About the Programme

Oxford International Human Rights Law Summer School

The International Human Rights Law Summer School is offered by the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at Oxford University in conjuction with George Washington University Law School (GWU). Prof Freya Baetens is the Oxford Director of the Summer School and is based at the Bonavero Institute. Prof Kate O’Regan is the Director of the Bonavero Institute. Prof. Edward Swaine is the GWU Director of the Summer School.

Course aims

The programme aims to provide an intensive immersion in international human rights law and practice. Students will learn about key international and regional human rights laws and the enforcement of human rights by courts, quasi-judicial bodies, the UN and other inter-governmental organisations and non-governmental actors.  The introductory morning session aims to provide a basic grounding in the field of international human rights law for students with no prior knowledge. The advanced morning seminars aim to build on students' existing knowledge. The afternoon electives aim to provide students with an opportunity to specialise in a key sub area of international human rights law or international humanitarian law. More broadly, the programme is intended to prepare participants to contribute to the improvement of human rights conditions in their homelands and around the world.

Course structure

The 2024 programme begins on Tuesday 2 July with arrival and registration. Wednesday 3 July is reserved for orientation, library registration and an optional but recommended introductory lecture. Classes are held mornings and afternoons Thursday 4 July to Wednesday 24 July. Thursday 25 July is reserved for exam revision and examinations are held on Friday 26 July followed by a farewell dinner. The programme concludes after breakfast on Saturday 27 July.

Academic programme

The academic programme consists of
•    A daily lecture programme given by a leading expert within the faculty;
•    Study in small interactive group seminars led by experienced tutors;
•    Optional extra-curricular events programme  

All students will take a course in:
•    The Fundamentals of International Human Rights Law; or
•    Human Rights Lawyering (advanced)

This involves a morning plenary lecture followed by a smaller group seminar. 

Students then choose one afternoon elective seminars, which will include: 
•    Climate Justice  
•    Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age 
•    Gender, Sexuality and International Human Rights Law
•    War, Peace and Human Rights
•    Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - Law and Practice


Seminars will usually contain no more than 18 students.

A typical class day looks like this: 

08:00 Breakfast
9:00-10:00 am    Plenary lecture
10:00-10:20 am Coffee break
10:30-11:50 am  Fundamentals/Lawyering seminars
12:00-1:30 pm Lunch
2:00-3:35 pm  Afternoon elective seminars

 In addition, there will also be an optional afternoon session on some days.

Contact hours

The programme provides a minimum of 58 hours and 45 minutes, comprising:

  • 15 plenary lectures of 1 hour
  • 15 seminars of 80 minutes
  • 15 seminars of 95 minutes.

Levels and demands

This course is an intensive programme of postgraduate-level study and potential applicants should therefore be confident that they are academically and linguistically prepared for such a programme.

Participants are expected to:

  • undertake preparatory reading before each class
  • attend all seminar sessions and lectures
  • be actively engaged with their seminar topics

If your first language is not English, you must supply evidence of your proficiency before a place can be offered. Further information about accepted English tests and minimum scores for this course are listed in the Applications section.


Assessment for all classes in this programme is by way of timed examination and class participation but examinations are only compulsory for those seeking credit from the programme. Further information about credit can be found in the Certificates and credit section below.

Please note: all examinations take place on the final Friday of the programme and cannot be re-arranged.

Certificates and credit

All students who satisfactorily complete the programme will be awarded a Certificate of Attendance. To qualify for this, students are required to attend lectures and seminars to the satisfaction of the course tutors.  It is not necessary to take the examinations in order to receive a Certificate of Attendance but those seeking credit from the programme will need to sit the examinations. The certificate will list your name, the dates of the programme and the two courses you have taken.

The programme is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) for 5 semester credits, but these can only be awarded to North American law students who have applied for the programme through George Washington University (see 'Application procedure' on the Applications page).  North American students must take the examinations to receive ABA accreditation.

As Oxford University itself does not offer credit for this summer school, those students outside North America (who will not qualify for ABA accreditation) wishing to obtain credit from their home institution for attending the programme must make appropriate arrangements with that institution in advance.  Participants can request information to provide to their home institution that sets outs the contact teaching hours (for lectures and seminars) and confirms the grades achieved in the examinations. Please note that confirmation of your exam results comes in the form of a results letter emailed directly to you when results are available in mid-September.  A hard copy can also be sent directly to you and/or your university if this is required. Unfortunately we cannot provide formal transcripts for this course so you must check in advance that your home institution will accept a results letter.  The level of credit, if any, must be determined by the home institution.

This course is not eligible for CATS and ECTS points as it is not accredited.


Students are provided with accommodation at New College, Oxford. Founded by William of Wykham in 1379, New College is one of the largest, best known and most beautiful of the Oxford colleges. The college is located in a prime city centre location and is a short walk from both the teaching rooms and the Bodleian Law Library.

Bedrooms and meals

Students are accommodated in single study bedrooms at New College. Most of the bedrooms have ensuite (private) bathrooms but there are a small number with shared bathroom facilities. Please see Fees and payment for further information about the allocation of rooms.

The rooms are intended primarily for undergraduate students and are as such fairly basic in their décor and furnishings, though all include a desk, wardrobe and mini fridge. Rooms vary considerably in age, shape and layout.

Students cannot be accommodated at New College either prior to or beyond the programme dates. Family members and/or friends who are not enrolled on this summer school cannot be accommodated in college.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided every day in the college's dining hall.  With the exception of the welcome and farewell dinners which are served at the table, all meals are self-service with a range of options available.  Should applicants have any dietary requirements (e.g. gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan) please make sure to include these in the relevant section on the application form.

Non-residential students

We encourage all participants to take advantage of the accommodation provided at New College but, for those who already live nearby or for whom the accommodation would not be suitable, it is possible to attend the programme on a non-residential basis. Please contact the Oxford Course Administrator at ihrl-events@law.ox.ac.uk for further information.

Individuals with disabilities

The Faculty aims to treat all participants equally and welcomes applications from people with disabilities. Individuals' needs are taken into account as far as possible, providing reasonable adaptations and assistance within the resources available. We ask that people let us know of any disability or special need (confidentially if required) so that we can help them participate as fully as possible.

Students with mobility difficulties may find some areas of Oxford difficult to access as it is an ancient city with a number of very old buildings which were designed in an age that was less sensitive to issues of disability. Similarly, students may also find that the age and layout of New College means that some areas are only accessible by stairs. Further information can be found at https://www.accessguide.ox.ac.uk/new-college.  

All of the teaching rooms used for the program are equipped with facilities that improve access for students with disabilities including lifts, access ramps, and hearing loops. Further information can be found at https://www.accessguide.ox.ac.uk/st-cross-building.

Prospective participants with mobility difficulties, visual or hearing impairments, or any other disabilities which may require special arrangements, should contact the Oxford Program Administrator at ihrl-events@law.ox.ac.uk for further advice.

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