First Year Gateway Units: Human Rights 1 and 2

What are Gateway Units?

The first year sequence of Cornerstone units is Human Rights 1 (unit code: ATS1314) which runs in Semester 1 each year, and Human Rights 2 (unit code: ATS1315) which runs in semester 2 each year. These two units introduce students to the core themes of the major, and they work through a series of topics that will spark students’ interests for areas of study to concentrate on in later year classes. Students majoring or minoring in Human Rights are required to complete both of these units. Although it’s better to start with Human Rights 1, we do allow students to pick up the first-year sequence starting in second-semester.

Human Rights 1

Human Rights 1 (ATS1314) serves as an introduction to the study of human rights. The central topic around which the unit is organised is the universality of human rights. We ask why human rights should be regarded as universal or timeless standards of human conduct. Is there any philosophical or natural foundation for the universality of human rights? Does cultural relativism pose a problem for human rights? We also focus our attention on several pressing concrete issues in the protection of human rights, including torture, the rights of refugees, and the rights of the global poor. Students will be exposed to a variety of views on these and related questions. The unit requires no special background in any discipline, and it assumes only very minimal prior knowledge of politics and international studies.

Human Rights 2

Human Rights 2 (ATS1315) investigates a number of contemporary debates about human rights which have implications in domestic and international politics. For instance: do cultural minorities have special claims to group rights? Do human rights violations invalidate a government’s claim to sovereignty or independence? Can group rights be reconciled with the individualistic bent of human rights theory? Do the expanding rights of children conflict with the rights of parents? The unit also investigates the ethical foundations of human rights. Do human rights represent basic moral obligations? Or are they just a way to promote good consequences? And how do human rights relate to animal rights?