Humanitarian Action and Peacebuilding

MA or PGCert

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Key facts

Start dates

January 2024 / September 2024 / January 2025 / September 2025

Course length

Part time: 30 months - Distance learning only


The Humanitarian Action and Peacebuilding master's degree is for practitioners already working in these fields and in related areas.

Designed and delivered jointly with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the Humanitarian Action and Peacebuilding master's gives you access to resources and support from both institutions online and in the field through UN missions. And we use the knowledge and expertise of the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP).

A flexible and user-friendly online learning environment enables you to learn from your workplace. During the course you will:

  • investigate cutting-edge issues in the field
  • propose innovative tools
  • reflect on current field practices
  • broaden your perceptions
  • develop and refine the hard and soft skills needed to work effectively.

You will have support from a team of academic experts and top-ranked practitioners, and field experts for specific topics.

This course is also relevant for practitioners working in other fields interested in exploring opportunities in conflict transformation.

Student on field trip

How to apply

Entry requirements

Specific entry requirements

The programme is open to all candidates who fulfil at least one of the following conditions:

  • hold an approved honours degree (or equivalent) at 2:1 or above in a relevant discipline, and preferably some experience in the field of humanitarian action and peacebuilding or related fields
  • hold a relevant recognised diploma and/or certified professional qualification and 3 to 5 years' experience in humanitarian action and peacebuilding or related fields
  • have substantial and proven field experience (minimum 10 years) in humanitarian action, peacebuilding and related fields.

In exceptional circumstances, where applicants can show that they have qualifications or experience or both that demonstrate that they have knowledge and capabilities equivalent to those listed above, they may be admitted onto the course.

Please also see the University's general entry requirements.

English language requirements

At least 6.5 in IELTS, with a minimum of 6.0 across all four components of the test.

Please also see the University's standard English language requirements.

International qualifications and equivalences


English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the University's requirements. Find out more about English language requirements.

Pathways courses for international and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you meet the entry requirements for your postgraduate course and also familiarise you with university life in the UK.

Take a Pre-Master's course to develop your subject knowledge, study skills and academic language level in preparation for your master's course.

If you need to improve your English language, we offer pre-sessional English language courses to help you meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s course.

Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

When you accept our offer, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Enrolment. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

Application process

Tuition fees

Please see the fees note
Home (UK) distance learning
£5,250 (MA year 1 & Certificate)

International distance learning
£5,250 (MA year 1 & Certificate)

Home (UK) distance learning
£5,500 (MA year 1 & Certificate)

International distance learning
£5,500 (MA year 1 & Certificate)

Questions about fees?

Contact Student Finance on:

Tuition fees

2024 / 25
Home (UK) distance learning
£5,250 (MA year 1 & Certificate)

International distance learning
£5,250 (MA year 1 & Certificate)

2025 / 26
Home (UK) distance learning
£5,500 (MA year 1 & Certificate)

International distance learning
£5,500 (MA year 1 & Certificate)

Questions about fees?

Contact Student Finance on:

+44 (0)1865 534400

Fees are quoted for the first year only, fees for the second year will remain the same.

The following factors will be taken into account by the University when it is setting the annual fees: inflationary measures such as the retail price indices, projected increases in University costs, changes in the level of funding received from Government sources, admissions statistics and access considerations including the availability of student support. 

How and when to pay

Tuition fee instalments for the semester are due by the Monday of week 1 of each semester. Students are not liable for full fees for that semester if they leave before week 4. If the leaving date is after week 4, full fees for the semester are payable.

  • For information on payment methods please see our Make a Payment page.
  • For information about refunds please visit our Refund policy page

Additional costs

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course are detailed below.

Funding your studies

Financial support and scholarships

Featured funding opportunities available for this course.

All financial support and scholarships

View all funding opportunities for this course

Learning and assessment

This course has been designed to be studied by students working in the field.
100% Online delivery
The programme is 100% online conducted via webinars, tutorials, discussions and group work. The workload per module is estimated to be 200 hours per module divided into four types of activities.

Around 25 % of your time will be spent in staff-led activities such as webinars, tutorials and discussions, 25% of your time will be spent in self-led activities such as readings or independent exercises, another 25 % will be used in preparing your assignments and finally the remaining quarter of your workload will be directly derived from or based on professional past of current practices.

This part-time programme is usually studied over 30 months. Being part-time, it allows you to remain in the field working whilst completing your studies. However, you can extend your studies if needed and take up to 5 years to complete it. Or finish it in 24 months if you can take time off work to complete the course.

Group of students listening to a lecture

Start this course in January

You have the option to start this course in January. You will study a range of modules between January and May. During the summer months of June, July and August you will study further modules and begin work on your dissertation. Between September and December you will complete your final modules and focus on your dissertation.

Study modules

The modules listed below are for the master's award. For the PGCert award your module choices may be different. Please contact us for more details.

Taught modules

Compulsory modules

  • From Conflict Sensitivity to Conflict Transformation (20 credits)

    This module equips you with a sound understanding of the complexity of conflicts, including of conceptual frameworks and theoretical debates related to humanitarian action and peacebuilding in complex environments. It provides you with the analytical tools to understand the contexts of conflict and to assess the challenges faced as practitioners. 

  • Culture-Sensitivity in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings (20 credits)

    It is agreed that emergencies, rehabilitation and peacebuilding programmes need to be embedded in local cultures. How can we be truly 'culture sensitive'? If this principle is clear, the practicalities remain confusing and difficult to put into operation. Culture sensitivity requires knowledge, skills and competences but also an attitude towards others. This module allows you to understand and deal with core issues related to culture, communication, trust building and culture-sensitivity. You also to explore issues related to cultural dimensions such as gender, displacement and identity. 

  • Leadership, Team and Self-management in Conflict Settings (20 credits)

    You will critically examine some of the personal skills (or 'soft skills') needed by professionals working in humanitarian action and peacebuilding. In particular, the module focuses on leadership skills, team management and self-management skills. The session on self-management is more specifically centred on stress and stress management and introduces you to a number of techniques that can be applied for self-support, but also to support peers and members of communities in conflict-affected countries.

  • Protection of Civilians in Conflict and Post-conflict Settings (20 credits)

    This module reviews the critical issues related to the protection of civilians in conflict and post-conflict contexts by exploring different conceptual and operational frameworks. In its second part, the module focuses on the planning and implementation of protection activities and offers you the opportunity to apply different tools to concrete situations. The module concludes with a discussion on community-based protection strategies, including unarmed civilian protection.

  • Post-Conflict Stabilisation and Recovery (20 credits)

    This module reviews the critical issues related to the protection of civilians in conflict and post-conflict contexts by exploring different conceptual and operational frameworks. In its second part, the module focuses on the planning and implementation of protection activities and offers you the opportunity to apply different tools to concrete situations. The module concludes with a discussion on community-based protection strategies, including unarmed civilian protection.

  • Humanitarian and Peacebuilding Programmes in Urban Conflicts (20 credits)

    Focusing on urban spaces becomes increasingly important for the efficiency of humanitarian actions, but presents new challenges as humanitarian and development traditions are usually focused on 'open spaces' and rural environments. In urban conflicts, all lines are blurred and programming will need to take that into account. Conflicts particularly have an impact on the way people produce, understand and inhabit spaces and places. Rebuilding some social links and establishing communities in locations will become one of the key elements in conflict transformation and humanitarian programmes. Through action research methods, issues related to urban settings and specificities of humanitarian projects can be investigated.

  • Conflict and Post-conflict Research: Methods and Ethics (10 credits)

Optional modules

Mental health, psychosocial support, and wellbeing in conflict-affected areas (20 credits)

The objective of this module is to explore, through a culturally sensitive lens, the impact of mental health and psychosocial problems on the wellbeing of humanitarian and peacebuilding practitioners as well as on the affected populations. It will present a double framework for practitioners working in the field: firstly it will look at how practitioners can operate in a way that is sensitive towards the psychosocial problems faced by the affected populations (hence avoid aggravating the suffering of the communities they serve); secondly, it will consider how these problems, as well as the stress intrinsic to working in conflict affected areas can impact on humanitarian workers themselves - offering some guidance and tools on how to better account for well-being in crisis situations.

Forced Migration, Protection and Humanitarianism (20 credits)

This module explores the experience of refugees and other forced migrants displaced by conflict. It examines the causes of contemporary forced migration in order to understand the implications of different causes for the nature of migration flows and the corresponding humanitarian response. It critically evaluates the international and regional normative frameworks for the protection of forced migrants, considering different migrant categories: refugees, internally displaced persons, stateless persons, and victims of human trafficking. The module considers the practical dilemmas in protecting the rights of forced migrants.

Final project

Compulsory modules

  • Practice-based Study/ Dissertation (50 credits)

    The dissertation is a large piece of work that enables you to explore an issue or theme in depth. The dissertation is a self-driven work, where the supervisor plays the role of advisor, supporter and questioner.

Optional modules

Independent Study (20 credits)

Please note: As our courses are reviewed regularly as part of our quality assurance framework, the modules you can choose from may vary from those shown here. The structure of the course may also mean some modules are not available to you.

Learning and teaching

This programme is based on self-led learning and strong interactive teaching tools, as much on peer-to-peer as on tutors’ mentoring.

You’ll learn from the workplace, using practical cases either through action-research or through case studies; particularly in 'learning by doing', 'self-reflection' and 'action testing of theories'.

The course merges practice-based knowledge from field practitioners with research outputs from practice-oriented scholars. We use studies and theories from:

  • social sciences
  • peace and conflict studies
  • humanities
  • political sciences
  • law
  • urban planning
  • architecture.

UNITAR and Brookes have considerable experience in delivering humanitarian education to humanitarian actors in field operations. Insight from previous education programmes in similar settings shows that learners are often under constant stress, working in harsh conditions and with limited access to the internet.

As a result, a variety of learning tools are applied within each module.


Assessment methods used on this course

Our course is based on self-led learning. You'll engage with strong interactive teaching tools and peer-to-peer learning. Our teaching methods include:

  • online lectures
  • webinars
  • tutorials
  • debates
  • discussions
  • action research
  • experience sharing
  • discussions with key practitioners
  • critical reflection on practices.

You will learn from your workplace, using practical cases through action research or case studies and you will:

  • develop new knowledge based on the specifics of humanitarian action and peacebuilding
  • improve related practices
  • reflect and acquire attitudes and personal competences.


This course is a joint initiative from the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP) at Oxford Brookes and the UNITAR Peacekeeping Training programme.

The CENDEP is a multidisciplinary research centre. We develop practice-oriented approaches for conflict, and disaster-settings. And focus on:

  • humanitarian action
  • recovery
  • development
  • human rights
  • peacebuilding.

Our research contributes to knowledge for the development of:

  • global policy-making
  • development of national laws and strategies
  • mobilisation and engagement with local communities.

The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Peacekeeping Training Programme contributes to the international community’s efforts towards the peaceful resolution of conflicts. And the building of lasting peace. Training and capacity-development activities cover:

  • multilateralism
  • economic development and social inclusion
  • environmental sustainability and green development
  • sustainable peace
  • research and technology applications.

After you graduate

Career prospects

This course is ideal for a career in the field of humanitarian action, conflict transformation or related fields, such as:

  • civil servants or diplomats in charge of humanitarian affairs
  • academics teaching humanitarian practices
  • journalists seeking a better understanding of humanitarian issues
  • military personnel ready to be deployed in a field of operation where humanitarian actions are taking place.

Programme changes:
On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published on the website. For more information, please visit our changes to programmes page.