Taught course

Humanitarian Action and Peacebuilding

Oxford Brookes University · School of Architecture

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.

Months of entry


Course content

Built on the experiences and expertise developed by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP) at Oxford Brookes University, the MA explores the interactions between humanitarian action and peacebuilding. It links applied knowledge and practice with theory through online lectures, action research, sharing of experiences, discussions with key practitioners, and critical reflection on practices.

This programme is designed mainly for practitioners working in the fields of humanitarian action and peacebuilding, though it is open also to those working in related fields. It allows you to broaden your perceptions, critically review your role, and develop and refine hard and soft skills needed to work effectively in the fields of humanitarian action and peacebuilding. The programme is also relevant for practitioners working in other fields, interested in exploring new opportunities in conflict transformation.
This is the first MA aimed at investigating the interactions between humanitarian action and peacebuilding, merging knowledge and know-how developed in both fields to promote better targeted initiatives and comprehensive responses. This MA is also one of the first Masters working on the principle that long-term and sustainable peace can only be built by local and national actors and initiatives. Therefore culture sensitivity, community initiatives and local responses are at the core of the learning process.
To explore the links between humanitarian action and peacebuilding and learning from field practices, the MA relies on three distinctive features brought together to propose a unique and innovative learning approach:
  • Based entirely on online delivery to create a web-based learning community, the MA offers a flexible and diverse method based mostly on collaborative work. A large portion of the learning activities are based on discussion and confrontation of ideas and practices to enhance peer to peer learning and discourse.
  • The workplace is intended to be the main learning environment, to allow learners from all countries to engage with this global community of reflective practitioners. As a result, case studies, action research and hands-on exercises with live and field-based problems, working with communities, practitioners and agencies are an integral part of the programme.
  • Based on innovative multicultural and multidisciplinary approaches, the MA uses studies and theories from social sciences, peace and conflict studies, humanities, management, political sciences, law, urban planning and architecture. It also merges practice-based knowledge produced by field practitioners and research outputs from practice-oriented scholars. The diversity of learners and lecturers creates a unique opportunity to merge and discuss different cultural paradigms, perceptions and intellectual traditions.
This part-time programme is usually studied over 30 months. However, you are able to take up to 5 years to complete the necessary credits or to finish it in 24 months if you can take time out of work to complete the programme.
It is constituted of three core modules; three issue-based modules as well as a research skills module as preparation for the dissertation.
The three core modules are:
From Conflict Sensitivity to Conflict Transformation
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
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
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.
A PGCert in Humanitarian Action and Peacebuilding is also offered for those not wishing to undertake the full MA. It consists of the three core modules.
The three issue-based modules are:

Humanitarian and Peacebuilding Programmes in Urban Conflicts
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.
Protection of Civilians in Conflict and Post-conflict Settings
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
This module explores the different dimensions of post-conflict stabilisation and recovery, with a specific focus on restoration of governance and rule of law, justice and reconciliation. It specifically looks at the role of different actors, involved at different levels and in different capacities in the above mentioned processes. The second part of the module focuses on programming tools in post-conflict contexts, and introduces in a critical and non-prescriptive manner the human rights-based approach, as well as the human security-based approach to stabilisation and peacebuilding, presenting principles relating to human rights and human security in terms of potential operational standards for the planning, implementation and evaluation of interventions.
Note that one of the six modules could be replaced by an independent study, should you wish to investigate a specific issue in depth. Each of these six modules is accessible to associated students and can be studied individually.
The research component is constituted of:
Research Methods and Dissertation/Practice-based Final Work
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.

Qualification and course duration


distance learning
30 months

Course contact details

Programme Administrator
+44 (0)1865 483230