Top law schools in 2022 for working in human rights law | Top Universities

Top law schools in 2022 for working in human rights law

By Aisha Khan

Updated September 21, 2022 Updated September 21, 2022

In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations and became the foundation for what we now call human rights law. Political and cultural challenges over the last few centuries mean that human rights are ingrained in every area of law, ranging from refugee rights and war crimes to discrimination law and gender equality. Human rights lawyers can therefore expect their work to be extremely varied and emotionally rewarding.  

If you’re looking for a legal career where you can play a critical role in protecting fundamental freedoms and advocating for those who have suffered injustices, then human rights law may be an option for you. 

So where can you study if you’re considering a career in human rights law? We’ve consulted the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022 to find out which top law schools are offering specialisms in human rights law.  

You can find out more about the methodology used to produce the ranking here

QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022: Top law schools for careers in human rights law 

Subject rank 



University of Oxford 

United Kingdom 


University of Melbourne 




United Kingdom 


University of Edinburgh 

United Kingdom 

University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh

With a history dating back to the Scottish Enlightenment, Edinburgh’s LLM programme in Human Rights offers a unique space for research on human rights, with students benefiting from the existence of the Edinburgh Centre for International and Global Law and the Global Justice Academy. The school invites experts into the classroom to cover specific human rights issues in depth.  

As an alternative to writing a dissertation, students can complete a placement with an NGO, government department or political party where they will undertake a research project on a human rights topic linked to the activities of their respective host. Students can also set up their own projects, subject to approval by the programme organisers.  

Graduates of the programme have explored a wide range of careers, specialising in human rights law as practitioners, as well as working in human rights courts, the diplomatic service and as policy analysts and researchers in government roles.  

The University of Edinburgh is ranked 17th for law and is sixth for the subject in the UK.  



Colm O'Cinneide, Professor of Constitutional and Human Rights Law at UCL, said: “The key highlights of UCL’S LLM Human Rights programme is the global focus of human rights courses, the leading expertise of our teaching staff, and the diversity of the students which study it.  

“Every year a range of high-quality research essays are written on human rights themes, including the promotion of socio-economic rights; the use of human rights mechanisms to combat climate change; the legitimate scope of state surveillance powers; trans rights; and the regulation of free speech on social media. 

“At UCL Laws, we encourage our students to put their knowledge and skills to practical use in the community and see how the law can be used as an effective instrument for social change. The UCL Centre for Access to Justice (CAJ) facilitates a broad range of pro bono opportunities and events for UCL Laws students, from getting involved with casework to educating local school children about their rights to assisting legal charities with important policy research projects.  

“Students are also given the opportunity to create their own projects to address a particular area of legal need which they are passionate about. 

“Students who do this specialism go in multiple different fields. Some become practising lawyers, often specialising in areas such as free speech law, equality law, immigration law, civil liberties law and so on. Some work for NGOs, international organisations, or national governments. Others go into academia, or policy work. The career paths are varied.” 

UCL is ranked 13th for Law, as well as being the eighth best university in the world according to the QS World University Rankings 2022.  

University of Melbourne

University of Melbourne

Melbourne Law School offers a master’s in Human Rights Law, where students can select a wide range of courses to suit their individual career interests, such as International Refugee Law, Human Rights and Climate Change and Equality and Discrimination at Work. 

Many instructors at the school are leaders in their fields. For example, Professor John Tobin is the editor of The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: A Commentary which was awarded the Certificate of Merit by the American Society of International Law. Additionally, in 2011 he was awarded a national citation for outstanding contribution to student learning in the area of human rights. 

The school’s mentoring programme matches students with a practitioner working in their field of interest. This includes leading law firms, the Bar, government and the non-profit sector. 

The University of Melbourne is ranked 12th for law and is the top university for law in Australia.   

University of Oxford

University of Oxford

Oxford’s MSc in International Human Rights Law is a part-time degree offered over two years and has been designed for lawyers and other human rights advocates looking to pursue advanced studies alongside work responsibilities.  

A major appeal of the course is the diversity among both students and tutors. Students come from all over the world and from a variety of settings: international and non-governmental organisations, the armed forces, universities and media. The faculty is also made up of internationally recognised human rights scholars and advocates.  

Graduates from the programme have gone on to work as prosecutors and defence lawyers at the International Criminal Court, UN criminal tribunals and other human rights bodies. Former students now also work as defence counsel at Guantanamo Bay, undertaking front-line community work in Afghanistan and emergency co-ordination in Sudan and Haiti. 

Career paths are extensive and include working as judges, university professors, lawyers with national armed forces, heads of NGOs, as well as economists, forensic anthropologists, and senior advisors in government around the world, highlighting the versatility of the programme for a wide range of industries.  

The University of Oxford is ranked second for law, and is the second highest university in the world based on the QS World University Rankings 2022

Other options for working in human rights law

Aside from specialisms offered by law schools, many top universities also provide postgraduate degrees that focus on human rights. For example, New York University (NYU) offers a Concentration in Human Rights and International Law as part of their master's programme in Global Affairs. Click here to find out more and read their interview. 

This article was originally published in April 2022 . It was last updated in September 2022

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