Friday in Focus: Helen Taylor
I came to Oxford in 2013 to read for the BCL followed by the DPhil, with a particular interest in human rights and constitutional law. Faced with long reading lists and the cold isolation of the library, I was quickly drawn to the outward-looking and dynamic engagement with current human rights challenges that I observed in the work of the Oxford Human Rights Hub. As an international student, I was especially impressed by the diverse and global network of academics, practitioners and policymakers that the OxHRH fosters.
In many ways, the vision behind the Oxford Human Rights Hub resonates with my own motivation for doing doctoral research in law – a strong belief in the value of academic research for its potential to contribute to positive social change. My DPhil thesis considers the design of remedies for enforcing the state’s positive duties in human rights. This field of research is both intellectually stimulating and highly relevant, as it speaks to the current remedial challenges faced by courts and holds important practical implications for ensuring remedies give tangible effect to rights.
I have gained valuable research experience contributing to OxHRH projects that are complementary to my doctoral work. I have helped with several collaborative projects between the OxHRH and Open Society Foundations, beginning in 2015 with our online workshop on ‘The Challenges of Public-Private Partnerships in Realising the Right to Education’. Most recently, I have been part of the OxHRH team developing an online course called ‘Learning Lessons from Litigators: Realising the Right to Education through Public Interest Lawyering’. We interviewed 10 litigators who have been engaged in major education campaigns around the world, including several who spearheaded some of the litigation that I focus on in my thesis. Interacting with these litigators has enriched my understanding of key cases and reminded me of the potential impact of my research.
My involvement with the OxHRH has not only brought these kinds of opportunities for professional development, but also taught me how creativity, passion and teamwork can transform small contributions into global impact. Wherever my legal career may take me after I finish my studies at Oxford, I hope to spread this enthusiastic advocacy for human rights.