Human Rights Studies

Program Category: 
M.A. Programs
Director of Graduate Studies: 
Kristina Eberbach (Director of Education)

Columbia University has a unique international reputation for human rights education and research, earned through decades of highly respected training of human rights professionals and a commitment to the interdisciplinary study and practice of human rights. As a focal point for the study of human rights at Columbia, the Institute for the Study of Human Rights is committed to providing exceptional education programs that draw on these strengths. 

The Human Rights Studies M.A. is an interdisciplinary program that focuses on the academic study of human rights theory and practice.

As part of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, HRSMA students take courses in a range of departments, including Political Science, Religion, Anthropology, Women’s Studies, and Sociology. Students can also take human rights-related courses offered by other Columbia schools, such as the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia Law School, or the Mailman School of Public Health.

The degree consists of 30 credits, including a thesis. Detailed information about the courses and thesis can be found under the Degree Requirements page of the HRSMA website.

Students interested in applying for the Human Rights Studies program can find more information about the program on the Prospective Students page of the HRSMA website.

Specific questions about the program's degree structure and content can be directed to

Special Admissions Requirements: 

Statement of Academic Purpose

The statement of academic purpose should address your motivations for applying to this program. Clearly articulate your academic and professional goals, and explain how this program fits into your longer-term career trajectory.

When writing your statement, draw upon your previous experiences and consider the following questions: Why do you want to study human rights? What are your human rights research interests/what is your anticipated concentration? Why are you interested in this particular program? How does it relate to your future academic and/or professional plans?

Academic Writing Sample

The academic writing sample helps the admissions committee to evaluate your research, analysis, and writing skills. The writing sample should be a short academic paper of 1,000-1,500 words in length that demonstrates your ability to meet the expectations of graduate-level work. Applicants may also submit a coherent excerpt from a longer research paper, which should include a brief abstract of no more than 150 words – which is included in the total word-count limit – to contextualize the excerpt submitted.

Letters of Recommendation

Two letters of recommendations are required to apply to this program. Academic letters of recommendation from faculty are preferred. However, if an applicant has not been enrolled in an academic program in recent years and is unable obtain faculty recommendations, professional recommendations may be submitted instead.


Students must submit electronic copies of transcripts or records of academic work from each university-level institution attended. Transcripts that are in a language other than English should be translated into English and both the original and translation should be uploaded. If academic marks are not expressed as letter grades, students should submit information on the evaluation system of the school if it is not otherwise explained on the transcript. Students should consult the Transcripts page of the GSAS website for additional information.

English Proficiency Requirement

International students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit scores of the TOEFL or IELTS exams. International applicants may also take the Columbia American Language Program’s ALP Essay Exam. For more information, see the Information for International Students page on the GSAS website.

Deadline for Fall Admission: 
Monday, March 16, 2015
Resume Requirement: 
Writing Sample: 
Writing Sample Number of Pages: 
GRE General: 
Degree Programs: 
Full Time/Part Time

Application Deadlines

All applications are reviewed using the same guidelines, and early applicants do not receive priority; however, applicants who apply by the early application deadline will receive their admissions decision earlier than those who apply by the regular decision deadline.

Early Application Deadline for Fall Admission: January 15, 2015

Early applicants will be notified that their application has been accepted, denied, or waitlisted.

Applicants who receive a wait list decision during the first evaluation round will be automatically considered during the regular decision evaluation process and do not need to reapply.

Applicants who are denied admission during the first evaluation round cannot reapply for consideration during the regular decision evaluation process, but are welcome to apply again the following year (subject to the GSAS policy on reapplying).

Regular Deadline for Fall Admission: March 16, 2015

All applications received after January 15, as well as early applications that were waitlisted during the first round, will be reviewed. All applications must be received by March 16, 2015 to be considered for admission.

Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships

FLAS Fellowships are available for students entering in the fall. If you are applying for the FLAS Fellowship you must submit your admission application, including the FLAS essay, by the fellowship application deadline.