Children’s best interests in theory and practice

Course - first cycle - 7.5 credits

Syllabus for students autumn 2015

Course Code:
MR221L revision 1.1
Level of specialisation
Main fields of study:
No main fields
Date of ratification:
05 November 2015
Decision-making body:
Faculty of Culture and Society
Enforcement date:
14 December 2015
Replaces Syllabus ratified:
07 March 2013

Entry requirements

Admission to the course requires a minimum of 60 approved credits with a certain progression in one of the following Major Subjects: European Studies, Human Rights, International Migration and Ethnic Relations, International Relations or Peace and Conflict Studies or similar.

Specialisation and progression relative to the degree regulations

The course can normally be included as a part of a general degree at undergraduate level.


The aim is that the student independently should delve deeply into the subject area Human rights, focusing on the concept of children’s best interests from a legal, philosophical and political perspective. Four broad themes are covered in the course; participation and the best interests of the child; equality and non-discrimination; the best interests of the child and migration; children’s right to education. Students will become aware of how human rights have an impact on legislation, policies and practices that affect children, but equally important for the course is that it illustrates the need to take children’s interests into consideration.


The course includes independent theoretically oriented literature studies of the concept of the best interests of the child. It also includes studies of reports and articles describing the situation for children in the contemporary world, linked to migration, education, participation and non-discrimination, with deepened study within one of these themes. The course, based on current research and with continual active work with scientific texts and methods, has a strong research orientation.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of the course the student shall be able to:

  • describe, orally and in writing and based on research, issues in the contemporary world surrounding the concept of children’s best interests, such as equality and non-discrimination, migration, child participation, right to education;
  • explain, orally and in writing, by referencing to current research in various scientific disciplines, the concept of children’s best interests. The analysis is done primarily through the application of theoretically oriented discussions to current situations, or with reference to previous studies in the field;
  • identify, exemplify and assess possible contradictions and dilemmas concerning children’s interests such as for example the tension between migration control on the one hand and the idea of the children’s best interests on the other;
  • critically reflect, in dialogue with others, on human rights in relation to the concept of children’s best interests;
  • demonstrate an ability to write structured and well written academic texts with proper references.

Learning activities

Participants are required to have access to well-functioning internet connection, access to Skype and I-Tunes. This is necessary to get some of the literature and to be able to participate in the examinations. A major portion of the work consists of independent study either individually or in small groups. Course implementation is based on the students’ active participation.


Examination is continual throughout the course with the following parts:

  • a written analysis of a problem pertaining to children’s best interests with reference to required course literature (3 pages) including a written presentation of peer-review evaluation of a course companion’s written analysis (1 page) (4,5 credits, grades: Excellent (A), Very Good (B), Good (C), Satisfactory (D), Pass (E) or Fail (U). Students who do not hand in on time will not be able to receive more than Pass-grade.

Students also choose one of the following examinations to be completed by the end of the course (3 credits):

1 a written presentation of literature review in one of the course topics, i.e. immigration, discrimination, education, participation (2 pages);
2 a poster presentation of larger project idea, such as a thesis topic, which has been developed during the course (1 page);
3 a written presentation of draft scientific article in which some of the empirically oriented material on the reading list are treated (5000 words);
4 a written presentation of a problem orientation of one of the course themes (3 pages).

Passing the course requires that all parts of the examination has been completed and approved.

Students who do not pass the regular course exams have the minimum of two retakes. Retakes follow the same form as the original exams, with the exception for the peer-review evaluation, which will be given in accordance with the teacher’s instructions.

Grading system

Excellent (A), Very Good (B), Good (C), Satisfactory (D), Pass (E) or Fail (U).

Course literature and other teaching materials

Texts will be provided when the course begins.
  • Alston, Philip (1994) ”The Best Interests of the Child: Reconciling Culture and Human Rights” International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family 8(1): 1–25.
  • Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. Chapter 4, ”From questions to problems”, in The craft of research. University of Chicago press, 2003. (this book is also available in Swedish: Forskning och skrivande, konsten att skriva enkelt och effektivt)
  • Children’s Rights Committee (2003) General Comment No. 5 General measures of implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (arts. 4, 42 and 44, para. 6).
  • Children’s Rights Committee (2013) General Comment No. 14 on the right of the child to have his or her best interests taken as a primary consideration (art. 3, para. 1).
  • Freeman, Michael (2007) Article 3: The Best Interests of the Child. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff.
  • Quennerstedt, Ann. “Children’s rights research moving into the future-challenges on the way forward.” The International Journal of Children’s Rights 21.2 (2013): 233-247.

Course evaluation

All students are offered an opportunity to give oral or written feedback at the end of the course. A summary of the results will be made available on the school's web-pages.