Humanitarian Policy and Practice MSc

London, Bloomsbury

This Humanitarian Policy and Practice MSc will equip you with the analytical and evaluative skills to enable you to interpret and analyse complex humanitarian situations, while reflecting on humanitarian policies and practices in the past and present.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Programme also available on a modular (flexible) basis.
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
Programme also available on a modular (flexible) basis.
1 calendar year
2 calendar years
5 calendar years
Programme starts
September 2024
Applications accepted
All applicants: 16 Oct 2023 – 28 Jun 2024
Applications close at 5pm UK time

Applications open

Entry requirements

A UK degree at 2:1 classification or above in a social science or health/medical science subject or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Candidates who do not meet the academic standards but who have 5 or more years relevant professional experience (this can be a combination of voluntary and paid work) may be considered for admission.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 2

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level.

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

Preventing and responding to complex human and planetary needs in situations where the means to respond are limited, is a growing global priority. Conflict, environmental disasters, disease outbreaks and the rapidly escalating impact of the climate emergency demand a comprehensive understanding of the root causes and drivers of humanitarian situations, and an ability to respond effectively and ethically in such circumstances. 

Using real-world case studies, this programme will draw from many of the political, ethical and other challenges that humanitarian responders face today.

Based in UCL’s world-leading Faculty of Population Health Sciences, the core of your learning will be organised around a commitment to improving humanitarian policy and practice with the aim of improving collective wellbeing, ensuring ethical and effective humanitarian response, and mitigating the risk of future humanitarian crises. 

Who this course is for

This programme is designed for students with an interest in humanitarian issues and a relevant first degree. We accept applications from people with a wide range of qualifications, and we will consider professional experience where students do not have a relevant first degree. We are especially keen to receive applications from students with lived experience of humanitarian situations.

What this course will give you

You will develop the ability to understand the complex contexts in which humanitarian needs arise, and how such situations come to be framed and understood as crises. You will gain the interdisciplinary skills to make complex decisions that take into account geo-political, social, cultural, environmental, health and other factors.

The humanitarian sector and system has changed dramatically over recent decades. On this course we aim to support sector-wide calls that demand a shift away from paternalistic, ‘top-down’ approaches towards locally driven and locally owned responses that engage with local networks and markets, ensure equitable partnerships, and that make use of relevant technologies. 

In the years and decades ahead, we face a plethora of local, global and planetary challenges and threats that require a knowledgeable, interconnected and committed workforce of value-driven practitioners, policy-makers and researchers. 

Individuals engaged in humanitarian response and critique need to a strong academic background that draws from a knowledge across a variety of disciplines in order to understand, analyse, and, critique existing and future systems, approaches, and processes. 

This programme offers you a rich, cross-disciplinary perspective along with a solid grounding in the methodologies and tools needed to interpret conflicting information and make appropriate judgements in difficult circumstances. Such knowledge and understanding draws from a diversity of sectors and disciplines and will therefore equip you with essential skills required to work across the humanitarian sector and beyond.

The foundation of your career

Graduates with an MSc in Humanitarian Policy and Practice will have a broad, interdisciplinary academic qualification that demonstrates a strong interest in humanitarian issues, and the theoretical knowledge and practical skills to contribute productively and critically to policy formulation, research, and practice across the humanitarian and related sectors. 

The course is taught by a team with several decades of experience in humanitarian research and operational response and is specifically designed to position graduates to enter and advance within the humanitarian sector. Course graduates will be well placed to pursue implementation, advisory and research roles with governmental departments, non-governmental organisations, and civil society and community networks that are engaged in different aspects of humanitarian policy formulation and response. 


On completion of this programme you will have:

  • A detailed understanding of the subject area of humanitarian policy and practice
  • The ability to critically analyse humanitarian interventions and policies
  • The ability to select and apply tools and knowledge to evaluate humanitarian interventions and policies
  • The ability to critically evaluate how knowledge is produced in humanitarian contexts, and the ability to critically appraise and conduct research
  • Essential project management skills
  • Effective written and verbal communication skills
  • Effective teamwork skills


Alongside your studies, you will have the opportunity to engage with a diversity of organisations engaged in different aspects of humanitarian response. 

Notably, the group project has been designed with the aim of connecting students with operational humanitarian organisations such that students are exposed to the real-life challenges that shape policy-making processes and operational humanitarian response. 

London remains a vibrant hub for humanitarian research, policy engagement and political engagement. Students will have opportunities to connect with experts across UCL and affiliate institutions. Expert talks, debates and career panels will also be organised for students on a periodic basis. 

UCL is a member of the International Humanitarian Studies Association (IHSA), which students will have the opportunity to make use of during their studies.

Teaching and learning

While lectures, seminars, self-directed study will form the main body of the teaching and learning methods, there is also a strong focus on group work, reflecting the reality of working in the humanitarian sector. Group work will comprise of specific projects, based on interactive work, task sharing, reflecting, discussion with team members and evaluating approaches.

The course is built around expert- and practice-informed case studies and will draw from operational expertise from individuals and organisations that are actively engaged on humanitarian issues.

Students will be able to make use of a broad range of digital resources, and face-to-face learning will prioritise expert speakers and small-group practical work on case studies.

Types of assessment:

Written exams – testing and applying knowledge and understanding to case study/scenario analysis.

Coursework essays – organisation of knowledge and understanding in order to develop cohesive argument.

Presentations – selection, synthesis and communication of information for varied audience/ purpose, media, precis/concision, including both group and individual projects.

Portfolio - collated series of short pieces of writing which have been developed and critiqued over the course of the module.

Group project – Presentation demonstrating planning and preparation and teamwork; complemented by a written report demonstrating structured subject knowledge from across the course.

Research project – Research analysis, literature review, critical appraisal, structured research writing and presentation of argument.

Typical contact hours and hours of self-directed study for this programme (though this varies slightly across different modules and for individual study or dissertations) are as follows:

For a 30-credit module (300 hours): 60 hours contact teaching (lectures and /or seminars); 160 hours independent study (reading, undertaking formative assessments etc; and 80 hours for revision, summative assessments(s) etc.

For a 15-credit module(150 hours): 30 hours contact teaching (lectures and /or seminars); 80 hours independent study (reading, undertaking formative assessments etc; and 40 hours for revision, summative assessments(s) etc.


Students take eight core modules, plus one optional module. Seven are taught modules and two are project-based. 

Click through for further information about the module: Programme Management for Humanitarians.

For all other modules please see the links below.

You will study over two academic years, during which time you will take eight core modules, plus one optional module. Seven are taught modules and two are project-based.

Click through for further information about the module: Programme Management for Humanitarians.

For all other modules please see the links below.

You will study for up to a maximum of five academic years, during which time you will take eight core modules plus one optional module. Seven are taught modules and two are project-based. Flexible students can take as many or as few modules as they would like in any given academic year.

Click through for further information about the module: Programme Management for Humanitarians.

For all other modules please see the links below.

Please note that the list of modules given here is indicative. This information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability are subject to change. Modules that are in use for the current academic year are linked for further information. Where no link is present, further information is not yet available.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits Upon successful completion of 180 credits, you will be awarded an MSc in Humanitarian Policy and Practice.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2024/25) £12,700 £6,350
Tuition fees (2024/25) £34,400 £17,200

Programme also available on a modular (flexible) basis.

Additional costs

There are no additional costs for this programme.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

Our Studentships and Funding page highlights a range of funding sources available within the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, across UCL and external to UCL.

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

The MSc Dental Public Health Aubrey Sheiham Scholarship

Deadline: 28 June 2024
Value: £2,500 (home students); £5,000 (overseas students) (1 yr)
Criteria Based on academic merit
Eligibility: UK, EU, Overseas

Next steps

There is an application processing fee for this programme of £90 for online applications and £115 for paper applications. Further information can be found at Application fees.

When we assess your application we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Humanitarian Policy and Practice at graduate level
  • why you want to study Humanitarian Policy and Practice at UCL
  • what particularly attracts you to the chosen programme
  • how your academic and professional background meets the demands of this challenging programme
  • where you would like to go professionally with your degree

Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

Year of entry: 2024-2025

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