Course information




1 year full-time or 2 years part-time

Course overview

This MA examines contemporary issues concerning justice. You will learn how to conceptualise and study the possibilities of human rights, going beyond legal formulations to look at the conditions in which human rights claims are made.

  • Human rights mobilise millions of supporters across borders, inspiring passion and hope. And they operate at and between all the scales involved in globalisation: local, national, international, transnational. They are moral claims to justice. Although often associated with law, human rights are not the same as legal rights – human rights can be claimed where no legal rights are codified, even if changes in the law are invariably called for as part of attempts to realise human rights in practice. 

Human rights are carried by different actors:

  • grassroots social movements, small Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and huge International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs)
  • lawyers and judges
  • bureaucrats and experts in Inter-Governmental Organisations (IGOs) even, sometimes, national politicians
  • journalists, novelists, translators, artists, filmmakers

These different actors are often at odds with each other in defining and defending particular justifications of what human rights are and should be.

  • In this Masters you will learn about how human rights are constructed, exploring framings of human rights through case studies; and you will begin to practice some of the methodologies and methods that are currently used in NGOs and grassroots activist networks trying to remedy global injustices. 
  • The focus on culture that runs through the programme makes for an emphasis on concrete, situated practices and meanings. Can human rights contribute to a global culture in which injustices figure as ‘wrongs’? Or are human rights invariably skewed, constructing injustices in ways that suit international elites better than they suit people who are suffering? Do human rights do violence to local cultures? Are they an appropriate response to local violence? In this MA we contextualise the study of how human rights are constructed in micro-processes, in the media and face-to-face in relation to debates over macro-structures, processes of globalisation and the institutions of global governance. 
  • In terms of social justice, the MA is set up to study human rights beyond narrow, legalistic definitions. We look at what really makes a difference in terms of realising human rights in practice. Can human rights really be constructed in ways that challenge and overturn established social structures? Can rights be claimed in such a way that they can really protect us as human beings against the ‘creative destruction’ of global capitalism, state repression, the subjugation of women, and hatred and violence against minorities of all kinds – sexual, ethnic, religious?
  • This course covers the following disciplines: sociology, politics, anthropology, law, geography, English, literature, cultural studies, criminology.
  • You'll be joining our world-leading Department of Sociology. We've been rated in the top 10 for Sociology in the UK by QS World University Rankings 2023.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Kate Nash.

What you'll study

Compulsory modules

In the first part of your degree, you will study the following compulsory modules. These will introduce you to key debates concerning human rights and teach you practical skills relevant to the field. You will also write a dissertation worth 60 credits.

Module title Credits
Constructing Human Rights 30 credits
Researching Human Rights 30 credits


You will also write a 12,000-word dissertation (60 credits) based on your own research, which may be related to the NGO or network you have worked in and which makes use of a range of concepts and methods taught in the Department. You will be supervised by someone with expertise and interest in the topic you are studying and the methodologies you plan to use. 

Option modules

In the second term, you will choose 60 credits of option modules from the departmental list.

This includes Practicing Human Rights, which is available to Human Rights students only. This is not a compulsory module but is strongly recommended for students on this programme.

You can also choose option modules from the following Departments across Goldsmiths. Not all modules are suitable for students from all academic backgrounds; you will discuss your choices with the Programme Convenor at the start of your degree.

Department of Media, Communications, and Cultural Studies
Department of Anthropology
Department of Politics and International Relations
Department of English and Creative Writing
Department of Music
Department of Educational Studies

Module title Credits
Practising Human Rights 30 credits


Assessment consists of coursework, extended essays, reports, presentations, practice-based projects or essays/logs, group projects, reflective essays, and seen and unseen written examinations.

Download the programme specification. If you would like an earlier version of the programme specification, please contact the Quality Office.

Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.

Between 2020 and 2022 we needed to make some changes to how programmes were delivered due to Covid-19 restrictions. For more information about past programme changes please visit our programme changes information page.

What our students say

Weronika Raca

"The favourite part of my degree was the quality of teaching, the engaging debates with staff and fellow students and meeting all the amazing people along the way. Goldsmiths has equipped me with life skills that made me who I am today."

"The favourite part of my degree was the quality of teaching, the engaging debates with staff and fellow students and meeting all the amazing people along the way. Goldsmiths has equipped me with life skills that made me who I am today.

Make use of the facilities that the Campus offers. Make sure to join a society of your interest to make new friends.

Goldsmiths Cafe just across the road from the library is a must place to check out!"

Jenna Tabatznik

I was drawn to Goldsmith’s MA Human Rights, Social Justice and Culture for its interdisciplinary approach, which frames human rights as more than just enforceable legal rights and identifies the many forces and actors at play.

I had been committed to working in human rights from a young age (having two South African parents who lived through Apartheid will do that to you!). Though ardent as I was, I didn’t have a clear picture of how to translate that passion into a career.

I was drawn to Goldsmith’s MA Human Rights, Social Justice and Culture for its interdisciplinary approach, which frames human rights as more than just enforceable legal rights and identifies the many forces and actors at play.

On 'Practicing Human Rights', we were encouraged to find a volunteership at an NGO. Each host organization was different and unique, but having a meaningful impact in the context it operated in. Throughout the semester, we met as a class to reflect on our separate immersive learning journeys and were able to craft one invaluable shared understanding of how organisations operate in the sector.

I obtained my placement at Amnesty International and when it ended, I was offered a permanent position as the Coordinator of Global Strategy and Impact. Our team designed Amnesty’s future strategy process and strengthened the organisation’s capacity in impact assessment and project management.

I stayed at Amnesty for three years before moving back home to Canada early on in the pandemic. I was motivated to set up a local non-profit, to bridge an essential support gap for my community. Canadian stimulus packages overlooked our society’s most vulnerable, so that’s where I focused our support. The non-profit provides essential food, medical and hygiene items to low- and no-income households in Toronto.

Goldsmiths has played such a pivotal role in my journey: from opening my eyes to the complexities of change, to nurturing key skill development in critical thinking and adaptability. I highly recommend this Masters degree to anyone who wants to discover what role they can play in the human rights field.


"I had enriching debates with professors and colleagues."

"I am Managing Editor for Hiber magazine. Working in in-depth journalism with an interest in human rights, inequality, and political change, I always thought that covering complex social issues requires more than the skill-based and often technical training we usually receive before becoming media practitioners. It requires a deep understanding of how social struggles around these issues can intersect, converge, and sometimes clash.

I came to this course at Goldsmiths hoping to gain such an understanding, trusting that what it has to offer goes well beyond the boundaries of legal approaches to human rights.

The education I received, especially through the enriching debates with professors and colleagues, has sharpened my theoretical knowledge and analytical skills, making me more confident in engaging with bigger, more complicated themes, both academically and journalistically."  

Entry requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least upper second class standard in a relevant/related subject. 

You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level.

International qualifications

We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

If English isn’t your first language, you will need an IELTS score (or equivalent English language qualification) of 6.5 with a 6.5 in writing and no element lower than 6.0 to study this programme. If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

Fees, funding & scholarships

Annual tuition fees

These are the fees for students starting their programme in the 2023/2024 academic year.

  • Home - full-time: £9720
  • Home - part-time: £4860
  • International - full-time: £19210

If your fees are not listed here, please check our postgraduate fees guidance or contact the Fees Office, who can also advise you about how to pay your fees.

It’s not currently possible for international students to study part-time under a student visa. If you think you might be eligible to study part-time while being on another visa type, please contact our Admissions Team for more information.

If you are looking to pay your fees please see our guide to making a payment.

Additional costs

In addition to your tuition fees, you'll be responsible for any additional costs associated with your course, such as buying stationery and paying for photocopying. You can find out more about what you need to budget for on our study costs page.

There may also be specific additional costs associated with your programme. This can include things like paying for field trips or specialist materials for your assignments. Please check the programme specification for more information.

Funding opportunities

Find out more about postgraduate fees and explore funding opportunities. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

How to apply

You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system. 

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have:

  • Details of your academic qualifications
  • The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively a copy of your academic reference
  • Copies of your educational transcripts or certificates
  • personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online. Please see our guidance on writing a postgraduate statement

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

When to apply

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available.

If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an earlier application deadline.

Selection process

As part of the admissions process, you may be offered an informal interview with the Programme Convenor.

Find out more about applying.


The members of staff who are most closely associated with teaching the MA include: 

Suggested reading

Suggested reading before you begin the course:

  • A.An’Naim (2001) ‘Human Rights’ in J. Blau (Ed) Blackwell Companion to Sociology Oxford: Blackwell
  • A. Brysk (2013) Speaking Rights to Power: Constructing Political Will Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • J. Cowan, M-B Dembour and R. Wilson (eds) (2001) Culture and Rights: Anthropological Perspectives Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • J. Donnelly (2013) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice Ithaca: Cornell University Press 3rd edition.
  • K. Grewal (2017) The Socio-Political Practice of Human Rights: Between the Universal and the Particular London and New York: Routledge
  • M. Freeman (2002) Human Rights Cambridge: Polity
  • L. Morris (2013) Human Rights and Social Theory Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
  • K. Nash (2015) The Political Sociology of Human Rights Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

You will find additional reading by members of staff involved on the MA on their webpages (see staff details above).


The research interests of the people involved in teaching on the MA are especially linked to two centres at Goldsmiths: 


As issues of globalisation and justice are frequently in the media, and government policy in the UK, US, and elsewhere in Europe is now supposed to be guided by considerations of humanitarianism and human rights, there is a need for graduates with knowledge of human rights. 

There are openings for careers in organisations including charities, humanitarian and human rights NGOs and even multi-national corporations, many of which are now concerned with their image in terms of human rights. 

Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths.

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