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Unit information: International Human Rights in 2021/22

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name International Human Rights
Unit code POLIM3030
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Medie
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit explores the philosophical, historical, normative, legal and political foundations of the contemporary international human rights regime and the main controversies surrounding human rights theory and practice. Key questions that will be addressed in this unit include: what are the foundations of human rights? Are human rights universal or culturally determined? How do we realize human rights in a world of states? What has the impact of conflict, globalisation and the war on terror been on human rights? The first part of the course examines the emergence and development of the human rights movement, explores the debate about the foundations of human rights, including critical approaches to the idea of human rights, and addresses the ongoing controversy over universality, culture and human rights. The second part of this unit focuses on the practice of human rights. First, from a legal perspective, it looks at the main features of the current human rights system at the international and regional levels. Second, it addresses the praxis of human rights from an international relations perspective. The third part of the course looks in-depth at a number of specific issues and how they affect human rights, including humanitarian intervention, transitional and international criminal justice, globalisation and the war on terror.


  • To examine the conceptual debates about the foundation and universality of human rights.
  • To explore the contemporary human rights system, the main international institutions, legal provisions, its achievements and limitations.
  • To provide a critical understanding of the role played by different international and domestic actors in the promotion/protection/violation of human rights.
  • To develop a critical assessment of particular human rights issues, including multiculturalism, humanitarian intervention, genocide and transitional justice.
  • To explore and evaluate the impact of states’ foreign policies, conflict, globalisation and the war on terror on human rights.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this unit students will:

  • Develop an understanding of the key debates and contemporary challenges surrounding the theory and practice of human rights.
  • Demonstrate substantive knowledge of key human rights issues and actors.
  • Show familiarity with the international and regional mechanisms for the monitoring and enforcement of the human rights regime.
  • Demonstrate an ability to critically evaluate the impact of states’ foreign policies, conflict, globalisation and the war on terror on human rights.
  • Have an ability to integrate theoretical and empirical materials in the essay and oral presentation.
  • Have an ability to develop critical discussion skills, particularly through seminar participation, group work and the presentation of seminar papers.
  • Have an ability to make articulate, concise, persuasive and well-paced presentations in small groups.
  • Have an ability to write articulately, concisely and persuasively.

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Information

Formative assessment: seminar presentations supported by a handout. The seminar presentation supported by a handout provides formative assessment of (1) the student's grasp of the substantive issues associated with this unit and (2) the student's ability to engage with that substantive material in an articulate, concise and persuasive way both verbally and in written form.

Summative assessment: an essay of 4,000 words. The assessed essay provides summative assessment of (1) the student's substantive grasp of issues covered by this unit; (2) the student's ability to engage with those substantive issues in an articulate, persuasive and critical manner in written form; and (3) the student's ability to engage with the relevant literature and achieve and appropriate degree of depth which is still concise.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. POLIM3030).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.