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Peace and Conflict Studies MA

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Course description

This interdisciplinary MA explores the processes through which actors have attempted to define and build peace in areas affected by violence. Drawing on expertise from the fields of history, politics, anthropology and the arts, this new course will offer students the opportunity to critically address the conceptualization of peace and the implementation of peacebuilding projects by global, regional, national and local actors.


Students will be able to show a critical understanding of:

1. Key issues and debates related to the theories of peace and practices of peacebuilding. Students will show familiarity with different theoretical approaches, practical problems and an appreciation of the diversity of policies at international, regional, national and sub-national levels.

2. The range of social science topics which influence peacebuilding (including political, historical, anthropological understandings of peace and related programming).  Students will become familiar with the methodological and normative underpinnings of these disciplines and their concomitant effect on peacebuilding

3. The analytical and policy literature concerning the related issues of peacebuilding, including international governance structures, the concept of statebuilding, foreign policy analysis and the role of  key actors and institutions including the state, multilateral and bilateral agencies, international and domestic NGOs as well as the military and other security actors.

4.  An understanding of local approaches to peacebuilding, including an awareness of the problems and critiques associated with `bottom up' approaches.

5.  The development of a range of academic and professional/transferrable skills through both independent and group-based work6. A detailed understanding of a specific conceptual and/or policy-related area of peacebuilding along with  implications and limitations of research findings on this subject, and of how to produce an original piece of academic research. Delivered via the dissertation module.

6. A detailed understanding of a specific conceptual and/or policy-related area of peacebuilding along with  implications and limitations of research findings on this subject, and of how to produce an original piece of academic research. Delivered via the dissertation module.

Special features

The Institute is developing a novel configuration for research and teaching which will uniquely associate practitioners, non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners, theoreticians, policy makers and analysts in sustained intellectual engagement. Combining a targeted programme of research with the provision of timely analysis on current emergencies and conflicts, the institute will seek to develop new methodologies in the emerging field of humanitarian and conflict response research.

Additional voluntary workshops and events throughout the year further enhance study including:

  • The evidence of objects, a trip to the Imperial War Museum North
  • Other Case Briefings (eg. Cyprus, Arab Uprisings)
  • Policy Sessions: UN system and INGOs (Professor Dan Smith, International Alert)
  • Manchester Peace Walk
  • Working with Governments (Professor Dan Smith, International Alert )
  • Regular `Leading Voices' workshops, with key thinkers in the field

Students studying this programme will also benefit from possible additional activities, such as:

  • Student organised trips to London ( International Alert ), New York ( UN/IPA ) and Brussels
  • Case Study Internships
  • Attendance at annual Peacebuilding conference and potential participation in student panels.

Teaching and learning

Delivery of the course will take a range of forms, including lectures, seminars, tutorials, directed reading, and independent study.  Much of the delivery will be problem based/enquiry based learning. 

This MA will be influenced and informed by the research of both staff and post graduate research students at the institute including research projects on:

  • Political space in the aid industry
  • Local/hybrid approaches to peacebuilding
  • The contribution of BRICS nations to peace and security programming
  • Critical peace studies
  • The role of the state in peace and security programming
  • Ethnographic approaches to understanding violence
  • Refugees and internally displaced persons
  • The political economy of conflict
  • Performance in conflict and disaster zones
  • Historical analyses of aid

Coursework and assessment

Students will assessed through several methods, with the aim of building up numerous academic and professional skills.  Forms of assessment will include:
  • Research essays (3000 words +)
  • The running of group workshops
  • Reflective journals/learning logs
  • Contribution to group discussion boards (electronically)
  • Oral presentations
  • Literature reviews/research design

Course content for year 1

Core Modules (15 Credits Each)  Students must take all of the following:
  • Peace and Social Agency, Security and Intervention: Theories and Practices                            

This module will introduce students to key theories and concepts related to the study of peace, security and conflict.  It will expose students to key debates related to these topics (both conceptual and practical) and provide students with an appreciation of the diversity of relevant policies at the international,  regional, national and sub-national levels. It will provide them with an analytical tool box which can be used to explore issues related to peacebuilding in theory and practice-tools which can be used in this module, other modules on the degree and in their professional lives.

  • Practical approaches to studying conflict-affected societies

This module explores issues of epistemology, positionality and research methods associated with field research in peacebuilding environments. This unit will involve a compulsory fieldtrip that is intended to challenge the notion of a conventional fieldtrip and to expose students to the practical and ethical dilemmas of field research.

  • Reconstruction & Development (IDPM)
  • Humanitarian Practice in Situations of Armed Conflict
  • Dissertation (12 000 - 15 000 words) (60 Credits)

Optional Modules:  Students to choose 60 credits from the following:

  • Arab Revolts and Revolutionary State Formation (15 Credits)
  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response: Inquiries  (15 Credits)
  • History of Humanitarian Aid (15 or 30 Credits)
  • Global Health (15 Credits)
  • Conflict Analysis (IDPM) (15 Credits)
  • Ethics in World Politics (Politics) (15 Credits)
  • Security Studies (Politics) (15 Credits)
  • Human Rights in World Politics (15 Credits)
  • Performance Theory and Practice (Drama) (30 Credits)
Please note that this is an indicative list and course modules may vary from year to year.

Course units for year 1

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Peace and Social Agency, Security and Intervention: Theories and PracticesSALC6012115Mandatory
Humanitarian Practice in Situations of Armed ConflictSALC6016215Mandatory
Research and Evaluation MethodsSALC6017115Mandatory
Practical Approaches to Studying Conflict-Affected SocietiesSALC6107215Mandatory
Performance in Theory and PracticeDRAM6031130Optional
The History of Humanitarian Aid (15cr)HIST6120215Optional
Reconstruction and DevelopmentIDPM6040215Optional
Conflict AnalysisIDPM6045115Optional
Ethics in World PoliticsPOLI7045115Optional
Security StudiesPOLI7046215Optional
Human Rights in World PoliticsPOLI7049215Optional
Humanitarianism and Conflict Response: InquiriesSALC6003115Optional
Global Health and Food InsecuritySALC6015215Optional
Arab Revolts and Post Revolutionary State FormationSALC6019215Optional
Displaying 10 of 14course units for year 1

Scholarships and bursaries

The HCRI MA bursary 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 2014.


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.

MA students at the HCRI are actively included in the Institute's research programme, participating in the institute's research seminars and master classes.

Along with the computer and library facilities offered by the university and the school (including the School's new Graduate School), the HCRI also has a dedicated MA study space which includes a range of reading materials as well as a space for students to undertake independent study, or to hold group meetings.

Disability support

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