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, mobilization, 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 program in Conflict Studies and Human Rights is a selective, international graduate program combining the study of theory with in-depth case study analysis.

The program 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 organizations.

Judged best in the field

The highly regarded Keuzegids Master’s Selection Guide 2018 ranked Utrecht University’s Conflict Studies and Human Rights program as the best in the field in the Netherlands.

In the last edition of the Elsevier Best Studies Survey, students have also rated Conflict Studies as the best program.


The Master's program 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 program, you will have the opportunity to actively work on your career development.


The Master’s program 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 organizations


Since the end of the Cold War there has been a growing demand for experts on violent conflict. The Master’s program 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 organizations.

A growing number of specialized agencies are addressing issues of conflict management and resolution, rehabilitation, human rights and security, both from an analytical perspective and through field operations. These agencies offer a variety of specialized employment opportunities.

The use of English as the working language of the program will be an advantage for students who will later pursue a career in an international setting. Ministries, NGOs, businesses, and municipalities are increasingly recruiting students with a degree in Conflict Studies.


  • Hans Rouw is Program Leader in security and disarmament at PAX, Utrecht, an international peace organization.

Other graduates of our program work as:

  • Program Manager for the Delegation of the European Union in the Republic of Angola.
  • Founder of Critical Mass, Utrecht. This organization addresses local conflicts “in our own backyard”, city, or society and international conflicts.
  • Program Specialist at the World Bank in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • PhD student Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.
  • Researcher at The Hague Institute for Global Justice.

Our alumni have for example found jobs at:

Free Press Unlimited | African Diaspora Policy Centre | Oxfam, Novib | War Child | Clingendael Institute | Humanitas Global | Royal Dutch Shell | Oliver Wyman | Humanity in Action Bosnia and Herzegovina | Global Witness | Ministry of Foreign Affairs


With its strong emphasis on research, which is either in the field or through an internship, almost 1 out of 5 graduates move on to a PhD position.


Graduates from this program have found a job in the following fields:

  • 30% work for national NGOs in the field of conflict, humanitarian aid, transformation, security, and peacebuilding.
  • 17% of our alumni move on to a PhD position, both at home and abroad, to research issues of violence, war, conflict and peace.
  • 10% find a job in the media as freelance journalists or documentary makers.
  • 10% work as consultants, either in-house with a consultancy firm or think-tank or as independent consultants in the field of conflict, humanitarian aid, stabilization etc.
  • 9% work in business for banks or multinational corporations such as Rabobank, often as conflict analysts.
  • 6% work at ministries or embassies, mostly in foreign affairs, defense, or in municipalities or other public institutions.
  • 5% work for an NGO outside of the field of conflict e.g. youth, art etc.
  • 4% have got a job at international institutions such as the NATO or World Bank.
  • 5% move on to do another Master’s or further internships.
  • 4% are looking for a job.
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Last updated November 30, 2018
This course is Campus based
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1 year
2,083 EUR
Dutch and other EU/EEA students (statutory fee 2019-2020): € 2,083. Non-EU/EEA students (institutional fee): 2018-19: € 15,575, 2019-20: € 16,600
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