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A Guide to Human Rights Degrees Abroad

While countries around the world vary by many different ways in their attitudes toward culture, politics, economics, and religion, a great success of the past century is the indoctrination of a fundamental ideology of human rights recognized by the international community. While many successes have been met, it has also proven a great challenge moving from rhetoric to implementation in many places. Earning your human rights degree abroad can set you on the right path to helping this lofty goal turn into tangible reality.

Why Earn Your Degree Abroad

Human rights is a universal concept, and so it is only natural to consider bringing your studies into the international context. Earning your degree abroad in human rights is the opportunity to travel to an unfamiliar part of the world, embrace a drastically different way of life, and come to a closer perspective of the underlying qualities which must be protected as a necessary fulfillment of humanity. The prospect of earning a full degree in another country may be daunting, but will pay off big time as you further crystallize upon what it means to be a global citizen.


By definition, the overarching doctrine of human rights applies equally to every human being on the planet. It is stated in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and human rights.” This means that wherever you go in the world to earn your degree abroad in human rights, not only will the study be applicable, but each location will present a unique set of circumstances which will demand attention.

Though within a limited scope, many people intuitively associate the fight for human rights with the developing world. “Developing” countries are generally categorized as such because they remain in the process of building social institutions which promote access to a fundamental quality of life and opportunity among their citizenry. Due to lack of resources, poorer countries ranging all the way from India in the eastern hemisphere to Costa Rica in the west thus often face some of the most dire human rights situations.

Human rights abuses also take root well beyond the developing world, however, as many economically “advanced” countries still systematically oppress opportunity within targeted sectors of their populations. In countries as diverse as Russia, Argentina, and the United States, it is possible to earn your human rights degree abroad at a prestigious university, while also tackling injustices in your backyard.

Academics & Degrees

Within academia, there is continuous debate surrounding what fundamental conditions do and don’t qualify as “human rights.” There is thus a philosophical component to your studies while earning a human rights degree abroad, which may differ between countries depending on national history and cultural practices. Courses are often required within related fields such as anthropology, history, religion, and political science to help outline the parameters of this ongoing argument.

Perhaps more useful for immediate application, there is also a practical element while earning your human rights degree abroad, which is often grounded in fields such as current events, economic models, and statistical research. While it is important to gain a firm grasp on historical and social conditions which manifest in human rights injustices, the tangible study of applied methodology to solving those injustices is every bit as valuable in its own right.

Generally the further you go in your studies, as you move on from an undergraduate degree abroad in human rights to a Master’s or PhD, you will have the opportunity to specialize in a more focused sub-discipline, while also conducting your own fieldwork and research as well. Some popular focuses within the overarching study of human rights include human security, migration, education, and labor.

Benefits & Challenges

Universality. Distinct cultures may differ in their beliefs about justice and injustice, but certain baseline conditions of humanity transcend argument nonetheless. While in continual development, human rights is a cause that the entire world can rally around.

Seeing is Believing. It is easy to study human rights at home in the abstract, but travelling to earn your human rights degree abroad will actually place you out in the field learning through firsthand experience. There is great perspective to be gained from living abroad.

Red Tape. Human rights is a thorny field with a ton of red tape, so as a student abroad you must always be seeking a balance between ideology and practicality. The sooner you learn this lesson out in the larger world, the more effective of a human rights professional you can become.

Earning your human rights degree abroad is just the very first step in a lifelong battle for the cause, but it is a vitally important one nonetheless. This is the opportunity to get out in the world, see new things, and lay the groundwork to make your impact felt!

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A Guide To
Human Rights Degrees Abroad


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Master in European Union Studies and Human Rights

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American University of Beirut

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