MA Humanitarianism and Conflict Response / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course description

The speaker's series where experts from the field come and give talks to the students has been very insightful, as you get to hear first-hand experiences for those currently employed in this sector.

These talks, as well as lectures, have highlighted the challenges that can come with this type of career, but that it can also be very rewarding.

Lucy Hiley / MA Humanitarianism and Conflict Response

The MA in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response focuses on response to crises originating from both conflict zones and natural disasters.

Bringing together the study of health, the social sciences and the 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.

You will benefit from being able to draw on an exceptionally wide breadth of disciplinary traditions and research expertise.


1. What type of career does this degree enable?

Previous students have gone on to work in a number of roles for NGOs, the UN, national charities and civil service bodies, and many other organisations. A degree from HCRI is highly regarded in the humanitarian sector. Each year we host a ‘careers in humanitarianism' fair which enables you to talk to practitioners about what it's like to work in the sector. The degree provides valuable skills for current humanitarian staff looking to improve their contextual understanding, and we also offer various online modules for field staff and others.

Our degree is a good foundation for a wide range of careers. You will get a strong grounding in social science and humanities approaches. The focus of the degree is on conflicts and disasters, but the insights into politics, power and society can be applied more widely. Many of our students have gone into jobs in business, the civil service and many other fields.

2. How much time commitment is the degree?

The MA is an academically rigorous degree. We therefore expect a high level of commitment throughout the year. Each week you should:

  • Attend two hours of class lectures/seminars per module
  • Undertake reading and research
  • Prepare for your assignments

This is in addition to any simulations, public talks, field trips or extra-curricular activities you may do. We run workshops on academic skills and each student is assigned an academic advisor, so there is plenty of support.

When possible, there is a research trip associated with one of our optional modules to help hone and apply your research skills. 

If this does not fit with your current circumstances, there are part-time and online degree options

3. Will it provide me with practical experience?

The MA HCR is first and foremost an academic programme. You will gain a deep and critical understanding of complex issues and broader contexts that will equip you in to thrive in fast-changing field. It is not a vocational degree intended to teach you technical competencies. Rather it will help you to help you understand the drivers of conflict, intervention, governance and the role of different actors. It will give you the analytical skills to understand the field of humanitarianism and conflict response, and particular modalities of intervention.

4. I come from a different academic background. What types of assessment are used?

A range of assessments styles are used at HCRI including essays, book reviews, policy briefs, creative projects, presentations, and more. Examples of successful work by previous students are provided for each course. Exams are not currently offered.

5. I have never written a dissertation before! What support is available?

While you may have never conducted research, written a long piece of work, or are perhaps returning to study after a long break, HCRI will support you. First, you will complete a Research and Evaluation Methods module that introduces you to a variety of research approaches and skills. Second, you will be assigned a supervisor who will guide you through the process. Your dissertation is a great way to get your foot in the door for a future career.

6. I am concerned about the cost of living. What financial support is available?

This is a concern for many students. The University of Manchester offers a variety of support, including recreation grants and emergency loans. Learn more here .

Some students work part-time; no full-time student should work full-time. Courses are offered from Monday to Friday, so ensure any part-time work is flexible and that course attendance takes priority.

7. I want to develop my language skills. Are there opportunities to do this?

Yes, students can take a language course as one of their five optional modules; join a student language society; take courses offered in the community; or create an informal HCRI language club.

8. English is not my first language. Will that be an issue?

This is an academic programme offered in English, therefore strong written and spoken English are needed to understand and keep up with weekly readings across multiple courses; to understand lecture content and participate in class discussions; and to produce high-quality assessments, including your dissertation. At an absolute minimum, an overall grade of 6.5 in IELTS with 6.5 in writing and no less than 6.0 in all skills is required or 93+ in the TOEFL iBT with a minimum writing score of 22 with no skill below 20. Your English Language test report must be valid on the start date of the course.


We aim to:

  • Provide critical insights into competing perspectives on how humanitarianism and conflict responses can be understood, analysed and explained - from both a historiographic and contemporary viewpoint.
  • Help you 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.
  • Help you 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.
  • Enable you to apply research skills to a relevant research area.

By the end of the course, students should be able to show a critical understanding of:

  • 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.
  • Both the range of social science topics associated with humanitarianism and conflict response and the normative and historiographic assumptions which underpin these issues.
  • 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 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other civil institutions.
  • 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

Study at HCRI

The Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) at The University of Manchester is inspired by the need to conduct rigorous research and to support both undergraduate and postgraduate training on the impact and outcomes of contemporary and historical crises.

Established in 2008 by Dr Rony Brauman, Professor Bertrand Taithe and Professor Tony Redmond, 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.

We embrace this opportunity to develop a scholarly and professional agenda for humanitarians and peacebuilders around the world.

Find out more about HCRI on our website .

Teaching and learning

You will learn through a variety of teaching methods, depending on the units you take. These may include lectures, tutorials and independent study.

Coursework and assessment

You will be assessed through a variety of methods, depending on the units you take. These may include written assignments, oral presentations and thematic maps.

Course unit details

You will undertake units totalling 180 credits. Core and optional units combine to make 120 credits, with the remaining 60 credits allocated to the dissertation.

Course unit list

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
Dissertation HCRI60000 60 Mandatory
Humanitarianism and Conflict Response: Inquiries HCRI60031 15 Mandatory
Research and Evaluation Methods HCRI60170 15 Mandatory
Urban Resilience HCRI60021 15 Optional
Anthropology of Violence and Reconstruction HCRI60131 15 Optional
Armed Groups and Humanitarian Aid HCRI60162 15 Optional
Humanitarian Diplomacy and Negotiation in Practice HCRI60222 15 Optional
Young People in Conflicts and Displacement (20-21 Centuries) HCRI60511 15 Optional
Economics, Peace and Conflict HCRI61141 15 Optional
The History of Humanitarian Aid HCRI61202 15 Optional
Vital Mobilities: Delivering Healthcare in a Changing Climate HCRI61302 15 Optional
Gender, Race & Security HCRI62222 15 Optional
Citizen Participation in Disasters HCRI63322 15 Optional
Humanitarianism and Genocide HCRI63332 15 Optional
Critical Approaches to Management of Humanitarian Operations HCRI70040 15 Optional
Cash and Market Based Programming in Crisis Settings HCRI70081 15 Optional
Community Approaches to Health HCRI71000 15 Optional
Emergency Humanitarian Assistance (blended) HCRI71060 15 Optional
Ethics, Human Rights and Health HCRI72000 15 Optional
Health Systems HCRI74000 15 Optional
Management and Leadership in Health and Humanitarianism HCRI76000 15 Optional
Risk, Vulnerability and Resilience HCRI77000 15 Optional
Climate, Environment and Development MGDI60552 15 Optional
Migration, Mobility and Displacement in the Contemporary World MGDI60731 15 Optional
Key Issues in Environment and Development MGDI60801 15 Optional
Characteristics and Skills of Development Practice MGDI71992 15 Optional
Global Governance POLI70422 15 Optional
Democracy: Theory & Practice POLI70872 15 Optional
Peace and Social Agency, Security and Intervention: Theories and Practices POLI70991 15 Optional
Fundamentals of Epidemiology POPH60991 15 Optional
Critical Ecologies SALC61082 15 Optional
Displaying 10 of 31 course units

Course collaborators

Médecins Sans Frontières (see 'Associated Organisations').

What our students say

 You can read blog posts by and profiles of HCRI students on the Manchester Calling blog.


You will benefit from access to one of the UK's five National Research Libraries, modern study facilities and a range of cultural assets on campus and beyond.

Find out more about our facilities .

Disability support

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