PhD Humanitarianism and Conflict Response / Programme details

Year of entry: 2024

Programme description

The Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute

Our PhD in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response is inspired by the need to conduct rigorous, in-depth research and analysis on the impact and outcomes of contemporary and historical crises.

It is driven by a desire to inform and support policy and practice, to optimise joint working between partner organisations, and to foster increased understanding and debate within the field of humanitarianism and global health.

The PhD is a three-year course of study (or six years of part-time study) in which you prepare a thesis under the guidance of two supervisors with specialist expertise.

Your progress is monitored at regular meetings of your research panel (two supervisors plus a reviewer who is independent of the supervisory team), which also provides guidance on research training and career development.

We welcome applications from students wishing to study in the interdisciplinary research areas of global health, disaster response and humanitarian aid.

As a postgraduate researcher in HCRI, you will join an active and accessible research community. Our interests are varied in terms of disciplines, geographies, time periods, and topics.

We also encourage researchers to connect with other departments across the University.

Integrated with our research goals, the HCRI PhD programme offers a flexible approach to the provision of teaching, to identify and challenge current assumptions about issues such as aid, conflict response and governance.

It aims to prepare the next generation of crisis response researchers and practitioners, while also seeking to understand the experiences of people affected by crises, to engage with their perspectives and help make their voices heard.

This PhD therefore reflects the need for structured forms of professional development and reflective thinking that can function effectively across multiple academic and non-academic contexts. 

It will introduce students to a range of dynamic and challenging concepts and methods with which to reflect critically and constructively on their professional context and experience.

The aim of the programme is to produce students who are critical, independent researchers, and you are from the outset encouraged to disseminate your work at seminars and conferences and by publishing in high-quality forums.

The programme culminates in the submission of an 80,000-word dissertation (or alternative format) that makes an original contribution to knowledge.


We aim to:

  • Generate new critical, academic perspectives on conflict and crisis, emergency interventions, health and social justice, through engagement academic disciplines such as history, applied arts, emergency medicine and global health, geography, politics and anthropology, on the basis of field work and case studies.
  • Provide a structured programme of action and reflection at an advanced level to support candidates' contributions to the development of new methodologies, techniques and concepts.
  • Support the development and transformation of existing professional experience and expertise into research outcomes that will extend knowledge, understanding and practice in response to humanitarian assistance issues or organisations.
  • Provide candidates with opportunities to deepen and broaden knowledge and understanding of the historical, social, political, medical and ethical dimensions of their research and/or practice, in an interdisciplinary environment.

Special features

Find out more about the Graduate School

Our partnerships

HCRI has close links with other similarly multi-disciplinary centres of learning across the University - most notably, the Global Development Institute, the Centre for the Cultural History of War, the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, and the Medical Education Research Group in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health.

In addition, we have a strong network of partnerships with policy-makers and practitioners outside of academia.

Graduate School

All of our postgraduate students become members of the Graduate School when you start at Manchester. It has dedicated facilities for students and offers opportunities to collaborate with other postgraduates.

Additional programme information

Equality, diversity and inclusion  is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. 

We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. 

We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status. 

All appointments are made on merit. 

The University of Manchester and our external partners are fully committed to equality, diversity and inclusion. 

Teaching and learning

PhD students are offered tailored supervision and training, and your supervisors will aim to nurture your capacities as an independent researcher. 

Your research will normally be supervised by two members of staff - at least one from HCRI, with the second supervisor based in HCRI or, if appropriate, drawn from another department in The University.

You will be encouraged to pursue your independent learning through participation in research seminars, workshops, conferences, and other opportunities available in Manchester and beyond.

In addition to the Faculty of Humanities training programmes for the social sciences ( methods@manchester ) and the humanities ( artsmethods@manchester ), HCRI students will also have access to relevant training programmes from the Global Health programme in the University's medical school.

The taught course elements of the programme will include the Research and Evaluation Methods course unit, taught in the first year; in addition, workshops will take place throughout the programme, which will involve you working with your peers, fostering the concept of a cohort who can share experiences and expertise. 

Coursework and assessment

In addition to coursework for the Research and Evaluation Methods unit in the first year, your PhD progress will be reviewed by your research panel, consisting of your two supervisors and one other member of staff.

This panel will meet with you once per semester (or once per year for part-time students) to give you formal feedback on your work and report on your progress to the School.

Please note that the first year of the PhD programme and the first two years of the part-time programme are probationary: at the end of this period, your panel is required to confirm that you have made satisfactory progress towards completion and may therefore proceed.

Thereafter, progression through each year of the programme is dependent on your ability to produce evidence of continuing progression.

The PhD is assessed on the basis of a thesis of up to 80,000 words. This is examined by two examiners, one of whom is external to the University. An oral examination is an integral part of the assessment process.

Programme content for year 1

By the end of Year 1 of your PhD (Year 2 part-time) you will:

  • Have attended and completed the course unit Research and Evaluation Methods at HCRI.
  • Have attended other research skills and development training agreed with your supervisors.
  • Have undergone two Formal Progress Reviews which produce a written progress report.
  • Have presented at the HCRI PGR conference in May/June.
  • Have submitted an Ethical Declaration form on eProg and received ethical approval (if required) for the research project.

Programme content for year 2

By the end of year 2 of your PhD (year 4 part-time) you will:

  • Have completed approximately 60-70% of your basis research.
  • Have undertaken the research skills training agreed with your supervisors.
  • Have undergone two further Formal Progress Reviews which produce a written progress report.
  • Have presented a paper at a School research seminar/conference or external Postgraduate Research conference.

Programme content for year 3

By the end of year 3 (year 6 part-time) you will:

  • Have written, drafted and redrafted your PhD.
  • Have undergone two further Formal Progress Reviews Meetings which produce a written progress report.
  • Have presented a paper at an external conference and/or prepared a paper for publication and identified an appropriate journal for publication.
  • Have undertaken the research skills training agreed with your supervisors.
  • Have submitted a finished thesis for examination, held a mock viva with a supervisor, been examined and passed a PhD!

Programme unit list

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

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Research and Evaluation Methods HCRI60170 15 Mandatory

What our students say

Our PhD programme uniquely blends students from a variety of backgrounds on subjects as diverse as the history and politics of humanitarian and state intervention into conflict and disaster affected countries with clinicians working in the field of global health.

As such, students - from both a medical and non-medical background - will be encouraged to think critically about the motives, logistical difficulties and outcomes of organising such interventions.

Find out more about our current PhD students .


Alan Gilbert Learning Commons Fly Through

Manchester is home to one of the UK's five National Research Libraries - one of the best-resourced academic libraries in the UK and widely recognised as one of the world's greatest research libraries.

Find out more about libraries and study spaces for postgraduate research students at Manchester.

We also have one of the largest academic IT services in Europe - supporting world-class teaching and research. There are extensive computing facilities across campus, with access to standard office software as well as specialist programmes, all connected to the campus network and internet.

Every student is registered for email, file storage and internet access. If more demanding computer access is required, our specialist computing division can provide high-end and specialist computing services.

HCRI students are able to make use of a dedicated room at the Institute. The Graduate School also offers dedicated state of the art facilities to research students, including common rooms and workstations.

Disability support

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