About us


Established in 1982, the University of Essex Human Rights Centre is one of the world’s leading centres for the interdisciplinary study of the theory and practice of human rights. We enjoy a worldwide reputation for excellence, and our 2000 graduates – known as the ‘Essex mafia’ – work to promote and protect human rights around the world.

We bring together over 80 academic staff from across 11 departments at the University who are not only prominent scholars in human rights but also advise and act on behalf of governments, NGOs, national and regional human rights bodies and international organisations such as the United Nations.

We established the first postgraduate course in international human rights law in the UK in 1983, and we were amongst the first to introduce an expanded suite of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the early years of the new millennium.

In February 2010 we were awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of our work in advancing the legal and broader practice of international human rights.

Interdisciplinary approach to human rights theory and practice

At the heart of the Human Rights Centre is the interface between the theory and practice of human rights. Our excellence in research and excellence in education are defined by the application of theory to real human rights problems. Through our research and practice, we influence and set human rights agendas and make concrete differences at the international, regional, and national level. Through our education we produce the next generation of human rights leaders throughout the world.

Beyond our expertise within disciplines, we play an intellectual and practical leadership role in defining what is meant by interdisciplinary research, knowledge exchange, and education in human rights and developing a distinctive interdisciplinary identity in human rights. Our centre brings together over 80 academic staff from across 11 departments at the University.

Putting human rights into practice

Our members are actively engaged in the practice of human rights. Recent activities undertaken by our members include litigating the case of Garcia Lucero and others v Chile before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, submitting comments to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in relation to the draft general comment on Article 12 of the Covenant, and submitting an amicus curiae brief to the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Hassan vs United Kingdom.

Some of the prominent human rights-related positions held by our members include: chairperson of the UN Human Rights Committee, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, Legal Advisor to the UK House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution, Rapporteur to the International Law Association’s Committee on the Use of Force, Law Commissioner in Jersey, and Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law. Our members are also involved in the work of various NGOs and international organisations including Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Oxfam, REDRESS, the Euro-Med Human Rights Network, Child Soldiers International, the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace & Justice, and the AIRE Centre.

Our research

Our research is based upon the strategic identification of enduring and emerging human rights challenges. We work closely with our alumni and extensive practitioner network to ensure that our research is focused on priority issues that are of direct relevance to beneficiaries such as victims of human rights violations, governments, NGOs, and international organisations. Research within the Centre occurs on an interdisciplinary basis and is organised around a number of research clusters.

Contact us

Please contact us if you have any questions about our Centre and our courses.

Human Rights Centre

University of Essex

Wivenhoe Park

Colchester CO4 3SQ

United Kingdom

Telephone +44 (0)1206 874736 (general enquiries)

Email Contact us via our online form

Administration office


  • 5S.5.5, Law general office, Colchester Campus

Opening hours

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 09.45-12.45 and 14.15-16.00
  • Wednesday: 09.45-12.45 only