Studying Humanitarianism - A Course Audit of Master's Degree Programs in Humanitarian Action


  • Adriana Stibral Deakin University, Australia



Humanitarian studies, Human displacement, Humanitarian aid, Course curriculum, Tertiary education


Humanitarian emergencies are increasing globally and the world is facing the worst human displacement crisis since the end of World War II. The number of forcibly displaced people due to conflict, violence, severe weather events and complex emergencies has reached a record high of approximately 70 million. The United Nations estimates that 235 million people will urgently require humanitarian assistance in 2021 at a cost of approximately US$35 billion. The increase of emergencies as well as the expansion of the humanitarian sector are accompanied by growing levels of professionalisation. The past few decades are characterised by humanitarian reforms, and the emergence of new codes, standards and frameworks to provide improved, better coordinated humanitarian aid. The increasing professionalisation of humanitarian aid is also reflected in the rapid growth of professional training and formal education. University courses in the field of ‘humanitarian action’ are multiplying around the globe. This is especially the case at a master’s level and most visible in the ‘Global North’. Despite this trend, there is no universal agreement on a core course curriculum in Humanitarian Studies. This working paper surveys 23 ‘humanitarian action’ master’s degree programs offered in the US, the UK, Europe, Australia and Nigeria to identify key commonalities across courses. This paper does not put forth a proposal of how a core curriculum should look like; rather, it highlights core commonalities across programs. Findings presented in this working paper are preliminary and contribute to the understanding of what could qualify as part of a ‘core curriculum’.


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Author Biography

  • Adriana Stibral, Deakin University, Australia

    Adriana A. Stibral is a casual academic staff member at Deakin University, where she is also completing her PhD. Her doctorate examines the contribution of the emerging ‘Humanitarian Studies’ field of scholarship to the professionalisation and transformation of the humanitarian sector. Stibral is an Associate Humanitarian Trainer for RedR Australia, a leading international humanitarian response agency that trains and deploys technical specialists. Previously, she was employed as a university lecturer and course director in the field of Humanitarian and Community Studies. Regions where Stibral has worked include Europe, Australia, the United States, West Africa and the Middle East.


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How to Cite

“Studying Humanitarianism - A Course Audit of Master’s Degree Programs in Humanitarian Action” (2021) The Humanitarian Leader, p. Working Paper 012, March 2021. doi:10.21153/thl2021volno0art1031.