HUMR5131 – Human Rights in History, Philosophy and Politics

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course provides an introduction to the history, philosophy and politics of human rights. It offers a detailed presentation of the basic features and the historical evolution of the modern human rights system. The course examines philosophical positions and debates on the legitimacy and justification of universal human rights as well as critiques from philosophical and social sciences perspectives. The students will examine the status, functions, and uses of human rights in international relations, do comparative analysis of human rights practices in different regime types, follow human rights networking and promotion domestically and across borders, and explore the grounding of human rights in different cultures and normative traditions.

Learning outcome


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 debates about human rights
  • the status, functions and uses of human rights in international relations
  • the implementation and promotion of human rights in today’s nation-states


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

  • 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
  • understand the strong and weak sides of solving societal problems through human rights analysis and implementation

General competence

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

  • Assess the validity and usefulness of different approaches to improving a difficult human rights situation
  • Understand resistance to human rights and evaluate the weight of arguments in favour of as well as against human rights policy initiatives
  • Identify key players and resource bases for promoting and implementing human rights


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

You may register for this course if you have admission to a Master's programme at UiO. All applicants must fill the formal prerequisites.
Priority is given to students on the Master of Philosophy programme in the Theory and Practice of Human Rights.


Recommended previous knowledge

Students with no background in human rights studies are strongly advised to prepare in advance the recommended readings.


Lectures and seminars with active student participation.


Final assignment with a maximum of 4000 words, assignments with text exceeding the word limit will not be sent to grading.

A mid-term paper should be handed in in the middle of the semester, with a maximum of 2500 words. Delivery of the mid-term paper is mandatory. Students who fail or do not deliver the mid-term paper will not be allowed to deliver the final assignment.

Students are awarded either a passing or a failing grade on the mid-term paper.

Use of sources and rules for citing.

Be sure that you are familiar with the use of sources and the rules for citing/quoting from others’ work
UiO uses a plagiarism checking tool as one of several instruments for detecting suspicion of cheating and attempted cheating.

Previous exam papers


Examination support material

All exam resources allowed

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.

Marking criteria 

This  guide is used by examiners for grading this course.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

If a student has submitted a written assignment a second time in the same course s/he can only submit it in a new version. This means that there must be another title and theme, or that the new version must be considerably changed from the first version.

Students who wish to retake the exam in a later semester are not guaranteed that the course is ever repeated with a similar reading list, nor that the exam arrangement will be the same.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take this 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.

There are special rules for resitting a passed examination in the master's programme in Law.

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 autumn


Every autumn

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