Paper: Mastering Humanitarianism? A Survey of Postgraduate Humanitarian Action Courses

Paper details

Paper authors Adriana Stibral
In panel on Practical Leadership through Education
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


The humanitarian sector has become increasingly professionalised over the past decades. This is reflected in the bureaucratisation and formalisation of humanitarian organisations as well as the emergence of new standards, principles, codes and frameworks in humanitarian action. The growing professionalisation is also reflected in the rapid growth of formal humanitarian training and education initiatives over the past 20 years. This is particularly visible on postgraduate university level and in the so-called Global North. Despite this increase, there is no agreement on what constitutes a core curriculum or pedagogy across humanitarian studies courses. How do how current Master’s of Humanitarian Assistance (MHA) offerings converge and differ, and how can such courses further their contribution to the humanitarian endeavour? Our research surveys 26 anglophone courses offered in the United States, Europe, United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Nigeria, finding key themes of course entry requirements, flexibility, research, practical components, and academic foci. We do not recommend what a core curriculum for humanitarian courses should be, but do argue that core curriculum for humanitarian courses should be identified by relevant and diverse stakeholders such as affected communities, humanitarian agencies, disaster management bodies, and governments, to ensure that courses in this field provide appropriate learning outcomes.



Adriana Stibral
Deakin University
Matthew Clarke
Deakin University