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MA/Pgrad.Dip in Public Advocacy and Activism

In association with

The Irish Centre for Human Rights

The J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics

The Social Sciences Research Centre


APPLICATIONS for the 2016-17 academic year are now open at the Postgraduate Applications Centre. We process applications as soon as they are complete and we will make offers to suitable candidates on a rolling basis. A list of FAQs is available here . Fiona is happy to answer any other queries, please email

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Since 2005 the Masters Degree in Public Advocacy and Activism has offered a broad, multi-disciplinary programme for those working or  intending to work, in international or local advocacy, including community organization, development, labour, rights, health and environment. This imaginative one-year course provides an opportunity for experienced advocates for social change to undertake structured studies in order to facilitate critical reflection and practice, and for those interested in working in the area to achieve a specialist qualification.

**PART-TIME MA in Public Advocacy and Activism**
The 2-year part-time option is now available. Applications for both part-time (GYA11) and full-time (GYA64) options are open at  The structure of the 2-year programme and the breakdown of modules is available here.

Contact Fiona at for further details.

Why study this programme?

Contemporary human concerns, advocacy, and proposed solutions increasingly transcend national boundaries and, in a globalized society, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) play an ever more essential role. The development of this innovative masters degree was prompted by the realization that while there are many Management, Communications and Public Relations courses, none offers a focus on the issues and skills central to the role of those working in organizations which seek to shift attitudes and understandings in order to initiate change. Since 2005, when we had the first intake of students to the programme, the syllabus has developed and adapted  to respond to the changing needs of those working in the sector, so that students study the use of new social media, and discuss current issues in politics and society as they happen.



The course is a full-time (1 year) or part-time (2-year) degree. The wide-ranging syllabus, which has relevance for a range of practitioners, includes an overview of the global context in which advocacy takes place and focuses on the professional needs of those working in organizations which seek to shift attitudes and understandings in order to initiate change. As well as analysis of issues such as cross-cultural communication and social justice, relevant professional skills and training in social and new media are central to the programme. In addition to gaining a theoretical understanding of how change may be effected, students learn how to run successful campaigns, how to interact with large organisations, and how to influence public opinion on important issues. Students on this course also write film briefs from which short films are made by the Production & Direction students. Modules are assessed by a combination of essays, oral presentations, and project work.

Here is a short film from 2006-7 and another from 2013-14, based on briefs prepared by some of the MAPAA students. 


Work Placement/ Service Learning

The work placement is an important element of the programme. Also known as service learning, it enables the student to apply the skills and knowledge they have gained during the taught modules in a real-life situation. We work with the students and in cooperation with local organisations, as well as our colleagues in the Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI) in the University, to find and arrange placements which suit the individual student's abilities and interests. The students are assessed on their written report on their experience.

Career Opportunities

Graduates have gone on to pursue a range of careers in lobbying, campaigning, advocacy and humanitarian roles in organizations such as Amnesty International, Galway Rape Crisis Centre, La Via Campesina, PETA, GOAL, the National Youth Council of Ireland, Spunout, the SOAR Foundation, Concern, Trocaire and Ireland Involved. Others have continued in higher education, with a number of PhDs completed or underway. It should be noted that while the MA is structured towards careers in the not-for-profit sector, many of the skills gained during the year, for example those in research methods, analysis, media and communications, and organization are transferable to any sector.

Course Content
  • Introduction to Human Rights                       
  • Advocacy Theory and Practice                     
  • Social and Political Context                           
  • Production Projects                                       
  • Communication Media and Marketing         
  • Film and Politics                                                
  • Organizational Analysis and Management  
  • How to Argue with an Economist                  
  • Placement and Report                                    
  • Minor Dissertation                                           



The timetable which can be downloaded here will not change substantially from year to year. Semester dates will be different each year and are available on the main University website.


Application is made online through

The number of places is limited. You should have an honours primary degree (at least Second Class Honours in one subject, or a US GPA 3.0). We also welcome applicants with substantial and relevant professional experience to apply. Such cases may be considered for exemption from the honours degree requirement, subject to appropriate arrangements such as a qualifying examination. These students will be required to register initially for a PG Diploma.

N.B. In your application you should include a short personal statement (about 600 words, but longer if you have more to say) explaining why you wish to undertake the programme, outlining how it fits into your career objectives and describing any relevant experience you have.


Selection Criteria

Above all, applicants should be driven by an interest in both the practical and theoretical issues relating to campaigning and advocacy in today’s world, and should have an understanding of the way in which public opinion interacts with politics and policy.


Other Details

PAC code: Full-time GYA64, Part-time GYA11
NUIG code: 1MPA1 (MA); 1MPA3 (PDip)
Mode of study: full-time/part-time
Duration: one year/two years
Places available: 15

Full-time Fees: EU (Total) €6,015 (MA), €5,965 (PGrad Dip)

           Non-EU (total) €13,250

Part-time Fees: Year 1 €3,120, Year 2 €3,230

For Scholarship and other funding opportunites, check out the main NUI Galway website here.

Programme Director: Dr Conn Holohan

Course Coordinator : Dr Fiona Bateman


Over the years we have welcomed students with Irish Aid Fellowships, and Fulbright and George Mitchell Scholarships. Here is 2013-14 student, Lauren Agoubi, describing her Fulbright experience.

What our graduates say about the course:

'I came to Ireland wanting to know how to change the world for people with disabilities. A year later, it was I who had been transformed because of the lecturers' insights and the projects I chose to tackle. I learned about human nature, our strengths and weaknesses, and how they help and hinder any campaign. I now understand why parts of the world are struggling, what/who is oppressing them, and the dynamics of the relationship between the oppressed and the oppressors. Because of my thesis and the Management module, I now know tried and true methods and strategies to motivate oppressed peoples to create and sustain their own social movements. The entire program is guided at a high level by the lecturers, but allows and encourages students to teach and share with each other while tackling projects and issues important to them. This system of learning will be most effective for highly self-motivated students who aren't just wanting to get a bigger paycheck, but instead want to foment social change wherever they are planted in the world'. Kevin Gadsey 2014


"One of the best parts of the MA in Public Advocacy and Activism was the way it fit into my academic, career and personal goals. I aim to be a vital part of my community, to contribute to its health and success and to empower others to do the same - I know this course was an important step on that journey." Lyndia Peters 2012






“The MA in Public Advocacy and Activism certainly informed my experience working as a human rights observer in the West Bank, giving me a particular confidence in my engagement with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists." Emmet Sheerin 2011





"The development of the MA in Public Advocacy and Activism in NUI Galway could not have come at a better time. In an era where public participation in our collective decision-making has never been more important, the MA offers a broad overview of the political and social context of working towards positive social change in modern society. The programme analyses the different bases from which our social landscape is formed, providing valuable insights into not just economic and political aspects, but also social and communicative ones.
         By offering a vision of the competing forces which are attempting to define our living environment, the Masters programme provides students with the capacity for objective analysis necessary to enter into this debate. In these times it is becoming increasingly important that the public voice and interest is heard above the private, and to this end the course provides the insights, techniques and tools to make that possible. This Masters is invaluable to anyone interested in becoming involved in these areas or processes, regardless of their background." Fergal Anderson 2006


"No one could call the MA in Public Advocacy and Activism boring. The whole year was challenging, thought-provoking and varied. The subjects ranged from film to economics without ever losing sight of the main goal. It was aimed at informing and educating those who work for positive social change. Its focus was on both the socio-political environment in which we must operate and the tools or techniques by which change can be achieved. One of the most challenging aspects of the course was that it forced us all to question our own motivation for seeking social change. I would highly recommend this Masters as an eye-opening stimulus to an awareness which will benefit the student in practically any field of work or further study." Sarah Clancy 2006





Semester 2 Visitors and Other Events

Thanks to all our visitors and contributors so far this semester!

Last week Paula Walsh of Flirt FM held a session on Radio Skills  in the Flirt studios for the MA students. Everyone agrees that it was a very valuable and practical experience!

Recently we welcomed Orla Fagan of the UNOCHA, a graduate of the MA in Public Advocacy and Activism, who presented a workshop entitled '101 in Emergency Response', based on her experiences in various humanitarian emergency situations around the world (including Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines). Thanks to Orla for sharing her experience and knowledge in a very engaging session.

Another recent visiting speaker was Hannagh McGinley, an IRCHSS Scholar, who ran a very interesting and though-provoking Diversity Workshop for the class. 


Max Arthur McAuliffe Spcial Merit Scholarship

Potential applicants from India should check out details of the Max Arthur McAuliffe Special Merit Scholarship. Three scholarships comprising a full fee waiver are available. Applications are open now and the scheme will close on 25th March.

The Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) awards fellowships for full-time study at Masters or Postgraduate Diploma level, with a focus on courses that are relevant to Irish Aid's development objectives in a fellow's home country. On completion, fellowship recipients are committed to resume work and put their acquired skills into good use for the benefit of their home countries. In 2011-12, Steven Nyirenda from Malawi completed the MA in Public Advocacy and Activism. You can read his account of being an Irish Aid Fellow here. Steven has returned to Malawi, where he is working for the Mzuzu Diocese Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace as a Projects Officer. At the moment he is responsible for managing three projects in the organization: the  'Women and Girls Rights and Access to Justice Project', the 'Strengthening Child Rights Protection Systems Project' and the 'Community Empowerment on the Right to Development Project' in rural districts of  the northern part of Malawi.

In the last two academic years the programme has been pleased to welcome an Irish Aid Fellow from Zambia, George Hamusunga and one from Uganda: Michael Miiro

Other visiting speakers
Modern-day slavery

Grainne O'Toole of Migrant Rights Centre Ireland was a guest speaker at the Huston School. She spoke about modern-day slavery and the work the MRCI is doing to address this and other issues affecting migrants. It was an interesting and thought-provoking session and relevant to many of the projects our students are engaged in. 

Value Added in Africa

Thanks to Conall O'Caoimh of Value Added in Africa for a very interesting workshop. You can watch a short video about the work this innovative not-for-profit organisation is doing here.

The Comedy Challenge

Congratulations to our students, Michael and Michelle, who participated in the Stand up for Humanity workshop. Here they are pictured on stage in the Roisin Dubh at the graduation show.


Fulbright scholar on the MAPAA

Lauren Agoubi, our Fulbright Scholar, and Dr Fiona Bateman, course coordinator, at a Fulbright reception at the American Ambassador's Residence in the Phoenix Park. The Fulbright Ireland - United States Commission awards grants to Irish students (and EU students who have been resident in Ireland for 3 years) to study and research in the U.S.A. and to American students to study and research in Ireland. It was a pleasure to have Lauren on the MA in Public Advocacy and Activism. Further information about the Fulbright awards can be found at


Graduate Orla Fagan in the eye of the [media] storm

Following the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan, Orla Fagan, a graduate of the MA in Public Advocacy and Activism (2009), found herself playing a prominent role as a spokesperson for the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Philippines. She was interviewed for Al Jazeera News, VOA, Bloomberg, Financial Times, BBC World, CNN World, and ABC Australia as well as by Marian Finucane and Sean O’Rourke on RTE Radio 1. Orla has worked in many challenging environments, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Somalia, so when she was offered a contract with UNOCHA in the Philippines earlier this year, she thought the job would be less stressful and would give her a ‘quiet life’. Instead she was there to experience one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters: from the planning and evacuation stages when the huge storm was forecast, to listening to the howling wind from her apartment in Manila and then visiting devastated areas in the terrible aftermath of the typhoon. In her blog, Orla describes the frustration of those trying to coordinate and deliver aid when there is a lack of fuel, when all communications are down, and roads are blocked. She provides a real insight into the challenges that face those working on the ground in humanitarian roles.


The Value of Women in the Congo

Filmmaker Dearbhla Glynn screened and discussed her award-winning documentary The Value of Women in the Congo at the Huston School.

It is an uncompromising, clear-headed and disturbing examination of the effects of the sexual violence perpetrated with impunity against women and girls in war-torn Eastern Congo. The film explores the experience of the victims as well as the perspective of the perpetrators behind these appalling crimes – foot soldiers, warlords and high-ranking commandants. What emerges is an arresting and brutal account of how war ravages the land and its people and leaves few victors – least of all women, whose value is often rendered worthless.

Kirsten Sheridan said: “Dearbhla Glynn’s The Value of Women is a brave and delicately handled piece of war reportage. It is hard-hitting, while showing many sides of the story…  an important, devastating piece of human rights documentary filmmaking.”

Dearbhla Glynn also screened her films on human rights in Gaza, Palestine and childrens’ health in post war Iraq.

We Never Give Up II - Screening 

We Never Give Up II is the ten year follow-up to a film which told the stories of Khulumani Support Group members in the Western Cape, South Africa, who suffered multiple atrocities during apartheid. The struggle continues for survivors as they campaign for comprehensive and inclusive reparations from the government and from multinationals that knowingly aided and abetted apartheid.


Filmmaker Emily James was one of our 'film vistors' to the Huston School. She presented her 'tale of modern day outlaws' Just Do It.  The film, released in 2011, is a feature-length documentary about UK climate activism. On her visit, Emily spoke about the making of the film and provided insights into the world of activism. Information about Just Do It and Emily's other work may be found here.



Elisa Allen, PETA UK: Elisa Allen, a graduate of the MA in Public Advocacy and Activism, is operations manager for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) UK,  a charity dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals.

PETA and its affiliates around the world educate policymakers and the public about cruelty to animals and promote an understanding of the right of all animals to be treated with respect.

Elisa has coordinated and particpated in many campaigns and protests to promote animal rights. You can read her blog here.


Gitanjali Jena, Trócaire's Governance and Human Rights Officer in India was a visiting speaker at the Huston School. She works with a number of local partner organisations to tackle issues such as gender-based-violence and building up the capacity of marginalised communities to mobolise and advocate for their rights. Gita has extensive field experience, spanning three decades and has delivered and managed a range of both livelihoods as well as governance and human rights programmes in India. Gita's expertise in terms of her experience in the field, her research and recent publications is sharply focused on community activism and gender.

Read the Trócaire blog here.


Sarah Clancy - Activist and Poet

Sarah Clancy is a graduate of the MA in Public Advocacy and Activism, who teaches a module on the programme.  An experienced activist and campaigner, Sarah is also an award-winning poet. To read some of the poems from her latest book Thanks for Nothing, Hippies click here and more poems may be found here.




Student testimonial