Judged best in the field
MA Conflict Studies in the Netherlands
Keuzegids Master’s Selection Guide 2019
No. 1
University in the Netherlands
Shanghai Ranking 2020

Conflict Studies and Human Rights: Theoretical analysis and grounded research

Why has ’nationalist’ violence erupted in Ukraine? Will cities become the war zones of the future? How is the term ‘human rights’ used and abused in times of violent conflict? What role did social media play in the rise and subsequent collapse of the Arab Spring? What are the ethical and political issues associated with the use of drones in zones of conflict - and what impact does this have on the subjects of surveillance? Who defines ‘evil’ and what does ‘doing good’ mean? How do ‘humanitarian wars’ affect the everyday lives of the ‘victims’ they protect?

These are just some of the pressing questions arising from the complex interconnectedness of today’s world. A solution to these questions can only be found through systematic analysis of processes of inclusion and exclusion, mobilisation, and collective violence. Addressing these topics properly demands critical reflection on the national and international policies developed to contain, manage, resolve, or transform violent conflict.

Our Master's programme in Conflict Studies and Human Rights is a selective, international graduate programme combining the study of theory with in-depth case study analysis.

The programme focuses on both the dynamics of violent conflicts and the problems associated with national and international military or humanitarian intervention by agencies such as the UN, NATO, or non-governmental organisations.

Is this a human rights programme?

Although there is a "human rights" component to this programme, it is not a law programme. Human rights are addressed through the analytical lens of conflict processes and dynamics. This graduate programme is therefore about conflict studies and human rights, not a programme of conflict studies or human rights. For those seeking a programme more in that direction, Utrecht University has a separate graduate programme on Human Rights that is more focused on jurisprudence and legal aspects of that subject.

After graduation

The Master's programme in Conflict Studies and Human Rights will equip you with the necessary analytical and theoretical skills to engage with global and local challenges in insightful and innovative ways. You will acquire solid theoretical, analytical, and methodological expertise in Conflict Studies and Human Rights, as well as field experience in conflict and post-conflict regions.

You will learn about and develop mastery in three key areas:

  1. Subject knowledge
    You will gain in-depth knowledge of theoretical approaches to understanding and explaining contemporary conflict and human rights. You will also obtain a general understanding of international policy approaches to contemporary conflict and human rights, as well as an understanding of the political contexts in which they are used.
  2. Evidence-based social research
    You will learn to undertake research that consists of systematic analysis and synthesis and is based on a dialogue between ideas and evidence. In the course of this dialogue, you will be able to identify “sensitising concepts” from theory to facilitate your data collection. You will also use theory to gain an understanding of the evidence you gather and to explain your findings.
  3. Critical attitude towards received wisdom
    You will have the conceptual and analytical skills necessary to question conventional ideas and accepted courses of action while defining your own viewpoint. You will also be able to assess the problem of violent conflict and human rights by considering interrelated issues of identity, perception, discourse, and practice.

In your programme you will have the opportunity to actively work on your career development.

Career prospects

The Master’s programme in Conflict Studies and Human Rights offers good preparation for careers in any sector involving conflict analysis, including the public sector, business, non-governmental and international organisations. Read more about possible career prospects.


Conflict Studies and Human Rights is a selective Master’s programme. Eligibility to apply to the programme is not a guarantee of admission. It is a highly competitive programme, and we evaluate every application comparatively when making our selection. Do you want to know if you are eligible for this Master? Check the entry requirements.

Clara Maciver receives Visions on Peace Thesis Award 2017

Conflict Studies and Human Rights graduate Clara Maciver has received the Visions on Peace master thesis prize 2017 for her thesis, titled “Life on Hold: Technology, displacement and war in the 21st century”. 

  • Hans Rouw, alumnus Conflict Studies and Human Rights
    “The Master’s programme has taught me to work in an organised matter and to combine several academic disciplines to build an argument."
  • Vincent van Halsema alumnus Conflict Studies and Human Rights
    “I chose Utrecht, because the Centre for Conflict Studies (CCS) had an excellent reputation and the work of its professors really appealed to me.”


Degree: This Master's programme is officially registered under its name in the Central Register of Higher Education Study Programmes
  • Title: MA
  • Master's degree in: International Relations
  • Programme: Conflict Studies and Human Rights
Accredited by the NVAO
Croho code:
Language of instruction:
Part- or full-time status:
1 year
Credits: 60 credits equals one year full-time study load (European Credit Transfer System, ECTS)
Start of studies:
Application deadline:
  • Dutch & EU/EER students: 1 April
  • Non-EU/EEA students: 1 April
Tuition fees:
Graduate school: