M.A. in the Field of Human Rights


Starting in 2013, the International Human Rights Exchange and the University of the Witwatersrand will offer a M.A. in Human Rights

Africa’s leading School of Social Sciences provides cutting edge training in critical thinking and practical research skills for the real world. The emphasis is on intensive study, with dynamic classes led by world-class staff. To succeed a candidate has to show ability to conduct independent research, evaluate and think critically, construct a sophisticated argument, while showing specifically in this degree, an ability to transfer knowledge across disciplines. Graduates may seek employment in areas such as research, diplomacy, policy analysis, civil society organisations and with international organisations such as the UN and UNDP.

The new Masters is an interdisciplinary degree which can be completed in one year (full time), or two years (part time). International students are not permitted to undertake part-time studies.


The course options for the M.A. in Human Rights are as follows:


SOSS7028     Human Rights and Power: A Contextual Approach
LAWS7068 International Human Rights Law
LAWS7016 Human Rights and the Marketplace  
LAWS7030 Refugees Law*
LAWS7065 Environmental and Sustainable Development Law*
* To take these courses you must have completed at least a BA (Law) degree.
HIST7022 Rural Development
HIST7025 The Making of Urban South Africa
INTR7055 African Human Security in an International Context
INTR7020 Peace & Conflict in the Middle East
POLS7006 Development Theories, Issues Problems and Strategies
POLS7011 Gender Equality and Social Policy
POLS7031 Social Capital and Democratic Development
SOCL7051 Militarisation and Development
SOCL7008 Collective Action and Social Movements
SOCL7012 Global Institutions and Economic Restructuring
SOCL7006 Ethics
SOCL7015 Labour Movements in Developing Societies
SOSS7016 Sexuality and HIV/AIDS
SOCL7044 Environmental Sociology
GRAD7018 Feminism and Gender Studies
GRAD7029 Introduction to Forced Migration
APRL7044 Community Participation in Urban Governance: Theories, Discourses and Practices
SOSS7029 Research Report on an Approved Topic in Human Rights



You will need at least 65% average in your Honours degree, or equivalent, to qualify for admission.

Students can submit their applications online by logging onto https://my.wits.ac.za or download and print out the PDF version from: http://www.wits.ac.za/prospective/postgraduate

International students should log on to: http://www.wits.ac.za/prospective/international/11390/international_students.html

The following should be submitted with the application form in order for the department to make a decision:

  • Your CV
  • Certified copies of your complete degree and academic transcript (in English); note that scanned and faxed copies are not accepted
  • A letter of motivation as to why you wish to pursue this line of study (500 words).
  • If you come from another university you will need to submit a piece of your written work (writing sample), preferably a marked essay.
  • Certificate of Evaluation from SAQA (South African Qualification Authority) www.saqa.org.za for international qualifications.
  • In terms of the university rules, an applicant who has not used English in his/her academic education up to this point will be required to supply proof of proficiency in English at the time of application. A British Council test is recommended and they can be contacted at (011) 718 4300 or email IELTS@britishcouncil.org.za
  • Application Fee

Times of classes will depend on which courses you choose and this information will be available from that particular department.  Closing dates for:

Applications- 30 September 2012

Bursaries- 31 August 2012

Accommodation- 31 October 2012

If you are an international student please look at our International Office webpage on the Wits website www.wits.ac.za for information relevant to you, particularly study permit and medical insurance requirements.  Once you have been accepted onto the M.A. program, you will be sent a formal letter from Wits offering you a place to study and you should use this letter to apply for your study permit.  Wits University is not permitted to register an international student who is not in possession of a valid study permit and valid medical insurance. International students, especially, are expected to take note of the fee payment requirement of Wits.

Frequently Asked Questions

1)  How long does it take to obtain the MA degree?

The degree can be undertaken full time over the course of one year or part time over two years.

2)  How many courses are required to complete the MA?

To complete the degree candidates are required to complete:

  • Human Rights and Power: A Contextual Approach (compulsory)
  • One from: International Human Rights Law, Human Rights and the Marketplace, Refugees Law, Environmental and Sustainable Development Law
  • One from: Rural Development, The Making of Urban South Africa, African Human Security in an International Context, Peace & Conflict in the Middle East, Development Theories, Issues Problems & Strategies,Gender Equality & Social Policy,Social Capital & Democratic Development, Militarisation & Development, Collective Action & Social Movements, Global Institutions & Economic Restructuring, Ethics, Labour Movements in Developing Societies, Sexuality & HIV/AIDS, Environmental Sociology, Feminism & Gender Studies, Introduction to Forced Migration, Ethics, Community Participation in Urban Governance: Theories, Discourses & Practices
  • Research Report on an Approved Topic in Human Rights (compulsory)

3)  What is the calendar for the program?


Term Dates 2013




Thursday 17 January – Friday 1 February

Orientation week

Monday 4 February – Friday 8 February

First teaching block

Monday 11 February  – Wednesday 20 March (28 days)

Mid-term Vacation/Study/Research break

Thursday 21 March – Monday 1 April (12 days)

Second teaching block

Tuesday 2 April – Friday 24 May (38 days)


Monday 27 May – Monday 24 June (20 days)

Winter Vacation/Study/Research break

Tuesday 25 June – Sunday 14 July (20 days)

Third teaching block

Monday 15 July – Friday 30 August (34 days)

Mid-term Vacation/Study/Research break

Saturday 31 August  – Sunday 8 September (9 days)

Fourth teaching block

Monday 9 September  – Monday 21 October (30 days)


Tuesday 22 October – Monday 18 November (20 days)


4)  How can I apply for the M.A. program?

Students can submit their applications online by logging onto https://my.wits.ac.za or download and print out the PDF version from: http://www.wits.ac.za/prospective/postgraduate Application forms and the required supporting documents must be submitted to the Student Enrollment Centre by registered mail or hand delivery.

International students should log on to: http://www.wits.ac.za/prospective/international/11390/international_students.html

5)  What is the closing date for admission?

South African Applicants: 30 November 2012
International Applicants: 30 September 2012

6)  Are there scholarships available to study on the program?

For more information on this and how to apply, students should log on to: http://www.wits.ac.za/prospective/financialaid/postgraduate/11614/general.html

Can Wits arrange accommodation for me?

Students from outside Johannesburg might require assistance with accommodation and more information can be found at


7)  Is it possible to spend a single term at the International Human Rights Exchange?

While the M.A. program may occasionally accept visiting students, interested candidates on programmes at other universities need to contact the Director of IHRE for more details.

8)  What kind of academic background is required for entry?

You will need at least 65% average in your Honours degree, or equivalent, to qualify for admission.

If you are applying from the USA or Canada, then you will need a GPA of 3.4 in your four-year undergraduate degree.

This is an interdisciplinary degree and students without a law background are strongly encouraged to apply. Those with a law background will certainly benefit from the diversity of student opinion. If you have previous work experience with a human rights organisation, that might enhance your application.

9)  Is there an English language requirement?

Wits, as an English-medium university requires that its students are proficient in oral and written English before they register. All classes and examinations are conducted in English.

Therefore, prospective students whose medium of instruction has been a language other than English are required to undertake an English language course before undertaking the MA. The required scores are as follows: IELTS 7.00 or TOEFL 600

For more details about this requirement and where to take the tests, see: http://www.wits.ac.za/prospective/international/applying/11439/englishproficiency.html

Is there any specific information for students from outside South Africa?

International students should log on to:


for information on application forms, fees, certified copies of degree certificates, a curriculum vitae, letters of reference, proof of English proficiency and an assessment of your qualifications by SAQA. The Wits International Office can provide you with answers to other important questions you might have about study at Wits.

10)  What if I have been outside of academia for several years and wish to apply to the MA in Human Rights?

The M.A program welcomes applications from persons who have had work experience and now wish to return to academia. In your application include letters of references from employers (as opposed to strictly academic references). Equally, if the applicant can demonstrate a strong professional background working in the field of human rights, this may be taken into consideration if the student fails to meet the otherwise strict academic entry requirement.

11)  What are the possible career opportunities upon graduation from the MA?

There are no guarantees of a job with every earned degree but we are of the opinion that this interdisciplinary approach of study will be attractive to a number of persons such as

  • Those who work within UN or UN affiliated organisations
  • Those who work in NGO and quasi NGOs, human rights, policy and development  
  • Those who work in academic institutions or pursue the Ph. D or JD  
  • Those who work in diplomatic or government based work (in human rights divisions of the Department of Foreign Affairs, for example).

Indeed, legal practitioners in constitutional and human rights matters might benefit more with this degree as more creative arguments can be made before the courts.

Contact Us

Should you require further information, please contact:

Lovelyn Bassey, Lovelyn.Bassey@wits.ac.za, +27-11-717-4391

Professor Vinodh Jaichand, Vinodh.Jaichand@wits.ac.za, +27-11-717-4333.



Bard College, Institute for International Liberal Education, PO Box 5000, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504-5000

Tel: 845-758-7081, Fax: 845-758-7040, E-mail: ihre@bard.edu