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Course Description

Degree type and duration

Master’s Degree, 2 year Master of Arts, 120 ECTS-credits.


The MA aims to provide students with multidisciplinary education and training in the area of human rights studies. It encourages critical thinking, builds evidence-based knowledge, and fosters research projects to provide students with the appropriate skills. The goal of the programme is to develop the necessary competences to work in complex local and international contexts, in accordance with the universal human rights paradigm and based on social commitment. The overall MA programme is a contribution to developing a universal culture of human rights as highlighted by UNESCO and the United Nations.
The Master’s course is in full continuity with previous post-graduate programmes in human rights, taught in Italian, that the University of Padua has been delivering since 1988.


Compulsory courses include teaching in the areas of Political Science and International Relations, International and EU Law, Sociology and History, and Economics, as well as Languages. The interdisciplinary programme is complemented by a study trip to the headquarters of international organisations and other national and international, governmental and non-governmental, entities working in the field of human rights, peace and human security. Specialised training activities, either integrated into some of the core-courses or optional, are planned. A 9 credit internship in governmental or nongovernmental structures is required.

A professionalizing Master course
The MA course aims at developing ad-hoc knowledge and skills to promote and fulfil human rights within the broader context of legal and political processes and multi-level policies. The MA particularly aims to further the students’ knowledge as well as their capacities to analyse, evaluate and manage the multi-level and transnational dimensions of political, social and economic phenomena, with respect to the impact they have at the various levels of governance.

The course programme has a policy- and action-oriented approach, based on research and critical thinking. The theoretical framework is interdisciplinary and intercultural. Human rights law, the multi-level governance framework, and the concepts of “human development” and “human security” are paradigms of reference throughout the course.

Distinctive features
All courses are taught in English. The MA programme includes topical subjects such as the legal framework of international and regional human rights, and the related multi-level political processes and institutions, ranging from the global to the local dimensions. Special attention is paid to civil society organisations and movements, and to the non-profit sector. The multi-level approach makes it possible to combine international trends analysis and an in-depth study of local policies. Research and teaching will reflect the transnational and transcultural dimensions of human rights studies. The programme provides students with stage/internship opportunities with qualified governmental and non-governmental institutions, in Italy and abroad.

Programme aims: competences and skills

- Critical and self-critical skills: ability to formulate a problem, address it with the appropriate information and methodology, and work towards a valid conclusion which respects cultural diversity and ethical concerns.
- Concern for quality and ethical commitment: awareness of the standards required for scientific research and publication, including critical awareness and intellectual honesty. The capacity to apply knowledge, understanding and acquired skills in a social and international environment characterised by widespread structural change processes.
- Interpersonal skills and teamwork: ability to participate in group work and to take the leadership in multicultural and international settings.
- Communication skills: students are trained to communicate the acquired knowledge with clarity, expertise, and cultural awareness, both in professional contexts – such as international organisations, national and local institutions for human rights, NGOs – and informal and community settings.
- Working autonomously, planning capacity, and time managing: students are provided with the learning skills necessary to develop autonomous abilities in planning and managing social projects in the field of human rights, democracy, and peace. The course aims at nurturing independent thought and research skills.

Programme learning outcomes

The graduate will demonstrate:

- ability to frame and refine a major research question, gather the necessary information to address it and formulate a conclusion which can be defended in a scholarly context;
- awareness of and commitment to scientific standards in accuracy and breadth of the documentation located, utilised and cited in assignments and in the final thesis;
- ability to participate productively in group work and take the lead on occasion;
- ability to present written texts and give oral presentations of varied length and complexity in his/her own, and another language;
- ability to illustrate, the different juridical, political, historical and social factors - highlighting analogies, diversities and connections - that impact on the protection and promotion of human rights at international, national and local levels, and to assess and contribute to actions carried out by institutional and civil society actors;
- capacity to analyse legally binding and soft-law human rights instruments as well as policy documents, by interpreting and contextualising them correctly in class, in papers, and in the final dissertation;
- thorough knowledge of the chosen domain of human rights policies, or of a particular social or geographic context, acquired from direct personal field experience and/or the internship;
- ability to use ICT in a scholarly way, by applying high standards of textual analysis to legal, political, and other archives and datasets;
- ability to distinguish different registers of scholarly expression and to apply them appropriately in summaries, reviews and written and oral assignments as well as in the final dissertation;
- ability to conduct and complete a medium length research project, incorporating tools from related disciplines and addressing a significant problem regarding a human rights or multi-level governance issue;
- ability to use tools from other human, natural or exact sciences, where necessary, to tackle a research problem or plan a project;
- ability to work productively in social contexts, to locate, retrieve and process data, to address a research task or a social action, and to take responsibility in organising some phases of the work.

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