International Law and Human Rights - LLM
Human rights have become a central, defining feature of modern international law. Applicable to everyone across the world, regardless of their religion and beliefs, nationality, and sex, they set the ethical and moral framework against which the actions of individuals, governments, businesses and other institutions are judged, justified and challenged. This LLM sets international human rights in their broader philosophical, historical and social contexts, providing an interdisciplinary study of the international legal processes designed to ensure their realisation. It will prepare you to protect the rights of vulnerable groups, ensuring greater accountability and helping to bring about positive change.
Month of entry
Mode of study
- Full time, Part time
Fees for 2023 entry
- UK - Full time £8,900 per year. Part time £4,900 per year.
International - £17,700 per year.
Duration of study
- Full time - 1 year, Part time - 2 years, Modular - Up to 5 years
Why study International Law and Human Rights at Keele University?
International law is an increasingly important field of study and practice. The regulation of financial markets, environmental protection, the management of migrations, or the prosecution of war criminals are all areas in which international law plays a central role.
On the LLM in International Law and Human Rights, you’ll learn how human rights standards are monitored across the globe, used as a condition of participation in international trade and cooperation, and the receipt of financial aid, with violations prosecuted by international courts and tribunals.
You’ll be introduced to the numerous declarations and treaties which proclaim and codify human rights – protecting the welfare of individuals, communities and nations, their political, social and economic development – and encouraged to think critically about the limits, ambiguities and contradictions of human rights norms, institutions, and practices.
Keele School of Law is an internationally recognised centre for cutting-edge, socially relevant legal research, which tackles some of the most pressing challenges facing society today. Key research themes include: Social Justice and Human Rights; International and European Law; Ethics, Health and Social Care; Legal Education, Innovation, and Practice; Gender, Sexuality, and Law.
The wide range of staff expertise enables us to offer four specialist pathways in: Commerce and Business; the Environment; Human Rights; and Politics. This also considerably broadens the scope for potential interdisciplinary research topics; a fascinating range of dissertation topics chosen by past students covers areas as diverse as the law of the sea to the principles of state extradition.
You can also choose from a wide range of elective modules offered both within the Law School and other faculties, for example, Keele Business School. To complement your studies, you can study a modern language, including key UN languages such as French, Russian and Spanish.
Students frequently tell us one of the highlights of the course is the annual study trip to Geneva to see international law-making, diplomacy, arbitration and humanitarian efforts in action within organisations such as the WTO, UN’s European headquarters and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Through regular lecture series, you’ll also, where possible, have opportunities to hear from experts in the field of international law. Past speakers have included Judge Sir Howard Morrison of the International Criminal Court and Dr Vincent Joël Proulx of the International Court of Justice, who spoke about ‘International Law: Hopes and Fears’ and ‘Transnational Terrorism and State Accountability’, respectively.
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"The law school were very supportive and the staff are always available to assist with whatever issues you may have. I am very thankful for my experience in Keele. I learnt so much in my time there, the classes were small groups and very interactive."
The LLM International Law adopts a pathway structure which gives you the opportunity to tailor your degree to your individual interests and professional needs. All students study four compulsory core 15-credit modules (60 credits) and the Dissertation (60 credits), which is studied throughout the course on a topic of your choice.
You then have flexibility to choose elective modules to the value of 60 credits, either from within one of the five pre-established pathways or elsewhere across the University. To increase your range of transferable skills and knowledge, for example, you may decided to learn a language or improve your awareness of European politics or the changing international agenda. You will be given the opportunity to choose your elective modules and discuss your choices with the Course Director during the first week of the programme.
You will complete 180 credits to obtain the master’s qualification. In order to graduate in your chosen pathway with a named award (International Commercial and Business Law, International Law and Human Rights, International Law and Politics, or International Law and the Environment – you must complete a minimum of 30 credits within the pathway. Alternatively, you will be awarded the LLM International Law.
The LLM can be studied as either a one-year full-time or two-year part-time course, with a September start date. It is also possible to study more flexibly part-time on a modular basis, accumulating degree credits by taking individual modules over a period of maximum of five years. The information below outlines a one-year full-time study schedule.
Compulsory core modules
LAW-40040 Foundations of International Law (15 credits, Semester 1)
This introduction to public international law provides you with an opportunity to look beyond the domestic sphere and examine how law helps to govern relations between sovereign governments. The module provides a general overview of the nature of international law as a legal system, its subjects, sources and general principles, as well as an introduction to more specific themes such as the law governing the use of force, sovereign immunities or the settlement of international disputes.
LAW-40038 International Law and Human Rights (15 credits, Semester 1)
This module offers a perspective of both the normative standards defining international human rights and the means by which they are monitored and implemented. You will acquire a strong theoretical and practical understanding of the design and development of modern international human rights law. Special attention will be given to the work of UN human rights bodies and of regional organisations. We will also examine the so-called ‘dark sides of virtue’, i.e., the unforeseen consequences, biases and ambiguities of the human rights project, and the ways in which well-intentioned human rights interventions can at times create as many problems as they solve.
LAW-40042 Introduction to International Economic Law (15 credits, Semester 2)
Providing a general introduction to international economic law, this module considers the role played by international economic institutions like the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank or, at a regional level, the European Union (EU), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). It covers substantive areas of international economic law, with particular emphasis on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), WTO law, international investment law and state-investor arbitration. You will be encouraged to think critically about the structures of international economic law, and their relationship with the environment, human rights, development and social justice.
LAW-40042 Advanced International Law (15 credits, Semester 2)
Building on the earlier module, you will have the opportunity to acquire a more-in-depth understanding of the nature, function and development of international law. As well as a thorough analysis of core areas of international law such as statehood, the law of treaties or state responsibility, the module explores recent events and developments in the field of international law, so content varies from year to year. The module will be divided in two parts. Part One will consist of a thorough analysis of core areas of international law, including the law of treaties, state responsibility, the making/unmaking of states and the settlement of international disputes. Part Two will explore recent events, developments or debates in the field of international law, such as international criminal justice, humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect, the global financial crisis, or climate justice.
LAW-40039 Dissertation (60 credits, studied throughout the course)
The production of a 15,000 to 20,000-word dissertation provides an exciting opportunity to work under the supervision of an expert in your chosen field of interest, demonstrating a level of knowledge and understanding far beyond what you have learned in class. You’ll be supported to develop the research skills needed to conduct an extended piece of work on a topic of your choice, analysing existing relevant research. Some students start the course with a clear idea about what they want to write about, but others find and develop particular interests as the course progresses. Examples of recent dissertation topics by students on this pathway include: the right to self-determination of the West Papuan people; the UK Human Rights Act and Asylum Seekers; sexual violence in armed conflict; female genital cosmetic surgery and female genital mutilation (FGM); human rights obligations of the private sector, human rights and transnational corporations; genocide and crimes against humanity.
Elective core and optional modules
To complete the LLM, you will study additional modules to the value of 60 credits. You can choose from the general core international law and pathway-specific modules (indicated in brackets) or from optional modules available within other subject disciplines, including Chinese, Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Spanish, Japanese, and Russian. You must complete at least 30 credits in one of the sub-disciplines to qualify for a named LLM pathway degree.
*Please note that for the Environment pathway, the core 15-credit International Environmental Law module is compulsory. You are therefore required to choose one other core pathway-specific 15-credit module to be considered for the named award of LLM in International Law and the Environment.
LAW-40045 International Humanitarian Law (15 credits, Semester 1)
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is one of the oldest fields of international law. It seeks to regulate the conduct of hostilities, primarily through control of the means and methods of warfare, and to protect certain categories of individuals who are not, or are no longer, actively engaged in hostilities (civilians, persons hors de combat, prisoners of war and so on). This module introduces you to the key concepts, rules and institutions of IHL, addressing contemporary issues such as the 'war on terror', asymmetrical conflict, the relationship of IHL with international human rights law, or so-called 'lawfare'. Additionally, you will examine the means by which IHL is monitored, implemented and enforced, with particular emphasis on the development of international criminal law, war crimes tribunals, and the International Criminal Court.
LAW-30094 Transnational Crime (15 credits, Semester 1)
Transnational crime has become an important policy issue in the contemporary world. Every country is affected one way or another and criminal groups accumulate massive profits by providing illicit goods and services such as drugs and human beings. There are other crimes, including terrorism and cyber crime, which have become more serious and dangerous in modern time. This module explores some of the most serious transnational crimes in the contemporary world, such as illicit cycle of narcotics (production, trafficking and consumption), human/organ trafficking, cyber crimes, and terrorism. It then considers various ways to combat these crimes which go beyond simple criminal justice responses, paying particular attention to the supply and demand dynamics, and broader social, cultural and human rights dimensions.
LAW-40058 International Refugee Law (15 credits, Semester 2)
You’ll develop an advanced understanding of international refugee law in its historical, political and social context. The module considers the legal protections available to refugees and other displaced persons, the complementary protection, as well as the shortcomings of the protection mechanism. Taught at the intersection between law, politics, sociology and psychology, it offers an insight into the plight of asylum seekers as they seek international protection.
LAW-40043 International Environmental Law* (15 credits, Semester 2) (Environment pathway)
This module offers a critical perspective on the development of international environmental law. It provides a grounding in the legal norms, institutions and processes of the field, and explores current environmental global issues such as biodiversity loss, transboundary pollution, toxic waste dumping, trade and environment, food security, animal rights or climate change through specific treaty regimes. Drawing on a range of legal, policy and other literature, you’ll be introduced to key challenges facing the regulation of the environment on the international stage today.
PIR-40106 Dimensions of Environmental Politics (15 credits, Semester 1) (Environment pathway)
You will be introduced to the main facets of environmental politics, gaining an broad overview of key concepts, debates, processes and discourses in relation to the political dynamics of ‘The environment’. You will explore three key questions in environmental politics: How did ‘The environment’ come to be seen as a political question? How have political institutions responded to what have been called environmental problems? What are the challenges such problems individually or collectively pose for existing political structures, institutions, and practices, and the theoretical presumptions underlying them This module will provide you with a good general understanding across the field, should you wish to specialise in greater depth, for example, in your dissertation.
GEG-40006 Economic Development and Environmental Transformation (15 credits, Semester 1) (Environment pathway)
Are economic development and environmental concerns always opposed? What areas should be conservation priorities to sustain global ecosystems? What does international development assistance do for the people who depend most directly on their local environments for their livelihoods? On this module, you’ll seek to find the answers to some of society’s most pressing environmental questions. Introducing you to the area of development geography, you will use case studies of economy and ecology to evaluate different pathways towards – and definitions of – 'development.'
LAW-40060 Transnational Commercial Law (15 credits, Semester 1) (Commerce and Business pathway)
Transnational commercial law is any rule that relates to cross-border economic activity, or economic activity with cross-border effects. In other words, it is the legal side of the globalisation of commerce. It seeks to resolve problems that arise when the nation state responsible for regulating commercial activities is no longer easily identifiable; and it gives legal certainty to international traders while maintaining the necessary regulatory framework in global context. This module will combine a private with a more public law approach to commercial law and theory, focusing on international disputes and the key challenges in resolving them.
MAN-40114 International Business Context (15 credits, Semester 1) (Commerce and Business pathway)
The purpose of this module is to introduce theories around globalisation, international trade and investment. It offers insight into a range of economic, political, technological processes that influence and are influenced by international business activities. You will develop a solid understanding of basic theories underlying the importance of international trade and investment, enhancing your understanding of current events and their impacts.
MAN-40118Contemporary Challenges in Global Business (15 credits, Semester 2) (Commerce and Business pathway)
Sustainability and sustainable development are in the foreground of contemporary challenges facing global business and society in the 2020s. Drawing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), sustainability theories and concepts, including ethics and alternative business models, you will examine how global business can make a positive contribution to society, and the challenges associated with a transition to more sustainable systems of consumption and production. You will gain understanding of the complex issues surrounding development towards social responsibility and environmental sustainability.
LAW-40048 Foundations of Human Rights (Law, 15 credits) (Human Rights pathway)
Focusing on gender, sexuality, race, class, ethnicity, religion and power in relation to human rights, you will develop a practical and theoretical understanding of human rights law, politics and philosophy at domestic, regional and international levels. You will explore historical, philosophical and structural aspects of human rights, including Enlightenment perspectives, theories of rights/history of rights theory, universalism/relativism debates, sovereignty and non-intervention concerns and other ‘structural’ issues pertinent to international law and relations. This broad foundation module provides a background in which to study and critique human rights theory and practice.
LAW-40047 Equality, Discrimination and Minorities (15 credits, Semester 1) (Human Rights pathway)
This module focuses on the main issues of equality and discrimination in international human rights policy and practice. Using the thematic of religion, race, ethnicity and caste/descent, you will examine and critique particular inequalities in international human rights policy and practice, such as geographical and governance inequalities. Exploring equality issues through particular case studies, you will analyse UK and comparative perspectives of global and regional norms on race discrimination, for example, rights of caste groups, minorities and indigenous peoples, and standards on prevention and punishment of genocide. You will reflect on the ways in which aspects of a person’s social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege, for example, the intersectional ties of gender and indigenous peoples/minorities, and gender and sexuality.
LAW-40046 Human Rights and Global Politics (15 credits, Semester 2) (Human Rights pathway)
The overall focus of this module is on exploring evolving political and legal strategies to advance human rights in a global political framework. You will be introduced to the main debates on the ways that political structures shape human rights: the relationship between democratisation, development, human rights and violence; the possible emergence of a global civil society to understanding human rights practices; the expansion and role of transnational human rights monitoring and activism; and the need for an understanding of political violence and terror to assess and address causes of human rights violations. To deepen your understanding of the connections between global and local causes and responses to contemporary human rights issues, you will examine a number of key issues, such as the responsibility to protect (r2p), humanitarian interventions, aid and development, security in the post 9/11 era and more.
Academic entry requirements
You should have a first or second class honours degree (or foreign equivalent) in Law or a related discipline. Applications are welcome from current legal practitioners or any other person with appropriate professional qualifications and/or experience.
English language entry requirement for international students
Applicants for whom English is not a first language must provide evidence of a qualification in English language. The minimum score for entry to the LLM is academic IELTS 6.5 (or TOFEL 91). Students who have taken one of the English language qualifications but did not achieve the required grade may be admitted to the programme provided that they study on a pre-sessional English Language course before they start their degree studies.
Keele University currently accepts Tofel iBT tests that have been taken outside of the United Kingdom. All Tofel iBT tests will need to be taken no longer than two years prior to your start date at Keele and must be verifiable with ETS. If you have taken your Tofel iBT test in the UK please contact the admissions team for more information.
View more information about the Postgraduate English Language Requirements at Keele.
Keele University is located on a beautiful campus and has all the facilities of a small town. Student accommodation, shops, restaurants and cafes are all within walking distance of the teaching buildings. This is a very cost effective way to live and will help to reduce your living costs.
Planning your funding
It's important to plan carefully for your funding before you start your course. Please be aware that not all postgraduate courses are eligible for the UK government postgraduate loans and, in this case, you would be expected to source alternative funding yourself. If you need support researching your funding options, please contact our Financial Support Team.
We are committed to rewarding excellence and potential. Please visit our Scholarships and Bursaries webpage for more information.
A postgraduate qualification in international law opens up opportunities for a wide range of roles across the public, private and third sectors. International law provides the framework for cooperation in many fields of international relations, including: peace and security; trade and investment; environmental protection; telecommunications; air travel; and maritime navigation.
This can open up careers in consultancy in international affairs, legal practice, international development, foreign relations and advocacy working for government foreign ministries, international organisations, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Employers may include international courts and tribunals, UN agencies, law reform agencies, and even the media, in areas of journalism and broadcasting.
As well as the national and international agencies and organisations mentioned above, the LLM in International Law and Human Rights equips you with specialist knowledge to support human rights NGOs, charities, policy think-tanks, and advocacy groups. The private sector is increasingly seeking professionals with a strong background in human rights due to the rapid development of CSR (corporate social responsibility) and 'business and human rights' standards.
By developing your ability to undertake critical analysis, problem solve and present rational, coherent and accurate arguments orally and in writing, you’ll graduate with essential skills valued by legal and non-legal employers alike. The specialist research skills you learn also provide a strong foundation for pursuing further study at doctoral level for those interested in doing so.
Positions may include:
- Newspaper journalist
- Policy officer
- Social worker
Postgraduate students talk about their experiences whilst on a study trip to Geneva.
Teaching, learning and assessment
How you'll be taught
The LLM is taught through a combination of seminars, or lectures and seminars, and through guided independent study. You may also have the opportunity to take part in a range of workshops and public lectures to enhance your study and research skills.
It may be possible to undertake a work placement or internship as part of your degree with any one of our partner institutions, including the UN agencies, international tribunals, NGOs and law firms, though places are limited.
Keele benefits from a vibrant student-run law society, which organises a calendar of professional and social events. We also host a range of mooting competitions, open to master’s students, which enables you to explore emerging problems in international law, write briefs, litigate a case before a judge, and field. This develops a range of personal and professional skills, not least in presentation and communication.
Prior to the global pandemic, we have organised an annual field trip to Geneva, which typically lasts around four days. This provides a unique opportunity to experience a different culture and explore Switzerland’s a vibrant international city. Geneva is home to a range of international institutions, including the WTO, UN’s European headquarters and the ICRC, which takes action in response to emergencies and promotes respect for international humanitarian law and its implementation in national law. Previously, students visiting these and others have met with high level officials working in the field of international law and human rights, and watched important arbitration and law making between states.
How you’ll be assessed
The course is assessed through a range of different methods including formal examinations, research essays, case reports, reflective logs and simulations.
Keele Postgraduate Association
Keele University is one of a handful of universities in the UK to have a dedicated students' union for postgraduate students. A fully registered charity, Keele Postgraduate Association serves as a focal point for the social life and welfare needs of all postgraduate students during their time at Keele.
Hugely popular, the KPA Clubhouse (near Horwood Hall) provides a dedicated postgraduate social space and bar on campus, where you can grab a bite to eat and drink, sit quietly and read a book, or switch off from academic life at one of the many regular events organised throughout the year. The KPA also helps to host a variety of conferences, as well as other academic and career sessions, to give you and your fellow postgraduates the opportunities to come together to discuss your research, and develop your skills and networks.
Keele Law School has a long tradition of academic expertise in the field of international law and benefits from a legacy of world-renowned faculty, including the late Michael Barton Akehurst, author of the Modern Introduction to International Law, which remains the most widely used student text in the field. The annual Patrick Thornberry Lecture Series was established to honour one of our most distinguished graduates, widely regarded as one of the world’s most prominent experts on minority and indigenous rights.
Research is at the heart of everything we do, including our teaching. We have a vibrant research community that explores contemporary issues across all fields of law but also, uniquely in the country, philosophical and applied ethics. Our researchers contribute to policy debates both in the UK and internationally on issues as diverse as penal governance, data protection and digital surveillance, religion and intolerance, end-of-life and reproductive ethics, international responses to pandemics, queer jurisprudence, disability rights, mortgage and business lease regulation, or climate security.
The Law School hosts seven research clusters, all representing particular areas of strengths: social justice and human rights; international and European law; healthcare law and bioethics; professions, practice and legal education; private law theory and practice; gender, sexuality and the law; ageing and social care.
Teaching team includes:
Dr Awol Allo (Course Director), Senior Lecturer – Prior to joining Keele in 2016, Awol taught at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). His research interests are in the areas of human rights and social justice, drawing on a wide range of fields including the sociology of law, socio-legal studies, critical social and legal theory, and post-colonial perspectives. He is also interested in understanding and explaining how law constitutes and regulates the social world by observing how its discourses, practices, and institutions operate in the real world and generate social and political effects.
Dr Mario Prost, Senior Lecturer – Mario is a former Board member of the European Society of International Law, and a founding member of its interest group on international environmental law. As well as his ongoing work on various aspects of international legal theory, Mario's current research focuses on the colonial history of (international) environmental law and critical approaches to transnational arbitration (with special emphasis on investor-state arbitration).
Dr Jane Krishnadas, Senior Lecturer – Jane’s research is on feminist socio-legal rights theory and practice in reconstruction in the global north and south. She considers intersecting gender, caste, class and religious identities regarding political representation, housing, religious laws, land, employment and domestic violence. She is a Research Advisor for ‘Brighter Futures, Creative Support, Housing and Employment’
Dr Forough Ramezankhah, Lecturer – A former solicitor who specialised in Immigration and Nationality Law for a private law firm, Forough was awarded her PhD in Law at Keele in 2013 and has taught here ever since. Forough is particularly dedicated to work with asylum seekers and refugees on voluntary basis. Commitment to support this vulnerable group has been at the heart of her approach to academic study and voluntary work.
Dr Emma Allen, Lecturer – Emma is a generalist public international law scholar. Her current research focuses specifically on questions pertaining to statehood, self-determination, state responsibility, international environmental law and the international law of the sea. She researches the unique challenges presented to the community of Pacific small low-lying islands by climate change and, since 2018, has been a member of the International Law Association Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise.
Dr Elizabeth Faulkner, Lecturer – Elizabeth’s interests are in international child law, human rights, crime, and the law, specialising in human trafficking, modern slavery, exploitation, sexual violence, and contemporary legal responses to children’s rights, specifically focusing upon the movement, agency, and the exploitation of children during the 20th and 21st century. She currently acts as Coordinator for the Emerging Scholars and Practitioners on Migration Issues (ESPMI) Network, which brings together emerging scholars, practitioners, policymakers, journalists, artists, and all those involved in forced migration and refugee studies.
With a critical and inter-disciplinary approach to law and social justice, the School of Law is an internationally recognised centre for legal research with a longstanding tradition of excellence in moral philosophy, applied ethics, doctrinal, and socio-legal scholarship.
Supported by a specialist Law Librarian, the Law library in the main University library has an extensive range of electronic resources and online legal databases, and stocks a range of law journals, professional resources, case reports, statutes, text books and research monographs. You’ll have access to copies of core texts within the School.
Based in the main Chancellor’s Building, right at the heart of campus, we offer a range of additional student learning resources and facilities. This includes our Moot Room, a model courtroom used for extra-curricular mooting activities, and a refurbished room dedicated for postgraduate taught students on the second floor. Equipped with networked pcs, an adjustable workstation and a meeting table, it’s great place to continue your discussions or chat between classes.