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5 Humanitarian Degrees in Europe

Having a postgraduate degree is often one of the core requirements for jobs offered by international and national organizations working on humanitarian crises around the world. Master’s programs are generally designed to give professionals academic knowledge and training needed for them to be able to effectively operate in a conflict or disaster-affected environment. These degrees furthermore serve to help students gain or further develop practical experience through an internship at one of the leading humanitarian organizations or an independent research project. However, such humanitarian degrees frequently have high costs and require extensive professional experience, so it might seem impossible to find options which are affordable and suitable for one’s resume.

We have identified five top humanitarian degrees which train professionals to take different roles in humanitarian contexts (such as logisticians, managers, engineers, researchers and similar) and have affordable costs with a range of scholarship opportunities.

1. Humanitarianism and Conflict Response MA

 University of Manchester, the United Kingdom (UK)

The University of Manchester’s Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute offers one of the best humanitarian degrees that focus on effectively addressing crises caused by conflict or natural disasters. This Master’s program is multidisciplinary and it brings in knowledge and cases from a variety of disciplines such as medicine, law, and political science. One of the main goals is to help students develop superb analytical skills in order to critically assess humanitarianism. The course is directed by Dr Rony Brauman, former President of MSF France and is hosted by a leading research institute in the sphere of conflict response and peacebuilding. That said, the institute also closely cooperates with MSF and gives students an insight into their international operations.

During the year-long study, students will be able to take courses in Epidemiology, Emergency Humanitarian Assistance, Global Health, Conflict Analysis, and Reconstruction and Development.

Admissions Requirements:

  • A second-class Bachelor’s degree in any discipline (first or second class honors).
  • Proof of English language proficiency for non-native speakers.
  • Academic references.

Graduates tend to assume senior positions in governmental and non-governmental organizations, pursue PhD studies, or develop their careers as consultants and researchers.

Tuition costs for a full-time study amount to £9,500 per year for Home/EU students, or £18,000 for Overseas students. Being one of the leading academic institutions, the University of Manchester offers a number of postgraduate scholarships, awards, and subject-specific bursaries.

2. IRIS SUP Diploma Bac+5 Humanitarian Manager Operational Course

IRIS Sup’, France

IRIS Sup’ is a private institution registered within the Rectorate of Paris. It offers one of the most competitive and best humanitarian degrees, designed for world’s future top humanitarian professionals. The program trains humanitarian managers in an array of subjects such as geopolitics and strategic analysis, giving them the essential practical training by international humanitarian actors.  IRIS’ partners on this program include international organizations such as Action against Hunger, MSF, Global Health Action, and Solidarity International.

During their studies, students develop concrete strategies that will allow them to improve the impact of both emergency and post-emergency programming, manage teams in insecure and multicultural environments, and provide aid to the most vulnerable populations.

The program consists of nine different modules, including Methods and Techniques for Strategic Analysis, GCP and Programming, Preparation for Professional Life, and Resource Management.

Admissions Requirements:

  • An academic degree such as a Master’s in a relevant discipline (law, political science, management), medical or engineering degree.
  • Alternatively, the lack of a master’s degree can be supplemented by relevant professional experience.
  • Candidates are also expected to be international-oriented, speak good English, be fluent in French, and have good analytical skills.

The cost of this year-long program is 6,600 EUR for a full-time study. At the moment, this prestigious program is only offered in French.

3. Humanitarian Engineering MSc

University of Warwick, the United Kingdom (UK)

This uniquely-designed group of Master’s programs is offered by the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. It aims to educate professionals to effectively address global challenges that arise in the context of water, energy, poverty, shelter, and transport. Students who enroll in this program will be trained to work in conflict and disaster-affected areas and equipped to address causes of such disasters, create preventative approaches, and apply suitable responses.

The University of Warwick offers three different humanitarian degrees under the umbrella of Humanitarian Engineering – MSc in Humanitarian Engineering, MSc in Humanitarian Engineering with Management, and MSc Humanitarian Engineering with Sustainability.

All three programs include the same core modules with mandatory courses such as Water and Environmental Management, Renewable Energy, and Disasters, Resilience and Urban Data. Additional modules are program-specific, so those wishing to focus on Management take additional courses on Project Management, while those who specialize in Sustainability will have a course on Sustainable Cities and Infrastructures for Emergencies.

Application requirements:

  • Upper-second class (2:1) Bachelor’s degree (first or second class honors) in relevant disciplines such as engineering, science, social sciences, law, health, management, business and economics.
  • Relevant professional experience.
  • One academic reference.
  • A statement of purpose (1-2 pages long)
  • Proof of English language fluency for non-native speakers.

Graduates who hold one of these degrees have so far found placements with governments, multilateral development institutions such as World Bank, IMF, and United Nation, NGOs working in conflict and disaster-affected areas around the world, and universities.

Tuition fees currently stand at £8,580 for Home/EU students and £19,300 for Overseas applicants; however, the University of Warwick offers over 250 scholarships for postgraduate students to help decrease the costs and make this great program affordable.

4. Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree Program in International Humanitarian Action (NOHA+)

Aix-Marseille Université, France; L-Università ta’ Malta, Malta, University of Groningen, the Netherlands, Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, Universidad de Deusto, Spain, University College Dublin, Ireland, University of Warsaw, Poland, Uppsala University, Sweden

NOHA+ program, supported by the European Commission since 1993, is a two-year Master’s Degree in International Humanitarian Action offered by eight European universities in Spain, Sweden, France, Poland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, and Malta. The program is envisaged as multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, aiming to equip students with all necessary skills and knowledge needed to evaluate humanitarian emergencies across different fields of study. These include intervention and reconstruction programs, coping strategies for disasters and conflicts, as well as intercultural communication skills. Some of the courses NOHA+ students take are Legal Dimensions of Humanitarian Action, Public Health, Methodology and Research.

NOHA+ students spend the first semester at their home university, after which they are required to study at a partner university in Europe in the second term. In the third semester, students either follow the research specialization track at one of the global partner universities or complete a professional placement such as internship at a place of their choice.  Global partners include institutions in Jordan, Japan, Thailand, Australia, Nepal and other countries. The final semester is reserved for the completion of a master’s thesis.

Admissions Requirements:

  • Completed Bachelor’s thesis.
  • Bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject (law, health, international relations, sociology, economics, management, anthropology, psychology).
  • Relevant professional experience.

Tuition fees amount to 6,000 EUR/year for both EU and non-EU students. The deadline to submit an application is May 1, 2018 for the course which begins on September 1, 2018, or May 1, 2019 for the 2019/2020 cycle.

Numerous scholarships are given to NOHA+ students towards their tuition fees and living expenses. For the 2018/2019 academic year, there will be 25 full Erasmus+ scholarships, while all home universities offer their own scholarship schemes. Students of all nationalities are eligible to apply for these scholarships which cover the costs of participation, travel expenses, and monthly allowances.

So far, over 3,000 professionals graduated from NOHA+ and have sought positions in both international and national organizations, working in the field and at headquarters. NOHA graduates work around the world as field coordinators, MEAL officers, researchers, and directors of organizations such as UNICEF, CARE International, and Danish Refugee Council.

5. International Cooperation and Development, Specializing Master

Universita Cattolica del Sacro Coure, Italy

Universita Cattolica del Sacro Coure in Milan, Italy offers a specializing Master’s program designed to train professionals to create solutions to global issues such as poverty, conflict, and instability. This is another interdisciplinary program where students receive both academic knowledge from various disciplines and specialized technical and managerial skills.

This one-year program consists of four different terms. The first level term includes scientific training where students take courses on Geopolitics, Human Development, and Project Cycle Management. The purpose of the second level term is for students to gain practical skills necessary in emergency contexts such enhanced cooperative skills, crisis prevention, relief and recovery, and development strategies. During the last two modules, students develop a research project on a relevant topic and are given an opportunity to complete an internship with one of the schools’ partner institutions.

Admissions Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree obtained by March 2018, preferably in political science, economics, law, humanities, education, psychology, social science, nursing, engineering, environmental science.
  • Strong, experienced-based motivation is preferred.
  • Proof of language proficiency (TOEFL, IELTS, or a completed degree in English).

This program is designed to begin in the winter term, so applications are for January 2019. Annual tuition fees amount to 7,500 EUR. Up to seven scholarships which reduce tuition fees by 25% are available.

Graduates work in different international and national institutions around the world, including NGOs dealing with emergency and poverty eradication.


Make sure that you stay updated with application deadlines for these inspiring and affordable master’s humanitarian degrees and prepare to upgrade your humanitarian career with new knowledge and experiences.

About the author

Maja Davidovic

Maja Davidovic is a Serbian-born independent researcher and Human Rights graduate. She holds her M.A. degree from Central European University in Budapest, and had previously lived and worked in Greece, Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Maja mostly researches about women’s rights, child protection and transitional justice, and has been involved with organizations such as MSF and OSCE, as well grassroots initiatives. You may follow her on her newly-made Twitter profile @MajaADavidovic, where she aspires to open discussions on a variety of human rights-related issues.