Lindsay Alexander at the University of London talks to master’s graduates about how their human rights degrees opened up their personal and professional lives.

The area of human rights is constantly evolving. As awareness of human rights infractions around the world grows, the study of human rights increases in importance for us to understand and challenge these issues. Human rights expertise is also needed to address the impact of global challenges, such as internet technology and security, climate change and migration.

Professionally, a degree in human rights can open up opportunities in a range of fields including law, education, government, business and the charity sector. Three graduates of the University of London’s MA Human Rights spoke to us about how their study experience has benefitted their current roles and why the study of human rights is important for our generation and the next.

Stephanie Browning, a social studies and science teacher in Canada, has always wanted to advocate for human rights. After witnessing atrocious human rights violations throughout her travels, she decided to pursue her interest further through education.

‘This programme provided the opportunity to learn from such distinguished professors and fellow classmates who work in a range of careers in the field of human rights. Although the programme is delivered online, I was still able to converse with classmates through weekly discussions, all of which brought interesting perspectives to the various human rights issues that we studied.’

Stephanie’s experience gave her a sound understanding of human rights policies in a global context, which she encourages her students to explore.

‘One of my guiding philosophies is that solving many of the world’s problems start with providing quality education to individuals of all ages so that we have the knowledge and tools to make positive change in the world. My hope is that completing this programme will help me make this philosophy a reality.’

Nadya Jamal, who works for the Public Guardian and Trustee of  British Columbia, appreciated the opportunities to work on projects with practical and transferrable applications such as writing legal summaries, policy briefs and grant applications that were provided through the MA programme:

‘There are many nuances in my role that involve a keen respect and understanding for human rights. This degree certainly helped with identifying these and articulating them for other members of my team when things seem complex.’

She acknowledges that there is still a long way to go in terms of securing human rights on a global scale, and that now is the time to start pushing for change.

‘There is more awareness and recognition of human rights issues today than ever before,’ said Stephanie. ‘The international human rights framework, though not perfect, has created a platform for many “unpopular” human rights issues to receive the same validity as more mainstream issues. This is truly a time for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) human rights issues to receive equal attention.

‘There is also much improvement needed in the human rights systems globally. Despite there being a larger platform, issues of BIPOC rights are still not receiving the same response as they should. This is a time for BIPOC human rights activists to speak to these issues as well as lead the responses around them.’

As an Indigenous woman who grew up on a reserve in Canada, Zoe Craig-Sparrow has always had a passion for women’s rights, children’s rights, and the environment. Continuing her education in human rights felt like the obvious next step after an undergraduate degree in political science:

‘The field of human rights is so intersectional and broad, and this programme allowed me to take a variety of courses where I learned more about Indigenous peoples, genocide, the various United Nations treaties, women’s rights, and academic research. This broad spectrum of subject matter, taught through a human rights lens, was so appealing to me, as was the incredible expertise of the teaching staff and the ability to study remotely.’

Zoe is the co-director of Justice for Girls, a non-profit organisation which promotes equality, freedom from violence, and the health and wellness of teenage girls who live in poverty. She says the MA in Human Rights has been an asset in her current role.

‘I was able to expand my knowledge and learn more tools and insight into human rights, international treaty bodies, and the role of NGOs. I, and our organisation, have benefitted immensely from this programme as it has improved my ability to respond to human rights violations and has provided me with incredibly beneficial and supportive contacts in the human rights community.

‘I have gained so much from this degree. It helped me refine my understanding of human rights and expand my knowledge of international and domestic human rights bodies and mechanisms. I also learned about the incredibly vast amount of research, literature, and resources on different areas of human rights through all of my readings and course materials. The importance of studying human rights cannot be overstated.’

This article was first published in London Connection.