HUMR4504 – Human Rights in Practice

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Course content

Human rights ideas and norms have been increasingly operationalized through the actions of diverse actors such as states, multi-lateral organisations, social movements, NGOs and community groups. Operationalization takes place therefore across different kinds of activist, professional and institutional spaces. How and when these abstract norms encounter messy ‘real world’ practicalities of organisational, social, economic, political and cultural contexts, though posing many dilemmas, has in general received limited reflection. Obvious cases in point are how and why certain human rights issues and approaches are prioritized over others, by whom, and to what end and, in particular, what effect. Better critical multi-disciplinary experience and assessment of human rights practice and practitioners can enhance awareness of these challenges especially in addressing the problematic issue of therefore what creates change and the diversity of impact in human rights interventions.


With many graduates from the programme Theory and Practice of Human Rights (master's two years) seeking to work in the human rights field, exposure to the daily mechanics of ‘human rights practice’ is beneficial through student-led active learning:

  • to develop critical thinking, insight and ‘hands on’ understanding by doing human rights practice;
  • during the semester: to create a series of student-led advocacy seminars as a ‘mini-human rights organization’. Students organise these workshops in relation to one case selected each semester in partnership Scholars at Risk, with each stage being a component in developing the advocacy intervention
  • after the semester: an internship will further develop practical employment-related skills and hands-on experience of practice.

Learning outcome

This course enables students to link their theoretical studies to deepening understanding of human rights practice, which, then, by doing a student led advocacy intervention during teaching time and then the internship after the semester, creates a feedback loop to enhancing theory and critical reflection. Upon completion of this course, students will have acquired the following.


  • Good knowledge of key issues in human rights practice.
  • Good knowledge of how and why selected human rights are implemented and applied in practice.
  • Good knowledge of the ethical issues and challenges that arise in human rights practice. 
  • Knowledge about human rights actors work, exemplified by good knowledge of one specific human rights actor’s practice (advocacy intervention) and then the internship.
  • Knowledge of the tools and tactics at the disposal of human rights practitioners.
  • Knowledge and experience of academic freedom


  • Ability to identify and analyse key issues in the practice of human rights.
  • Analyse and identify ethical issues that arise in the work of human rights practitioners. 
  • Know the main actors and how they each contribute to human rights in practice. 
  • Be able to critically evaluate the policy, practice and literature produced by the various actors within human rights practice.
  • Research skills
  • Ability to evaluate information
  • Develop networking
  • Organising and Planning
  • Leadership and Team building skills
  • Evaluating impact of work

General competence:

  • Be able to perform relevant human rights work in government institutions, academia, law firms, companies, and organisations relating to human rights. 
  • Have an understanding of the main interests and concerns relating to the practice of human rights; and an understanding of the evolution of the practice of human rights.
  • Developing specific skills attractive to employers.



Admission is limited to students undergoing the study programme Theory and Practice of Human Rights (master's two years).


Introductory lectures address themes including the what, why, and how of different types of human rights ‘practice’ (such as, what is practice?). Dilemmas in practices are examined by looking critically at actors and organisations and to develop understanding of ‘impact’ in human rights work. Students will then organise student-led workshops with each one representing a different stage of an advocacy campaign based upon selection of one case annually with Scholars at Risk.

For the internship, students apply for an internship from a list of available positions, within a prescribed deadline. Each student application will indicate, in order of priority, three positions. The NCHR, in cooperation with internship partners, will make the final selection. Any students to which a position cannot be offered, or should they choose not to do an internship, will write only an extended essay.

Students can also independently attain their own internship position, but which is subject to approval by the course leader and NCHR. The internship runs mainly during the summer period, but can also be organised earlier or later depending on circumstances.

Access to teaching

A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.


Assessment will be done through:

  • Group work assignment of a final advocacy report (pass/fail)
  • Undertaking a 6-8 week internship within an organisation. A limited number of internships will be offered by the NCHR and its partners. Students can also arrange an internship but first have it approved by the Course Coordinator.
  • An internship report, maximum 2500 words (pass/fail), assignments with text exceeding the word limit will not be sent to grading. The aim is to use course readings when describing and reflecting upon and contextualizing the internship experience.


Both the course and internship should also be used by students to develop a research question and material for their thesis. For those not undertaking the internship, the student must formulate in writing the topic of the essay and a brief statement of methodology. The essay must be approved in writing by the course leader in advance. Further instructions about both the extended internship report, and essay for those not doing an internship, will be given during the course.

Examination support material

All support material is allowed

Language of examination


Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Marking criteria 

This  guide is used by examiners for grading this course.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

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 spring
Every spring
Teaching language