Postgraduate study
This internationally recognised distance-learning course is the first of its kind in the world.
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) or equivalent professional experience
Other requirements
All students will also have to attend two weeks of face-to-face teaching in the UK. Therefore you will need to be able to obtain an appropriate visa and fund this activity.
6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses may be available
Start date
UK/EU fees
MA: £7,785; PGDip: £5,190; PGCert: £2,595 - Terms apply
International fees
MA: £7,785; PGDip: £5,190; PGCert: £2,595 - Terms apply
Available by distance learning, with some teaching on University Park for MA/PGDip



It is taught by world-leading academic and practitioner experts, from our Rights Lab - the world's first large-scale research platform for ending slavery which is currently tracking slavery with satellite technology and ensuring businesses don't use slave labour.

It will provide you not only with the academic grounding of the study of contemporary slavery but also comprehensive training on how best to make a difference through the liberation and social reintegration of those in slavery.

You will be introduced to key concepts and challenges in slavery, liberation, anti-slavery and human rights, and will benefit from:

  • an in-depth, academic look into an important and growing area of human rights work
  • 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 you to conduct independent research 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 course and other students from across the globe. MA and PGDip students also study at Nottingham through intensive face-to-face modules; however, the PGCert can be completed solely online. If you choose to study the MA or PGDip part-time, you won't need to travel to Nottingham until your second year.

There are more slaves alive today than at any point in history. Around the world, nearly 41 million people are forced to work against their will for no pay.

Professor Kevin Bales and Dr Louise Kettle talk about MA Slavery and Liberation.

Former student Angharad Smith on why she chose the MA in Slavery and Liberation.

Meet the academic

Helen McCabeI recently started heading a project on forced marriage. This was included in the International Labour Organisation's definition of modern slavery in 2017.

Building on the work of early feminists (particularly John Stuart Mill, Harriet Taylor Mill, William Thompson and Anna Wheeler), who all explicitly called marriage a kind of slavery, I am working on a clearer conceptual understanding of the relationship between forced marriage and modern slavery. Once we understand what forced marriage is, we will be in a better position to more-accurately count how many people are affected in the world today; understand what causes, or makes people vulnerable to, forced marriage; and assess what efforts are effective in eradicating it – which the global community has pledged to do by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

As part of this, I have been working with Walk Free, and with NGOs who work to end forced marriage and the UK Government's Forced Marriage Unit. This work has fed into my teaching.

Helen McCabe

Key facts

  • a unique programme that is contributing to the fight to eradicate contemporary slavery
  • committed to excellence in teaching, having won 13 Higher Education Academy awards
  • expert academics who contribute to public debate through national and international media, including appearing on BBC TV, BBC Radio 4, the BBC World Service and in such publications as The Guardian, The New York Times and Le Monde

Full course details

All versions of this course include four 20-credit core modules which are taught online via Moodle, a dedicated virtual learning environment (VLE) including online course materials, learning resources and support. To ensure you have the appropriate computer requirements to enable you to study online, please view our computer specification guidance notes.

MA and PGDip students also take two 20-credit modules back-to-back over two weeks of intensive face-to-face seminars in Nottingham (in the spring semester for full-time students and in the spring semester of year two for part-time students).

Please note, the cost of transport, visas, accommodation and subsistence for the face-to-face element is in addition to course fees.

MA students will complete their studies with a 60-credit, 15,000-word dissertation. You will be allocated an appropriate dissertation supervisor who will oversee your progress.

Module structure
CourseYear oneYear two
  Autumn Spring Autumn Spring
Three online One online and two face-to-face    
Two online One online One online Two face-to-face
Three online One online and two face-to-face    
Two online One online One online Two face-to-face
Three online One online    
Two online One online One online  

MA students complete their dissertation in the summer (of year two for part-time students).


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



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.

Dissertation (MA only)

The dissertation allows you the opportunity to work in considerable detail on a topic of special interest to you related to the MA programme. You will choose the project, conduct the research, analyse the findings and write the report. It gives scope to undertake original research and to apply the knowledge and skills learnt throughout the MA programme.

The module will also include content on:

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

You will be allocated a dissertation supervisor for guidance.


Face-to-face modules (MA/PGDip only)

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 above is a sample of the typical modules that we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and information is provided for indicative purposes only.


Fees and funding

MA Fee Waiver Competition 2019

The School of Politics and International Relations is delighted to announce the availability of four scholarship opportunities to study on one of our MA programmes for the 2019/20 academic year. The awards are 50% of the annual fees for the MA courses (Home and EU rates only).

See information on how to fund your masters, including our step-by-step guide. Further information is available on the school website.

Additional costs

As a student on this course, you should factor some additional costs into your budget, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses.

You should be able to access most of the books you'll need through libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies or more specific titles which could cost up to £120.

Please note that these figures are approximate and subject to change.

Government loans for masters courses

Masters student loans of up to £10,906 are available for taught and research masters courses. Applicants must ordinarily live in the UK or EU.

International and EU students

Masters scholarships are available for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure you apply for your course with enough time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.


Careers and professional development

This course 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.


We offer a range of local, national and international placement opportunities, which may be paid or voluntary, part-time alongside your studies or longer placements during University vacations.


If you wish to continue your studies after completing this course, we offer a range of research opportunities with PhD supervision in most subject areas.

Employability and average starting salary

95.2% of postgraduates from the School of Politics and International Relations who were available for employment secured work or further study within six months of graduation. £25,000 was the average starting salary, with the highest being £42,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2016/17. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career and professional development

Whether you are looking to enhance your career prospects or develop your knowledge, a postgraduate degree from the University of Nottingham can help take you where you want to be.

Our award-winning Careers and Employability Service offers specialist support and guidance while you study and for life after you graduate. They will help you explore and plan your next career move, through regular events, employer-led skills sessions, placement opportunities and one-to-one discussions.


This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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