Master of human rights coming to the U of M

The first master of human rights graduate degree program to be offered in Canada is coming to the U of M — and earlier than originally expected.

The program, which will begin in September 2019, will train students for careers in human rights professions. It involves 18 credit hours and a thesis or practicum and research project. Students will also have to demonstrate a working knowledge of a language other than English by the end of the program.

Director of peace and conflict studies Adam Muller, who was involved in designing the program, said the early start date is a case of everything falling into place early.

“We had expected to take our first intake of students in the fall of 2020, but the ducks were lined up,” he said.

“Bottom line is if we’re ready to take students, and all of the pieces of the puzzle are in place, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to withhold the last piece just because you have a timeline.”

Muller said students had been inquiring about the status of the program for years and said the introduction of the degree felt timely considering the current political climate.

“We just didn’t want to wait,” he said.

“The time is right. It seems like the world needs graduates from human rights programs, and certainly, given that there isn’t one in Canada at the moment that’s configured quite this way, we felt we had a contribution to make.”

While the program will be held in Robson Hall, Muller said it was not specifically a law-centric area of study.

“Anybody interested in kind of a high-level human rights education, interested in doing human rights-related work that requires an advanced degree in the field, is going to be well-served by what we’re capable of offering here,” he said.

“We offer thorough grounding in human rights, which […] begins really with an understanding of human rights in law.”

Letters of external support for the program poured in from all over the world, including the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and the United Nations.

Muller said the program was a chance to keep students who would typically leave Canada to study human rights at a higher level.

“There isn’t a program in this country that focuses on human rights as human rights, per se,” he said.

“There are these programs in Europe, there are these programs in the United States, and what’s happening is students who want to get this kind of education are just heading elsewhere to do that kind of work. And we’re hoping to redirect some of that flow.”

The deadline to apply for the first intake of the master of human rights program is Dec. 15.