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Children’s Rights (MSc)

MSc|Postgraduate Taught

Children's Rights

Entry year
Entry requirements
1 year (Full Time)
3 years (Part Time)
Places available
no limit (Full Time)
no limit (Part Time)
This course is now closed to applications for September 2021. If you are interested in September 2022 entry, please register your interest.
  • Overview

    This programme meets the increasing demand for a postgraduate qualification in Children's Rights, explicitly focused on interdisciplinary research and child rights-based research methods.

    The programme aims to provide high-level knowledge and skills in children's rights law and practice of value to those working with and for children, including public officials and NGOs as well as educators, social workers and health care providers.

    The programme will develop your expertise in two distinct but interconnected areas:

    Children's Rights - using the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant international standards to evaluate the laws, policies and practices which affect children
    Research with Children - evaluating the best methods of conducting research into children's lives with a particular focus on approaches which involve children actively in the research process.

    The course will provide you with a thorough grounding in these two areas and the opportunity to explore a range of contexts in which these perspectives can be used to better understand children’s lives and secure improved outcomes for children.

    Closing date for applications: Friday 29 July 2022 at 4pm.

    Children's Rights highlights

    Our educational research has been ranked 4th within the UK in relation to research intensity with 87% assessed as ‘internationally excellent or world leading’ (REF, 2014).

    Industry Links

    • We have extensive links with local and international NGOs and can provide some opportunities for students to undertake relevant research. This may be of particular interest if you want to gain experience in the children’s sector, perhaps to secure a job or to change position.

    Internationally Renowned Experts

    • This programme is linked to the Centre for Children's Rights (CCR), which has an international reputation in the area of children's rights with a focus on the implementation of children's rights, child participation, education, social care and the children with disabilities. The CCR has a vibrant community of PhD students undertaking research on a range of issues and in several countries.
    • The programme features input from leading international Children's Rights scholars at Queen's and from around the world. Students become a member of the globally renowned Centre for Children’s Rights with access to activities such as reading groups, seminars by internal and visiting speakers and social events.

    Student Experience

    • The programme has been designed to enable students to pursue individual interests and to maximise the range of modules available to students.
    • The programme can be taken full-time or part-time. Students can choose to follow an MSc, Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma pathway. The programme is designed for those working, or wishing to work with or for, children globally and is delivered via blended and online learning. It will be of particular value to public officials, policymakers and international and national NGOs as well as educators, social workers, those working in the criminal justice system and health care providers.
    • Credit transfer Students who have completed other Master’s-level awards, eg PGCE, within the last 10 years are eligible to transfer credit.
  • Course content

    Course Structure

    Hosted by the internationally renowned Centre for Children��s Rights, this MSc builds on existing specialisms across children’s rights law, policy and practice. A blended learning approach has been adopted which includes a mixture of face-to-face and online learning, traditional lectures, workshops, condensed modules, online discussion forums and guest speakers.

    The MSc is awarded to students who successfully complete 120 CATS points from the taught modules and a 12,000-15,000 word dissertation (60 CATS points).

    Exit qualifications are available: students may exit with a Postgraduate Diploma by successfully completing 120 CATS points from taught modules or a Postgraduate Certificate by successfully completing 60 CATS points from taught modules.

    Modules20 CATS modules generally involve 20 contact hours per semester, 10 CATS modules generally involve 10 contact hours per semester. Contact hours often include a blend of face-to-face lectures/ workshops and online sessions.

    Core Modules

    Foundations of Children’s Rights - 20 CATS
    This module will introduce students to international children's rights laws affecting children, with a particular focus on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It will locate children’s rights within the broader framework of human rights law and introduce the core provisions of international children's rights, emphasising the research skills used to identify and understand major human rights treaties and secondary documentation. It will explain the fundamental principles of children's rights and their implementation and introduce theory and ongoing debates in the field, such as the limits of children's autonomy and the potential tensions between children’s rights and parents’ rights.

    Children’s Rights and Participation – 20 CATS

    The module will introduce students to children’s right to participation as enshrined in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It will locate this right within the broader critical and theoretical discourse on children’s participation and the perceived extent and limits of children’s autonomy. The module will contextualise the right by drawing on children’s right to participate in decision making processes in relation to, for example, policymaking, medical decisions, and research processes. It will also explore how effective the right to participation is for different groups of
    children such as young children, children with disabilities.

    An Introduction to Research Methods - 20 CATS
    The aim of the module is to provide a general research overview and to contextualise the broad range of approaches and debates that are evident within contemporary educational research. The module aims to provide students with an understanding of the theory and an appreciation of the differing perspectives that underpin quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Students will be introduced to the ethical issues relating to educational research as well as a range of methodological approaches, within which the key theoretical and practical issues will be addressed.

    Childhood and Youth Research in Practice - 10 CATS
    This is an introductory module brings together students and academic staff from a range of areas to showcase research, highlighting different issues and looking at a variety of projects using both qualitative and quantitative methods. The module will conclude with a workshop on research ethics and governance.

    Perspectives on Childhood and Youth - 10 CATS
    This is an introductory module brings together students and academic staff from a range of areas to familiarise students with diverse disciplinary perspectives on children and young people. Indicative content includes: the sociology of childhood; youth studies; psychobiological approaches; children’s rights; health approaches and interventions.

    Dissertation – 60 CATS (20,000 words max.)
    Students choose to work on a topic of interest under the supervision of an academic member of staff. Students have the opportunity to undertake research for external organisations to submit as part of their dissertation.

    Optional Modules
    A range of optional modules enables you to choose further research methods modules and a range of substantive children’s rights modules including issues such as social work, disability, education and philosophical perspectives. For example, students can take modules on:

    Youth and Social Justice - 20 CATS
    This module introduces students to key concepts, theories and debates in youth studies. It provides an understanding of the ways in which major social science disciplines have conceptualised and studied young people, alongside some of the contemporary issues that affect their lives. The module explores the framing, conceptualisation and theorisation of youth across time, considering the academic and political interest in their lives. It examines the relationship between young people, social change and social policy and encourages students to apply theory to contemporary youth issues, and to critically consider institutional and policy responses. Indicative content includes: representations of youth; youth cultures and subcultures; adolescent development; education, employment and unemployment; regulation and criminalisation; youth identities.

    Youth Justice: Theory, Law and Practice – 20 CATS
    The module covers key areas in youth justice including theories on causes of offending. The emergence of a separate response over time to young people who come into conflict with the law is critically explored. Current system and practice orientations such as prevention and early intervention are explored, as are interventions for young people who are processed through the youth justice system. Here students will learn about different philosophies, orientations and legal frameworks towards youth justice in local and international contexts. Students will be encouraged to critically reflect upon the merits and demerits of the panoply of different approaches towards youth and justice from restoration to responsibilisation, towards risk orientation and welfarism.

    Childhood Disability and Rights - 20 CATS
    Disabled children and young people have only recently begun to be recognised as rights-holders. This module aims to provide students with a rich and considered understanding of children’s rights discourse as it applies to disabled children and young people’s lives. Students will be introduced to key theoretical perspectives and understandings of disability, and their criticisms, before examining the ways in which international human rights law has addressed the particular experiences of disabled children and young people. Students will gain an understanding of the complexities and diversities of disabled children and young people’s lives with respect to: education, health and social care, poverty, and transitions. By locating these thematic areas within the context of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), students will also be able to outline how rights discourse specific to disabled children and young people has changed over time. The module will also draw on contemporary research and highlight childhood disability research methods As such, it is designed to help students consider the relationship between ‘rights talk’ and ‘rights in practice’.

    Qualitative Research in Childhood and Youth - 10 CATS
    This module introduces students to some of the key qualitative approaches to carrying out research with children and young people and the realities and practicalities in doing so. The module begins by introducing the main issues and dilemmas in qualitative research with children and young people and moves on to critically interrogate the notion of participatory research. The adaption of ‘traditional methods’ of data collection is discussed alongside methods specifically designed to ‘engage’ children and young people in the research process. The strengths and weaknesses of various methods are discussed and each is illustrated through research examples. Practical tips in designing and ‘doing’ qualitative research are built into the sessions.

    Youth Justice & Desistance - 20 CATS
    Improving institutions of justice and reintegration are core goals of sustainable development (see SDG 15 – Peace, justice and strong institutions). This course will approach the subject of desistance from crime among young people from a developmental perspective. A particular emphasis will be placed on the impact of the youth justice system on pathways into and out of criminal engagement among young people. The module will cover theories of age and crime and the invention of “maturational reform” as a criminological concept, then move on to a review of contemporary research and theory on desistance from crime, including differences by demographic group and national context, and youth work practices that can support and sustain desistance (as well as those that exacerbate patterns of offending).

    Economic Impact of Childhood Interventions - 10 CATS
    This module will provide the student with the opportunity to gain knowledge and understanding of the economic impact of child health, psychological, educational and social care interventions on wellbeing, within the constraints of finite resources.

    In addition, you may choose modules from the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work.

    People teaching you

    Dr Bronagh Byrne
    Programme Director and Co-Director, Centre for Children's Rights


    Professor Laura Lundy
    Professor and Co-Director, Centre for Children's Rights


    Teaching Times

    Combination of block and weekly teaching.

    Career Prospects

    There is increasing demand for high-level skills in interdisciplinary research, participatory research methods and knowledge of children's rights. Professionals within children/human rights-focused NGOs, public officials, educators, social workers and health professionals who work with children should find this degree beneficial. The MSc is a good foundation for students wishing to pursue their own research through doctoral study.

    Queen's postgraduates reap exceptional benefits. Unique initiatives, such as Degree Plus and Researcher Plus bolster our commitment to employability, while innovative leadership and executive programmes help our students gain key leadership positions both nationally and internationally.

    Previous graduates have been successful in gaining jobs with international and national children’s rights NGOs while others have gone on to pursue doctoral study. Many of our graduates have also undertaken the course as form of professional development within their existing careers in areas such as law, medicine, education, social work and policy development.

    Learning and Teaching

    Learning opportunities available with this course are outlined below:

    Learning and Teaching Methods

    A combination of face-to-face sessions and online learning formats.


    Assessments associated with this course are outlined below:

    There are no written examinations. A variety of assessment methods will be used including assignments, research proposals, policy briefings and participation in workshops. Students will have the option of undertaking research work for external organisations to submit as part of their dissertation.


    The School is situated across a suite of three buildings in Belfast's Queen's Quarter. We provide student and staff common rooms, computer suites and designated study spaces.
    Explore the teaching and social spaces in our School through our 360 Virtual Tour:

    The Graduate School

    Prizes and Awards

    • Teachers working on classroom-based dissertation projects may apply for the Northern Ireland Centre for Educational Research (NICER) award.
  • Entry Requirements

    Entrance requirements

    A 2.1 Honours degree or above or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in any subject discipline.

    Applicants with a 2.2 Honours degree or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University may also be considered if they have at least two years of professional experience in an education, training or relevant context.

    Closing date for applications: Friday 29th July 2022 at 4pm.

    Late applications may be considered.

    Applicants are advised to apply as early as possible. In the event that any programme receives a high number of applications, the University reserves the right to close the application portal prior to the deadline stated on course finder. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Application Portal against the programme application page.

    International Students

    Our country pages include information on entry requirements, tuition fees, scholarships, student profiles, upcoming events and contacts for your country. Use the dropdown list below for specific information for your country.

    English Language Requirements

    Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required. *Taken within the last 2 years.

    International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

    For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

    If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

    • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
    • Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.

    INTO - English Language Course(QSIS ELEMENT IS EMPTY)

  • Fees and Funding

    Tuition Fees

    Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £6,650
    Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £6,650
    England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £7,470
    EU Other 3 £18,200
    International £18,200

    1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled status, will be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB will be charged the GB fee.

    2 EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI are eligible for NI tuition fees, in line with the Common Travel Agreement arrangements.

    3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

    All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2022-23, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

    More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

    Additional course costs

    All Students

    Depending on the programme of study, there may be extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies.

    Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £75 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges.

    Students undertaking a period of work placement or study abroad, as either a compulsory or optional part of their programme, should be aware that they will have to fund additional travel and living costs.

    If a programme includes a major project or dissertation, there may be costs associated with transport, accommodation and/or materials. The amount will depend on the project chosen. There may also be additional costs for printing and binding.

    Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen.

    There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.

    Children's Rights costs

    Students who choose to conduct dissertation research in Northern Ireland, involving participants under the age of 18 or vulnerable adults, will be required to undergo an Enhanced Disclosure Check with Access NI costing £33. This cost will be incurred in Year 1 for full time students and in Year 3 for part time students.

    How do I fund my study?

    The Department for the Economy will provide a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500 per NI / EU student for postgraduate study. Tuition fee loan information.

    A postgraduate loans system in the UK offers government-backed student loans of up to £10,609 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. Criteria, eligibility, repayment and application information are available on the UK government website.

    More information on funding options and financial assistance.

    International Scholarships

    Information on scholarships for international students, is available at

  • Apply

    How to Apply

    Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

    Apply now

    When to Apply

    The deadline for applications is normally 30th June 2021. In the event that any programme receives a high volume of applications, the university reserves the right to close the application portal earlier than 30th June deadline. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Entry Portal (DAP) against the programme application page.

    Terms and Conditions

    The terms and conditions that apply when you accept an offer of a place at the University on a taught programme of study.
    Queen's University Belfast Terms and Conditions.

    Download a prospectus