Higher education in human rights within China— a ten-year review of the Peking University model

Rhona Smith, Guimei Bai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human rights education has been a cornerstone of the international human rights system for many years. Further impetus has been added with the UN Decade for human rights education (1995–2004) and now the ongoing World Programme for Human Rights Education. Realising human rights education will mean people everywhere understand their rights and freedoms and those in authority understand their duties to protect, respect and fulfil human rights responsibilities accepted by governments. Securing human rights education at the tertiary/higher/university level is a key component of this as university graduates often progress to higher level influential careers. This article examines the contribution made towards the goals of human rights education by the first master level human rights programme in China: the programme is offered at Peking University under the auspices of the Research Centre for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in cooperation with the Swedish Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. Empirical data from the initial ten years of the program has been analysed to determine the impact the programme had and has on the life and careers of graduates. The evidence suggests a real, albeit modest, contribution to human rights education within China and beyond, with human rights being omnipresent in societal interactions of graduates and even influencing some careers and work decisions. Greater influence can be anticipated as the graduates progress further in their chosen careers. It is argued that the Peking University model demonstrates the potential for relatively swift and effective cultural change: an evolving system of embedded human rights education which respects the conditions within the Chinese education system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-99
JournalAsian Journal of Legal Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015


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