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Course content

This course offers an introduction to the history, philosophy and politics of human rights, as well as to human rights law. Multidisciplinary in scope, nonetheless the course also gives substantive content to human rights law and the basic features and the historical evolution of the modern human rights system. Philosophical positions and debates on the legitimacy and justification of universal human rights are examined. Human rights law is then placed in a broader context of international law, and important legal characteristics of human rights treaties, such as the personal and territorial scope of application, the treaty bodies, the supervision and enforcement mechanisms, and the legal impact on the national and international levels are described and discussed. Furthermore, the course presents selected substantive rights in more detail, as well as related areas of work such as research and promotion.  

Learning outcome

Knowledge: After having completed this course the student will have acquired detailed knowledge about:

  • the basic features and the historical evolution of the modern human rights system
  • the most important debates about the legitimacy of human rights, including philosophical positions and political discussions
  • the most important institutions and mechanisms for the protection and promotion of human rights at global, regional and national level
  • the most important legal characteristics of human rights treaties, such as their scope of application, their supervision and enforcement mechanisms
  • the political and legal impact of human rights at the national and international levels
  • some selected substantive rights and areas of human rights work

Skills: After having completed this course the student will be able to:

  • assess and analyse the human rights situation in a given country or region, as well as in terms of one or more particular rights in selected countries
  • evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different theories of human rights
  • analyse and understand the variation in human rights compliance across the world
  • identify the main challenges in promoting and implementing human rights in different countries and regions as well as in different societal sectors
  • identify different tools for legal interpretation of key texts
  • identify key institutional mechanisms for addressing human rights concerns
  • present orally and in writing arguments on human rights from a legal perspective

General competence: Having completed this course the student will have the competence to:

  • analyse a political situation in terms of human rights and elaborate a strategy for improving it
  • assess the validity and usefulness of different approaches to improving a difficult human rights situation
  • identify key players and resource bases for promoting and implementing human rights
  • view human rights law in a broader context of international law


If you would like to take this course, you must apply directly to the International Summer School.

Only students admitted to the course may take part in instruction.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

A completed Bachelor’s degree or a period of study comparable with a Norwegian Bachelor's degree from a recognised institution. Minimum academic requirements.

Applicants should have a related degree in law, social sciences and/or humanities.

Recommended previous knowledge

Documented professional experience may also qualify applicants even though their academic background does not match the course profile.


The course consists of 26 lectures, 3 hours daily (9:15-12:00), Monday to Friday, for six weeks. Classroom sessions include lectures and group discussions. A class excursion is included.

Daily attendance is expected of all participants. Students must attend a minimum of 75% of the lectures in order to take the final exam.


The course includes a take-home examination and oral presentation. The take-home examination counts for 80% of the overall grade. The 10-minute individual oral presentation comprises the other 20% of the overall grade.

You can check your results and order transcripts in Studentweb three weeks after the exam.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Candidates who have a re-scheduled or new examination are allowed take the next ordinary examination. If you have successfully passed obligatory assignments, or other compulsory activities required before you are qualified to attend the exam, you need not re-sit these.

Only students with either valid absence (doctors note) or students who failed the exam can re-sit an exam.

Withdrawal from an examination

A student can take the class and sit for this exam up to 3 times. If a student wishes to withdraw from the exam, s/he must submit the Course Change Request Form to the ISS Reception before the exam. Failure to do so will be counted as one of the three opportunities to sit for the exam, which is the general rule at UiO.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Every summer until 2019, course has new course format

Teaching language