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Humanitarianism and Conflict Response MA

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Course description

This multidisciplinary degree course focuses on response to crises originating from both conflict-zones and natural disasters. Bringing together the study of medicine and humanities, the course provides an inclusive approach that mirrors the reality of aid operations and informs the reflexive processes of both analytical and applied disciplines. Students will be able to draw synergies from an exceptionally wide breadth of disciplinary traditions and research expertise.


1. Provide critical insights into competing perspectives on how Humanitarianism and Conflict Responses can be understood, analysed and explained - from both an historiographic and contemporary viewpoint.

2. Develop analytical skills in critically evaluating the idea of humanitarianism and the ways that responses to conflict are organised, justified and implemented. This includes competency in developing a reasoned argument, critically considering data sources and defending different approaches.

3. Develop skills in gathering, organising and using evidence and information from a wide variety of sources. This will be complemented by guidance on how best to manage workloads and obtain research materials.

4. Enable students to apply research skills to a relevant research area.


Students should be able to show a critical understanding of :

1. Key issues and debates in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response, familiarity with different theoretical approaches, practical problems and an appreciation of the diversity of policies at international and national levels.

2. Both the range of social science topics associated with Humanitarianism and Conflict Response and the normative and historiographic assumptions which underpin these issues.

3. The analytical and policy literature concerning the related issues of the causes of conflict, reconstruction, ethics and international governance structures and institutions, the role and perspectives of the state, multilateral and bilateral agencies, international and domestic NGOs and other civil institutions.

4. A detailed and extensive understanding of a specific conceptual and/or policy-related area of Humanitarianism and Conflict Response, of the implications and limitations of research findings on this subject; and of how to produce an original piece of academic research, all through their dissertation.

Special features

HCRI at The University of Manchester is inspired by the need to conduct rigorous research and to support postgraduate training on the impact and outcomes of contemporary and historical crises. Directed by Dr Rony Brauman (former President of MSF France, Associate Professor at L'Institut d'Études Politiques, Paris, and Director of Research at the MSF Foundation, Paris), HCRI is widely recognised as being a leading international research institute focusing on the study of humanitarianism, conflict response and peacebuilding.

Our work is driven by a desire to inform and support policy and decision makers, to optimise joint working between partner organisations, and to foster increased understanding and debate within the field. Bringing together the disciplines of medicine and the humanities (including international relations and political science) to achieve these goals, HCRI aims to facilitate improvements in crisis response on a global scale whilst providing a centre of excellence for all concerned with emergencies, conflicts and peace. In offering a range of postgraduate courses we embrace this opportunity to develop a scholarly and professional agenda for humanitarians and peacebuilders around the world.

Teaching and learning

Click here to see the current course handbook giving details of the module options.

Coursework and assessment

This will vary from course unit to unit.

Course content for year 1

Course units may include:

  • Humanitarianism and conflict response:


  • Emergency humanitarian assistance
  • Fundamentals of epidemiology
  • Humanitarian responses to crises:

case studies

  • The history of humanitarian aid
  • Research & evaluation methods
  • Global health
  • The Arab revolts and post-revolutionary

state formation

  • Anthropology of violence
  • Performance in theory and practice
  • The ethics of killing
  • Ethics in world politics
  • Conflict analysis
  • Democracy: theory & practice
  • Reconstruction and development
  • Global governance

Scholarships and bursaries

The HCRI MA bursary, worth £6,300, will fund home fees or can be used as partial payment for the overseas fee. It is tenable for one year only. Applicants should state their interest in the award within the funding section of the online application form and also provide a personal statement (max 500 words) outlining why they have chosen to study this particular MA and what they will bring to the course. The HCRI MA bursary is awarded based on a number of criteria including previous academic performance, relevant professional experience, reference letters, and the quality of the reflections in the applicant's personal statement.  Deadline for applications is 1 June 2013.

Course collaborators

Médecins Sans Frontières (see 'Associated Organisations')

What our students say

Chris Marsh

In December 2009 the HCRI hosted a three-day workshop as part of their MA programme. Amongst the numerous highly regarded speakers was the director of an NGO called Mines Advisory Group (MAG), winners of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. Ten months later I found myself working for MAG as their base manager in Somalia. Studying an MA at the HCRI really can open doors! Whilst I am not entirely new to working in the NGO world, having previously been the area program manager for a WATSAN NGO in Uganda, operating in Mine Action in Somalia has thrown up its own unique challenges and provided me with new insights into the successes and failings of the broader NGO operational environment. Whilst most of us get into the sector in order to make a positive contribution to those less fortunate than ourselves, competition and in-fighting between rival NGOs, and the UN, often puts the needs of those we are trying to help in second place. This is just one of many issues affecting and damaging the work of NGOs around the world. It is vital that the lessons leant by those working in the field can be shared amongst each other, and with the academic community, in order to bring us closer to our common original goal - that of improving peoples lives. The HCRI strives to do just this.


Manchester's learning resources are world-famous. The John Rylands University Library, with over 4.5m books and vast archives of historical material and rare volumes, is second to none.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Support Office. Email: