Rosalyn Higgins

Rosalyn Higgins studied law at Girton College, Cambridge before becoming a Harkness Fellow at Harvard and Yale Law School in the early 1960s.

6 Min Read

Rosalyn Higgins had an illustrious academic and professional career as an international lawyer, jurist, and the first female judge elected to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). She studied at prestigious universities in the UK and US, laying the foundation for her lifelong contributions to international law and human rights.

Quick Facts About Rosalyn Higgins

  • Born in 1937 in London, England
  • First female judge elected to the ICJ
  • Served as ICJ president from 2006-2009
  • Professor at the London School of Economics from 1981-1995
  • Member of the UN Human Rights Committee from 1973-1987
  • Barrister and Queen’s Counsel (QC)
  • Awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1982
  • Awarded a Companion of Honour (CH) in 1995
  • Made a Life Peer in 2000
  • Died in London in 2022 at age 84

Who Was Rosalyn Higgins?

Rosalyn Higgins was an acclaimed British lawyer and academic who became the first female judge to serve on the International Court of Justice. She was born in 1937 in London and showed early promise as a student, pursuing higher education at prestigious institutions in the UK and US on scholarship.

Higgins specialized in international law, with a focus on human rights, and became a professor at the London School of Economics. She also served on the UN Human Rights Committee and worked as a barrister, while authoring several influential books on international law.

In 1995, Higgins was appointed as a judge on the ICJ, then elected president in 2006. She presided over high-profile cases during her tenure, before retiring in 2009. Higgins continued writing and participating in international legal affairs until her death in 2022.

Where Did Rosalyn Higgins Go to College?

Undergraduate at Girton College, Cambridge

Rosalyn Higgins began her higher education at Girton College, Cambridge in the late 1950s. Girton was one of the first women’s colleges established at Cambridge and had a reputation for academic excellence.

Higgins studied law at Girton College, earning her B.A. degree in 1959. As one of the top students, she was awarded the Winn Prize in law during her graduation.

Harkness Fellowship at Harvard and Yale

After completing her Cambridge degree, Higgins was selected for the prestigious Harkness Fellowship from 1959-1961. The fellowship funded her continued studies in the United States.

Higgins spent the first year at Harvard Law School, auditing courses in constitutional and international law. She then transferred to Yale Law School for her second fellowship year.

Postgraduate at Yale Law School

At Yale Law School, Higgins pursued a postgraduate law degree with a focus on international law. She researched topics like the explanatory power of customary law and co-wrote a paper on the Caribbean Federation.

In 1962, Higgins completed her J.S.D. (Doctor of Juridical Science) at Yale, finishing her US studies. Her Yale dissertation was published as a book, The Development of International Law Through the Political Organs of the United Nations.

Master’s Degree from Cambridge

After returning to England, Higgins sat for the bar exam to become a barrister. She also returned to her alma mater Girton College and completed a M.A. degree.

Her Cambridge master’s thesis centered on the doctrine of estoppel in international law. This research built on her expertise in international legal theory.

Rosalyn Higgins’ Academic Journey

  • 1959 – B.A. in Law, Girton College, Cambridge
  • 1959-1961 – Harkness Fellow, Harvard and Yale
  • 1962 – J.S.D., Yale Law School
  • Early 1960s – M.A. in Law, Girton College, Cambridge

Follow Rosalyn Higgins on Social Media

As Higgins’ career predated popular social media, she did not maintain official accounts on sites like Twitter or Facebook. However, several institutes named after Higgins or founded in her honor have online profiles:

Her alma maters and professional affiliations also posted memorial content after her death:

FAQs About Rosalyn Higgins

What degrees did Rosalyn Higgins earn?

Higgins earned a B.A. and M.A. in Law from Girton College, Cambridge. She also earned a J.S.D. from Yale Law School as a Harkness Fellow.

Where did Rosalyn Higgins study international law?

Higgins specialized in international law during her LL.B. at Cambridge and later at Yale Law School, where she earned her doctorate in the subject.

What was Rosalyn Higgins’ dissertation about?

For her Yale J.S.D., Higgins wrote a dissertation entitled The Development of International Law Through the Political Organs of the United Nations.

How long was Rosalyn Higgins an ICJ judge?

Higgins served on the International Court of Justice from 1995-2009. Within that tenure, she was president of the court from 2006-2009.

When did Rosalyn Higgins die?

Higgins passed away on June 13, 2022 in London at the age of 84. Memorial services were held by her alma maters and legal institutions.