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Home>Study at York>Postgraduate taught>Courses 2019/20>International Humanitarian Affairs (MSc) (online)

MSc International Humanitarian Affairs (online)

Explore the changing nature of humanitarianism in this unique course, taught entirely online.

Year of entry: 2019


2 years part-time

Start date

September 2019 (term dates)

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This dynamic course explores the changing nature of humanitarianism and is interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary in its approach.

‌We offer an opportunity for you to engage with the philosophical and theoretical emergence of the concepts of humanitarianism and explore fast-changing, contemporary debates over the theory, policy and practice of humanitarian affairs. You will have the opportunity to network with like-minded experts, academics and policymakers from around the world who are responding to disasters, conflicts and complex political emergencies.

REF 2014

Our department is ranked first in the country for our research environment and 7th nationally for public health, health services and primary care in the latest REF (2014).

Expert tuition

​Our world-leading experts help improve human health and humanitarian responses through the analysis and delivery of leading research.


Work in collaboration with experts on humanitarianism from the United Nations, IFRC, INGOs, academic institutions and community groups in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Course content

Our team brings experiences and expertise from Sub-Saharan and West Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America and in responding to real-time tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, civil conflicts and many other disasters. Our team is conducting research and practice-oriented projects in most disaster and conflict affected countries in collaboration with the UN, INGOs, national governments and communities to challenge policy and practice to be effective, efficient and relevant.

This course will enable you to:

  • develop how you understand and respond to humanitarian needs in complex operational contexts such as violent conflict, natural hazards and political crises
  • examine and analyse contemporary issues, challenges and dilemmas using social, political, cultural, economic and environmental perspectives, lived experience of crisis-affected communities and changing policy debates as well as the technical approaches of the main humanitarian sectors
  • gain advanced academic and policy skills and learn how to use theory to maintain good practice
  • experience teaching led by a dedicated team of academic staff, policy makers and practitioners in the field of humanitarian affairs.

This course has two core academic staff members within the Department of Health Sciences, Dr Janaka Jayawickrama and Dr Jo Rose. More broadly, the Department of Health Sciences' teaching and research teams also contribute to the teaching and learning of the course. Our associates and collaborative organisations also contribute to enhance your networking and learning experiences while on the course. See our full list of MIHA staff and associates (PDF , 72kb).


This course is delivered in three main stages over two years: Taught Component (Year 1), Taught Component (Year 2), and MSc (Year 2 with the completion of the dissertation).

Taught component - Year 1

Taught component - Year 2

Please note, modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.


To successfully complete the course you will have to complete a 15,000 word dissertation based on an original research project.

The dissertation will allow you to design, implement and finalise your own research project with a final research report. The module encourages you to conduct your dissertation research on a subject matter or research question that is stimulating to you as well as important to the field of contemporary humanitarian affairs.

You will receive a personal supervisor for your dissertation who will offer you support throughout the research period.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2019/20

Study modeUK/EU/International
Part-time, distance learning (2 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee

Additional costs

We do not anticipate there being any additional costs to study this course. The tuition fees cover the learning and reading materials, access to the University of York library and various humanitarian databases. Depending on how you like to work, you may wish to print some documents out, this may incur an additional cost but that will be dependent on your own preference and working styles.

Fees information

UK/EU or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK/EU or international student.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching format

The course is primarily taught through our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). All your course materials will be provided through the VLE.

We combine a variety of learning techniques including interactive discussion groups and seminars led by practitioners, academic staff and course partners. We are constantly updating and exploring new learning technologies and developing new ways to provide the course material using the most effective methods.

You will enjoy the use of a wide variety of learning tools on this course including:

  • Participatory learning and teaching 
  • Experiential and problem-solving approaches
  • Interactive online discussions
  • Collaborative exercises and case study materials
  • Webinars for each module with leading experts
  • Bespoke study materials
  • Private study exercises
  • Access to the extensive online library.


As a distance learner you will also have the opportunity to access e-support from the Writing Centre at the University.

Assessment and feedback

You will be assessed throughout the course in theory, policy and practice elements. You will have to successfully complete all areas to be able to progress.

A variety of assessment methods including critical essays, analytical reports, posters and proposals will be used. You will be given individual written assessment feedback for every piece of assessed work. You can request detailed verbal feedback either through an email or a Skype meeting.

Careers and skills

Our students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and many are working full-time jobs in real-time humanitarian responses where they can take full advantage of the flexible nature of the course.

The learning and teaching on the course enables you to build upon the practical knowledge gained from your professional experience with cutting edge theory and an insight into humanitarian policy making. Successful completion of the course leads to a globally recognised qualification.

Our graduates have gone on to leading roles in governmental and non-governmental organisations, the United Nations and charities, working in areas affected by disasters and conflicts around the world. Their work spans the humanitarian and development spectrum, from camp management to advising the UN and governments on humanitarian responses. Many go on to further study at York and other leading universities.

Career opportunities

  • Central government roles
  • Local government roles
  • United Nations roles eg in the High Commission for Refugees, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Mission in Sudan and the World Health Organisation
  • International NGOs eg Mercy Corps, Care International, Aga Khan Development Network, Save the Children and Shelter Box
  • International Donor Agencies eg DFiD (UK) and USAID
  • University roles

Transferable skills

Upon successful completion of this course you will gain:

  • The ability to collaborate with affected populations as equal partners
  • Analytical and critical skills to engage at policy and practice levels
  • Creativity and imagination to respond to complex and challenging emergencies
  • The ability to facilitate positive change and response improvement
  • The ability to undertake reflective independent learning
  • The ability to research, source and examine information thoroughly
  • The capacity to critically analyse evidence and construct coherent arguments
  • Intellectual independence and autonomy
  • A flexible and open-minded approach to work.

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer

Applicants are expected to have at least an upper second-class (2:1) honours degree or the international equivalent in an appropriate subject. However, we are willing to consider applications from those who do not have the appropriate qualifications but have suitable humanitarian and development experience through working with the United Nations, international humanitarian and development organisations, government authorities, community-based groups or local charities.

Other qualifications

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

  • IELTS: Overall of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.5 in writing and no less than 6.0 in any other component
  • PTE Academic: 61, with a minimum of 61 in writing, and no less than 55 in all other components
  • CAE and CPE: (from January 2015) 176, with a minimum of 176 in writing, and no less than 169 in all other components
  • TOEFL: 87, with a minimum of 23 in writing and no less than 21 in all other components
  • Trinity: Level 3, with 'Merit' in each component

For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

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Department of Health Sciences