Slavery and Liberation MA/PGDip/PGCert


Fact file

MA Slavery and Liberation
MA: 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time, PGDip: 9 months full-time, 18 months part-time, PGCert: 9 months full-time, 13 months part-time
Entry requirements
2:1 (or international equivalent)
Other requirements
Mature applicants without standard entry requirements but with substantial and relevant experience may be considered.

All students will also have to attend 2 weeks of face-to-face teaching in the UK. Therefore they will need to be able to obtain an appropriate visa and fund this activity (travel, accommodation, subsistence).

IELTS 6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element) or CELE pre-sessional course final assessment of "Pass with Merit".

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
Available by distance learning, with some face-to-face teaching on University Park
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.


Taught by world-leading academic and practitioner experts, this internationally recognised distance-learning course is the first of its kind in the world.
Read full overview

The Slavery and Liberation MA/PGDip/PGCert (by distance learning) will provide you not only with the academic grounding of the study of contemporary slavery but also comprehensive training on how best to achieve the liberation and social reintegration of those in slavery.

It will introduce you to key concepts and challenges in slavery, liberation, anti-slavery and human rights.

You will benefit from several unique elements:

  • An in-depth, academic look into an important and growing area of human rights work – contemporary slavery
  • Specialist practical training to plan and carry-out anti-slavery and anti-trafficking activities aimed at liberation, rehabilitation, reintegration, prevention, protection and prosecution
  • Training to enable independent research to be conducted in the specific area of human rights

As this is a distance-learning course, the majority of content will be taught online, allowing you to connect with the programme and other students from across the globe. There are also opportunities to study at Nottingham through intensive face-to-face modules.

There are more slaves alive today than at any point in history. Around the world, nearly 46 million people are forced to work against their will for no pay.

Kevin Bales talks about the MA Slavery and Liberation course.

Key facts

  • Taught by world-leading academic and practitioner experts, this internationally recognised distance-learning course is the first of its kind in the world
  • As a distance-learning course, the majority of content is taught online, however there are also opportunities to study at Nottingham through intensive face-to-face modules
  • The School of Politics and International Relations was ranked in the UK top 15 for research power in the latest Research Excellence Framework
  • We are in the top 100 worldwide for politics and international relations in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017

Course details

This course consists of four 20-credit core modules which are taught online across the autumn and spring semesters, and two 20-credit modules which will be taught back-to-back through two weeks of intensive face-to-face seminars in Nottingham during the spring semester. Please note, the cost of transport, visas, accommodation and subsistence for the face-to-face element is in addition to course fees.

Assessment for each taught module will take place towards the end of each semester and is through a combination of coursework and participation.

Your studies will culminate in the research and writing of a 60-credit, 15,000-word dissertation. This represents a substantial piece of independent research drawing on primary source material as well as secondary literature. You will be allocated an appropriate dissertation supervisor who will oversee your progress.

Teaching is spread across two semesters: autumn, which begins in September and ends in January; and spring, which begins in January and ends in June. You will spend the summer months between June and September writing your dissertation.

It is possible to receive a PGDip Slavery and Liberation if all credits are passed but the dissertation module is not taken, or a PGCert Slavery and Liberation if only all taught online modules are completed (no face-to-face modules or dissertation).



Online modules

Slavery Since Emancipation

This module explores how slavery and the response to slavery changed after the end of legal slavery in late 19th century.

You will examine several themes including:

  • the social, moral, and political re-definition of slavery, and the way this re-definition shaped modern concepts of human rights
  • America's botched emancipation in 1865 and after; the emergence of 'slavery by another name'
  • the emergence of non-governmental organisations from the anti-slavery movement and their growth into a major influence in today's world
  • uses of 'new' technologies by the anti-slavery movements
  • the 'third' anti-slavery movement - The Congo Reform Association - King Leopold and the genocide/slavery nexus
  • use of forced labour by colonial powers and the emergence of global anti-slavery conventions within the League of Nations
  • the economic transformation of slavery as an economic pursuit in the late 20th and early 21st centuries

Case studies will also be offered to illuminate global patterns of change in relation to slavery.

Anti-Slavery Policy and Legal Frameworks

This module explores the development, complexity, and variety of governmental policies and legal frameworks dealing with slavery and human trafficking from the 20th to the 21st century.

You will examine several themes including:

  • legal definitions of slavery, practices similar to slavery (servitude), forced and compulsory labour, and human trafficking
  • the social, moral and political re-definition of slavery and the way this shapes modern approaches to anti-slavery law and policy
  • the emergence of non-governmental organisations from the anti-slavery movement and their influence on governmental policies and legal frameworks dealing with slavery
  • the role of anti-slavery issues in international diplomacy and law from the late 19th century to today
  • impact of regional international organisations on anti-slavery law and policies
  • development of domestic anti-slavery policies and laws enacted by countries around the world including the development of 'National Action Plans' against slavery in a number of countries
  • the emergence of trade regulations and laws concerning slavery in global supply chains, including the applicability of WTO and World Bank provisions

Selected case studies will be offered to illuminate global and regional patterns of change in anti-slavery and human trafficking laws and policies.

Research Methods in Human Rights

This module explores the specific methodologies, debates, and ethical concerns when conducting social research into human rights violations.

You will examine several themes including:

  • the vulnerability and special attention needed when research subjects are also victims of criminal acts
  • approaching contemporary slavery through different levels of analysis (individual, group and community, societal and culture) and what each unit of analysis can and cannot tell us about the subject under study
  • formulating research questions around human rights violations
  • leading edge estimation techniques for hidden crimes, activities, and populations
  • use of new technologies in unobtrusive data collection
  • use of correlational and inferential statistics in uncovering the underlying factors supporting slavery and trafficking

Case studies will be offered to illuminate diverse research techniques in relation to slavery. You will also explore research methods relevant to different stages of policy/intervention design, monitoring and evaluation, as well as research tools for making effective responses.

The Anti-Slavery Usable Past

This module explores what lessons may be learned from past anti-slavery movements and interrogates the literary, historical, artistic, and dramatic treatment of slavery over time to better grasp its complexity and common attributes.

You will examine several core areas including:

  • the role of slavery in early history, in creation myths, in the formation of law and concepts of hierarchy
  • the long history of creative culture devoted to the subject of slavery: Greek and Roman dramas and comedies; the medieval period; the modern period - 18th and 19th century writing, poems, and plays; and into the current era of fiction and film
  • how the slave narrative both shares common themes across centuries and changes
  • key novels addressing the lived experience of slavery
  • uses of 'new' technologies by the anti-slavery movements and how these took cultural forms
  • the treatment of slaves in art and visual culture, both exploitative and sympathetic in anti-slavery works

Novels, films, plays, historical and modern slave narratives will make up the core sources for this module.


You will complete a 15,000-word dissertation on a subject of your choice in the field of slavery and liberation, under the guidance of a supervisor. This offers you the opportunity to work in considerable detail on a topic that interests you, undertake original research and to apply the knowledge and skills learnt throughout the programme. It will also include content on:

  • how to write a dissertation proposal
  • ethical considerations and how to complete an ethical review
  • forming a research question
  • writing a literature review
  • method and methodology selection

Face-to-face modules

Methods of Liberation and Reintegration

This is the first of two professional training modules, which lays the foundation for an understanding of how those in slavery can best be reached, liberated and helped to achieve full lives.

You will examine:

  • types of intervention; symptomatic responses and systemic responses
  • the place of community-based anti-slavery work within other anti-slavery strategies, and community-based work as a strategy for institutionalising government responsibility
  • methods of liberation and slavery eradication
  • basic principles of community organising and social mobilisation
  • economic and psychosocial recovery; access to legal justice for survivors
  • the role of local actors, and development of social movements/alliances with other social movements
  • strengthening government fulfilment of their responsibilities
  • using the reach of aid and mainstream development programmes into affected communities; how to integrate anti-slavery components
  • strategies for developing business responsibility against slavery
Programme Design in Human Rights

This is the second of two professional training modules, which enables you to explore and use various tools for planning programme interventions against slavery, and more broadly within the human rights and development field. It will help you consider which types of planning and monitoring approaches are most conducive to broad engagement of frontline activists, NGO teams and programme participants (in this case, often slavery survivors) in working together to progressively eliminate slavery.

It assumes that the overall goals of the organisation are already established, and the focus is then on the preparation, design and implementation of particular programmes through which those goals are pursued. It will assist students to prepare proposals as well as gain a better understanding of the capacity and training needs of the organisations that would carry out the planned work.

This module focuses on building practical skills and designing approaches that are:

  • relevant to the context
  • aimed at achieving transformative change, especially through stimulating new patterns of behaviour by key actors
  • based on the insights and needs of participants
  • cost effective
  • able to generate appropriate data for programme improvement and to demonstrate results
  • stimulating collaboration and engagement among a range of key stakeholders


The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



Funding information is available on the school website and can also be found on the Graduate School website.

International and EU students

The University of Nottingham offers a range of masters scholarships for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study.

Applicants must receive an offer of study before applying for our scholarships. Please note the closing dates of any scholarships you are interested in and make sure you submit your masters course application in good time so that you have the opportunity to apply for them.

The International Office also provides information and advice for international and EU students on financing your degree, living costs, external sources of funding and working during your studies.

Find out more on our scholarships, fees and finance webpages for international applicants.



The Slavery and Liberation MA/PGDip/PGCert will prepare you for a career in a wide range of fields relating to human rights, such as national government, international organisations and non-governmental organisations.

Graduating from Nottingham means that you have opened the door to an opportunity for an interesting and well paid career. Our students are highly regarded by employers because of the strong academic foundation and transferable skills that they gain during their degree course.

The school offers a range of placement opportunities - which are also available to you as a distance-learning student - with local and national employers which may be paid or voluntary, part-time alongside your studies or as a longer placement during University vacations.

Students who wish to continue with their studies following the successful completion of one of our MA programmes may wish consider our MRes and MPhil/PhD degrees. Research degree supervision in most of the major sub-areas of the discipline of politics is offered by the increasing number of academic staff working in the school.

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2015, 82% of postgraduates in the School of Politics and International Relations who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation.*

* Known destinations of full-time home higher degree postgraduates 2014/15.

Career prospects and employability

The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field. Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from careers advice as to how you can use your new found skills to their full potential.

Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops.

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