile
Oxford’s Master’s in International Human Rights Law, which the Faculty of Law offers in partnership with the Department of Continuing Education, is roughly equivalent to an LL.M. and is delivered on a part-time basis over two years plus two summer residential sessions. It covers a range of topics relevant to human rights law, with classes in Business and Human Rights, the International Rights of Children, and more. Oxford’s Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, which publishes research, ensures that the degree is infused with current thinking.View School Profile
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