Syllabus for Master's Programme in International Humanitarian Action

Masterprogram i international humanitarian action

Entry Requirements

Academic requirements
A Bachelor's degree, equivalent to a Swedish Kandidatexamen, from an internationally recognised university.

Language requirements
All applicants need to verify English-language proficiency. This is usually done through an internationally recognised test such as TOEFL or IELTS or through previous university studies.
The minimum test scores are:

  • IELTS: a minimum overall score of 6.5 and no section below 6.0;
  • TOEFL internet-based: minimum score of 24 (scale 0–30) in the written test and a total score of 93;
  • Cambridge: CAE (C1), CPE (C2).
Knowledge of other languages and practical experience in the area of humanitarian action are recommended.

Decisions and Guidelines

The Master Programme in International Humanitarian Action is given in cooperation with seven other European universities within the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA):  Universidad de Deusto, Spain, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany, Université Aix-Marseille, France, University College Dublin, Ireland, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, the Netherlands, Uniwersytet Warszawski, Poland and L-Università ta' Malta, Malta. Other NOHA member universities or NOHA partner universities, generally outside Europe, may also be involved in Semester 3.

The acronym NOHA is officially connected to the programme, which may also be referred to informally as "the NOHA programme". The degree programme is based at the Department of Theology and is carried out in collaboration with other departments at Uppsala university that have relevant research and teaching capacities within the disciplines of law, peace and conflict, cultural anthropology, management and women's and children's health in relation to humanitarian action. The programme is multi-disciplinary.

The structure of the programme was agreed on 2017-09-07 by the board of the Faculty of Theology in compliance with the guidelines of the International NOHA Association.


The Master Programme in International Humanitarian Action aims to provide students the competences and skills needed to work in different areas of the humanitarian field. The programme has a special focus on how to make independent, critical and constructive contributions to both humanitarian policies and the implementation of humanitarian activities. It also aims to provide the student with empirical data, methods and theoretical perspectives based on contemporary research relevant for the humanitarian field. A student who graduates from the programme can take on different professional roles such as project manager, policy analyst or desk officer in NGOs and governmental organisations.

Learning Outcomes

After successful completion of the programme, the student is expected to have:
1. specialised knowledge and a critical methodological understanding of appropriate research methods and research design for the humanitarian field and for original research in humanitarian studies;
2. justified and applied methodology and scientific methods correctly in an original piece of humanitarian research; 
3. studied a research topic in depth, and conducted and completed a medium-length research project largely self-directed; 
4. a critical understanding of the humanitarian principles and standards and the problematic nature of the dilemmas involved; 
5. demonstrated the ability to formulate adequate and ethically sound recommendations for humanitarian action grounded in the humanitarian principles and values, translating these in innovative, practical terms to policies, strategies and programme management;
6. the ability to take responsibility for specifying clear ethical standards informed by the humanitarian principles, values and professional codes of conduct; 
7. the ability to apply the humanitarian principles and standards to dilemmas in complex and insecure contexts in an innovative and strategically correct manner;
8. highly specialised knowledge and a critical understanding of humanitarian concepts and theories; 
9. innovative expertise on a particular current theme in humanitarian action with an interdisciplinary understanding in terms of its political, legal, anthropological, public health and management aspects; 
10. specialised skills to conceptualise, interpret and critically analyse complex humanitarian crises and interventions on the basis of a variety of sources, generating new interdisciplinary expertise to help solve complex humanitarian problems;
11. demonstrated the ability to position one's own research findings in the broader context of humanitarian action; 
12. developed an open attitude towards acquiring new knowledge and understanding about professional and academic developments in humanitarian action;
13. a thorough understanding of personal security risks in humanitarian fieldwork and possible techniques and strategies to reduce the impact of external stressors; 
14. Specialised problem-solving skills to promote the best and safest response in humanitarian emergency contexts in terms of personal and social implications and foreseeable harm by humanitarian interventions;
15. the ability to act firmly and appropriately in insecure situations according to the security rules, taking into account advice from security sources and other stakeholders;
16. a critical understanding of opportunities and threats of current trends in the humanitarian sector
17. demonstrated a range of coaching and management skills to carefully assess the relevant factors for decision-making in terms of operative context, possible effects and risks and the best way for successful implementation of strategic decisions; 
18. demonstrated the ability to act on decisions made; 
19. adopted the reflective practice of analysing personal learning goals and ways to achieve them; 
20. the ability to stimulate the involvement and development of team members and partners to achieve a successful humanitarian project;
21. a highly specialised knowledge of the diversity of actors and stakeholders, their interaction and competition, and a thorough understanding of the importance of coordination between different levels in the humanitarian system;
22. demonstrated the ability to listen to beneficiaries and stakeholders and taking into account their considerations, to communicate humanitarian expertise and research findings in a structured, intelligible way to specialists and non-specialists in a multi-cultural humanitarian setting;
23. the ability to cultivate relations of sensitive respect in terms of cultural and gender diversity and to cooperate in a quest for mutual benefit or compromise;
24. the ability to involve partners and team members in different levels of decision-making and to act in a responsible and accountable manner concerning one's own decisions; 
25. the ability to actively contribute to team-building, a balanced distribution of work, and the fostering of a good atmosphere and cohesion in group projects in an effort to achieve the common goal;
26. a highly specialised knowledge and critical understanding of the impact of various humanitarian action interventions on the needs and rights of crisis-affected people and their interaction with interests of relevant actors in a certain professional regional context;
27. specialised problem-solving skills combining interdisciplinary knowledge and understanding of the range of needs and capabilities of crisis-affected people in a certain regional context toward relevant, evidence-based solutions for effective response;
28. the ability to learn from past experiences, identify opportunities to overcome humanitarian dilemmas and propose new work methods for increased efficiency, effectiveness and stakeholder accountability in complex and unpredictable humanitarian environments.

Layout of the Programme

The programme consists of the following courses:

First semester 30 credits: FOUNDATION PERIOD
- The Intensive Programme, 5 credits 
- Legal Dimensions of Humanitarian Action, 5 credits 
- World Politics and Humanitarian Action, 5 credits 
- Anthropology and Intercultural Aspects of Humanitarian Action, 5 credits 
- Public Health in Humanitarian Action, 5 credits 
- Management, 5 credits 

Second semester 30 credits: SPECIALISATION PERIOD
Uppsala students must go on mobility during the second semester to another NOHA member university and take 30 credits of studies in Humanitarian Action there.
In turn, the following courses are offered to incoming exchange students from other NOHA universities, and are not available to Uppsala students of this Master's programme:
- Conflict and Peacebuilding, 15 credits 
- Religion and Humanitarian Action, 5 credits 
- Advanced Management, 5 credits 
- Methodology, 5 credits

Third semester 30 credits: CONTEXTUALISATION PERIOD
Alternative 1: Regional Training at a NOHA member university or NOHA partner university, generally outside Europe, 30 credits
Alternative 2: Work placement in a humanitarian organisation
- Placement, 20 credits
- Career Development Training, 10 credits
Fourth semester 30 credits: RESEARCH PERIOD
- Master's Thesis, 30 credits
The student can only pass second-semester modules after having passed successfully a total load of 20 credits of first-semester modules on the degree programme.
The student can only pass third-semester modules after having passed successfully 25 credits of first-semester modules and 20 credits of second semester-modules on the degree programme.
The student can only commence with fourth-semester modules after having passed successfully all first-semester modules, 25 credits of second-semester modules and 20 credits of third-semester modules on the degree programme.
Exemption from the prescribed compulsory order of examinations shall only be given in exceptional cases and must be approved by all universities involved.


All students with a minimum first degree of three years of full-time study can after completion of 120 credits including a Master's Thesis, apply for a Master of Arts in Theology, with main area of studies in International Humanitarian Action 120 credits, from Uppsala University.