UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction


BSc Global Humanitarian Studies

This exciting multidisciplinary programme aims to educate and train future generations of humanitarian leaders in the theory and practice of humanitarian action.

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In the Global Humanitarian Studies BSc, you will learn about the political, historical and development context, but you will also gain an understanding of the emergence, impacts and response to humanitarian crises. The critical and analytical research skills you will acquire, grounded in practice, will equip you to anticipate evolving humanitarian threats and manage widening vulnerability and crisis response.

Why study with the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction?

As a student in the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR) you will benefit from learning in a truly multidisciplinary environment. Staff and students in the IRDR come from a range of backgrounds and our research crosses traditional boundaries to produce innovative results. As well as your timetabled teaching, we have an active seminar series on international development, specialised masterclasses, high-profile public meetings and networking events with senior policymakers, UN managers and front-line workers.

Our staff are leaders in their field and course content is informed by the cutting-edge research taking place in the department. The IRDR is featured regularly in global press and media outlets, providing commentary a wide range of risk and disaster reduction subjects, including most recently the Coronavirus pandemic, extreme weather and storms, and flooding and flood risk. 

Programme structure

You will study this course full time over three years. In the first and second years you will take 120 credits from up to eight taught modules (15 or 30 credits each) and in the third year you will take 90 credits from six taught modules (15 credits each) and an independent research project worth 30 credits.

You will take a compulsory central core of humanitarian studies running through all three years with optional modules within humanitarian affairs and your chosen specialism. The compulsory central core comprises five 15 credit taught modules in years one and two and in year three, three 15 credit taught modules and 30 credits from the independent research project. The remaining 45 credits each year is comprised of optional taught modules. You can select modules from your chosen specialism and humanitarian affairs which provide both breadth and depth according to your interests. You'll be able to find out more about the different specialism pathways during the first few weeks of the programme, with plenty of support to help you choose the ones that are right for you. 

There are 150 study hours per module, totalling 1200 hours per year. For a taught 15 credit module you will spend about 20 hours in lectures, 20 in practicals, seminars, tutorials, fieldwork, and the remainder in independent study (approximately double for a 30 credit module).

You can find out more about the structure of the programme in our Introduction to the Global Humanitarian Studies BSc video on YouTube.

Core modules

Please note these modules are indicative and may be subject to change. You can find more details about module content, including assessment methods, in the UCL Module Catalogue.

Year 1

Global History of Humanitarianism 

This module introduces international humanitarian history since the foundation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement in 1863 through to the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 and the Rohingya Exodis. Lectures will examine key events and ideas that have shaped the system, including: the Geneva Conventions, humanitarian politics of the 1967 Biafran war, and the international system’s successes and failures in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Seminars and tutorials will be used for discussion groups and feedback sessions.

Humanitarian Crisis Response

Since the Second World War the international community has evolved a complete system for responding to major humanitarian emergencies, coordinated by United Nations agencies. This module will explain the structure and dynamics of the relief system and the challenges it faces during crises and disasters. It will enable students to become familiar with the major issues and trends associated with modern humanitarianism and the methodologies used when responding to disasters. Examples will illustrate the principal challenges and achievements in the field. The module will combine practical, theoretical and ethical approaches to humanitarian action. Standards, norms and protocols will be discussed. So will the relationship between non-governmental organisations and government-sponsored aid. Relief appeals and the donor system will be covered in this module.

Climate and Natural Hazard Risks 

This module introduces the concepts of hazards, vulnerability, marginalisation, risk, resilience, adaptation and disaster and how they integrate will be discussed. It will address strategies for reducing the impacts and the likelihood of disasters in fragile areas. It will help students to understand social, economic, ecological, institutional, cultural and physical impacts of climate change and natural hazards on vulnerable populations in different environment settings and conflict affected states around the world.

Social and Geospatial Data Analysis

This module will help students to familiarise with a range of statistical techniques in order to understand and analyse data used in humanitarian studies. They will be able to apply the acquired skills through the analysis of both quantitative social survey data (collected through interviews and questionnaires) and spatial data (satellite images, and ordnance survey maps). At the end of the module, the students will be able to design and implement quantitative research, communicate statistical outcomes competently, link research questions and statistical techniques, and visualise results (maps, tables, and diagrams) from data analyses.

Practice and Analysis of Humanitarian Action

This module aims to equip you as a student with the knowledge and skills to analyse and engage with contemporary issues in the theory and practice of humanitarian action. You will learn about humanitarian action in the context of international development, environmental and climate change and in conflict zones.

What differentiates this module is the emphasis on students engaging with researchers, experts and practitioners, and where possible community members, from crisis-affected contexts, as well as UK experts and practitioners who have worked in those contexts.

Year 2

Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Conflict and Migration

This module analyses historical and contemporary perspectives on forced migration and the range of theories on conflict and violence that causes these events. Lectures will examine key events and ideas that have contributed to forced migration, including: the Rohingya Exodus, the Syrian civil war, the conflict in South Sudan, and longer historical perspectives from the Second World War and the Partition of India. The issues of gender-based violence and human trafficking will be examined. Seminars and tutorials will be used for discussion groups and feedback sessions.

Humanitarian Planning and Logistics

The challenge of humanitarian assistance is the physical deployment of goods and personnel. National and international disaster relief, as well as other forms of crisis management such as peacekeeping missions, have to assure the development and maintenance of their lifelines of supply. This module addresses these issues through scenario-based workshops supported by seminars focusing on disaster preparedness and response, but also introducing the role of sustainable logistics in the transition to recovery. Water, sanitation and hygiene issues will be addressed.

Humanitarian Policy

This module will provide students with an introduction to the global humanitarian policy making process. Each year the module will focus on one of the major global humanitarian frameworks (e.g. Sendai Framework for DRR; SDGs; World Humanitarian Grand Bargain; etc). Lectures, including guest speakers, and visits to organisations within the humanitarian sector which will provide students with a solid background to humanitarian policy. Students will interact directly with those who have been/are involved in global humanitarian policy development to get a ‘behind the scenes’ view of the process.

Qualitative Research Methods

To come

International Legal Framework for Humanitarian Action

To come

Year 3

Humanitarian and Aid Economics

This module addresses the key theories and debates in the broader fields of development and conflict economics and will move to an examination of the political economy of humanitarian aid. Students will have an increased ability to critically evaluate the economic policies of humanitarian actors and recommend alternative approaches and equip them with policy-relevant skills and expertise.

Gender, Disaster and Conflict

The module will advance students’ understanding around gender responsiveness in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) by analyzing the structural causes of vulnerabilities. This module also aims to enhance students’ knowledge and understanding on the links between gender, disaster and conflict. The module is divided into three parts. The first part will focus on theoretical debates around Gender, Disaster and Conflict. The second part will focus on policies and practices and the third part will focus on examining the real-life experiences of people living in conflict and disaster vulnerable countries and contexts.

Project Management for Humanitarians

To come

Independent Humanitarian Research Project

The independent research project culminates in a 5,000 word dissertation and poster presentation. Projects may be field, theory or modelling based and can be conducted in collaboration with external industry or NGO partners.

Optional modules

Students should take 15–45 credits from their chosen specialism pathway and up to 30 credits from the humanitarian affairs options. Most modules are worth 15 credits, modules worth 30 credits are stated.

Humanitarian Affairs optional modules
Students can select up to 30 credits (2 modules) from the humanitarian affairs modules each year.

Year 1

Key Concepts and Debates in Humanitarianism

To come

Technology for Humanitarian Action

This module is a foundation component of the Digital Pathway for Humanitarian studies. It applies problem orientated learning in order for students to employ computational methods and information technology to meet humanitarian challenges. It covers the fundamentals of computer systems for humanitarian studies, and introduction to programming. Practical applications in the humanitarian field are introduced with guest seminars from practitioners outlining the specific humanitarian challenges. Uses of social media and artificial intelligences in humanitarian situations are introduced.

Year 2

Microeconomics for Humanitarian Contexts

To come

Contemporary Topic Review

To come

Year 3

International Migration Law

To come

Water Security, Crises and Sustainability

To come

Research Methods for Humanitarian Contexts

To come

Specialism pathway modules

Students should select between 15 and 45 credits from their chosen specialism each year. There are further restrictions on module combinations for some pathways. You will fnd out more at our module selection sessions during induction but if you have a query in the meantime, please contact humanitarian-info@ucl.ac.uk.

Digital Science pathway

Year 1: Logic, Computation and Language Theory 

This module provides an introduction for students interested in the theory of computation and its links with logic and language theory. The first part of the course will focus on mathematical logic and the second part will address the fundamentals of computation, automata and language theory.

Year 1: Introduction to Probability and Statistics

This module aims to provide an accessible and application-oriented introduction to basic ideas in probability and statistics. On successful completion of the module, a student should understand, at an intuitive level, the basic concepts in probability theory; be able to use fundamental laws of probability to solve simple problems; recognise simple situations in which standard univariate probability distributions may be useful, and apply results for these distributions as appropriate in these situations; be able to choose and apply appropriate simple techniques for the presentation and description of data; understand the concepts of a probability model and sampling variability; and be aware of the need to check assumptions made when using a given probability model.

Year 2: Algorithms: Logic and Structures

The module will allow students to become confident with a range of data structures and algorithms and able to apply them in a realistic situations.  The course will provide the tools required to analyse a problem and decide which algorithms or algorithmic techniques to apply to solve it.  The course will involve practical programming and encourage a thoughtful approach to analysis and design problems.

Year 2: Humanitarian Engineering and Data Science

This module is a core compulsory component of the Digital Pathway for Humanitarian Studies and also accepts students with computer science and statistics backgrounds with basic programming skills. It covers the fundamentals of data science for humanitarian studies in the era of big data. Practical applications in the humanitarian field are introduced with guest seminars from practitioners outlining the specific humanitarian challenges. Uses of social media and artificial intelligences in humanitarian situations are covered.

Year 2: Further Probability and Statistics 

This module aims to introduce a formal framework for the study of probability and statistics, building on the intuitive concepts introduced in previous modules. On successful completion of the module, you should be able to derive simple results in probability using an axiomatic approach, know how to derive properties of discrete and continuous univariate probability distributions, be able to give an informal statement of the Central Limit Theorem for independent identically distributed random variables, be able to calculate confidence intervals and carry out hypothesis tests in simple situations, be able to run a simple linear regression and interpret the results.

Year 3: Digital Health: Epidemics and Emergencies in the Era of Big Data 

This module is a component of the Digital Pathway for Humanitarian Studies and also accepts students with computer science and statistics backgrounds with basic programming skills. It applies problem orientated learning methods to public health, field epidemiology and global health concepts, technological systems underpinning public health surveillance, early warning and response to outbreaks and epidemics, new technologies, social media, mobile systems and case studies with interactive hands-on approaches.

Year 3: Decision and Risk

This module aims to provide an introduction to the ideas underlying the calculation of risk from a Bayesian and frequentist standpoint, and the structure of rational, consistent decision making. On successful completion of the module, a student should be able to understand special measures of risk, understand the concepts of decision theory, find appropriate probability models for risky events and check the validity of the underlying assumptions, and be familiar with methodology for detecting changes in risk levels over time.

Management Science pathway

Year 1: Understanding Management

This module introduces students to the practice of management, to what managers do. Different management activities and roles are explored from both a practical and theoretical perspective. Key management responsibilities such as strategic thinking, analyzing the business environment, marketing, and motivating self and others, will be explored alongside real-world contexts. The aim of the module is to not only introduce students to the essence of management and to the tools managers use, but importantly, will provide an insight into the role of the manager, managing in today’s dynamic and exciting business environment.

Year 1: Communication and Behaviour in Organisations

This course will help you appreciate the contribution of the behavioural sciences to our understanding of how organisations function. It will emphasise how an understanding of individual and group behaviour can improve both the quality of working life and the effectiveness of organisations. There are three broad sections:

1) Individual Behaviour. Understanding the nature of individual differences and how they affect our behaviour at work. These include the way we perceive things, our attitudes, and our personalities and drivers of motivation.

2) Group Behaviour. Exploring what happens when individuals function, perform and interact with each other as part of a group (e.g. potential dysfunctions of communication and coordination in groups; managing group conflict and interdependencies, etc.).

3) Organisations. The end part of the course explores topics related to creativity and innovation, culture at both the individual and organisational level of analysis, and classic and contemporary theories of leadership.

Year 2: Managerial Accounting for Decision Making

This module provides an understanding of key issues and applied methodologies relating to management accounting frameworks used by managers when faced with making financial decisions in the context of the business environment. The focus is on information for cost management, budgetary control, and short and longer term financial decision making. That information enables managers to plan for and subsequently control operations. It examines the blend of financial analysis and managerial judgment required to make sound decisions. In particular there is an emphasis on issues in overhead cost recovery; contribution costing and CVP analysis; costing issues in the context of a competitive environment, including activity based costing (ABC); relevant costs for decision making; core investment appraisal techniques (ARR, Payback, NPV and IRR); budgetary control, variance analysis, standard costing.

Year 2: Business in a Competitive Environment

This course focuses on two main aspects: the impacts broad macro changes (political, economic, social, legal) have on firms and how firms can effectively respond to or pre-empt changes in their environment. In this course students learn: about theory-based models and how to apply them for the analysis of changes in the environment; how to choose among established strategies in different scenarios; and how to critically evaluate key trends in the strategic management field. The course actively seeks to integrate current affairs and case studies to illustrate the theories. At the end of the term the students will produce a ten-year scenario planning forecast for a specific domain in groups. The aim of the coursework is to produce alternative future worlds and analyse them. By the end of the module, the students are expected to identify strategies that will be of crucial importance in these different worlds. 

Year 3: Strategic Project Management

This module enables students to critically assess aspects of strategic project management. Organisations have to choose where they focus their resources and what they hope to achieve. Strategic project management introduces the key principles of project, programme and portfolio (P3) management, focusing on how projects are selected, sustained and completed. Students have the opportunity to understand how P3 management relates to operational management. This module introduces the key tools and techniques to initiate, plan and manage projects, programmes and portfolios within the context of business strategy. Essential management skills such as leadership, team building and conflict management will be explored in the context of strategic management of projects, programmes and portfolios. Through a blended learning approach, students are encouraged to evaluate organisational strategies through case studies both in lectures and coursework. Through strategic business relationships, case studies are both current and relevant. The focus is on providing students with insights based on current practice, significant industry experience and professional standards. The principles focus, in particular, on theory from the Association for Project Management (APM). Students will have the opportunity to take the APM Project Fundamentals Qualification (APM PFQ) and gain an industry recognised project qualification, as an optional extra.

Through a blended learning approach, students are encouraged to evaluate organisational strategies through case studies both in lectures and coursework.  Through strategic business relationships, case studies are both current and relevant.

The focus is on providing students with insights based on current practice, significant industry experience and professional standards.  The principles focus, in particular, on theory from the Association for Project Management (APM). Students will have the opportunity to take the APM Project Fundamentals Qualification and gain an industry recognised project qualification as an optional extra. 

Year 3: One Management elective

Choose from a range of Management elective modules. Find out more about the modules available in the UCL School of Management. Please note this list is indicative and we cannot guarantee all these modules will be available to IRDR students at the time of study.

Global Health pathway

Year 1: Global Health Introduction

To come

Year 1: Measuring Population Health

The module aims to introduce you to concepts and measures in population health, explain how these measures are used to explore sub-group differences in population health, and to provide an understanding of the application of population health research in public health research and policy. 

Year 2: Global Health Policy (30 credits)

This module will introduce you to the global health policy environment and the actors who influence it. It involves analysis of the key stakeholders in policy formulation and their involvement in changing patterns of healthcare provision. The role of governments, NGOs, supranational institutions and corporations are examined in the context of complex global trends in health and health care. There is a focus on some key policy debates such as global trade and health, health worker migration and access to medicines, alongside introductions to health economics, health systems and health policy analysis. Like all of our modules, these issues are analysed through the lens of social science, emphasising how they are influenced by politics, economics, society and culture.

The module aims to enable you to analyse and evaluate health policy at the local, national and international levels. You will gain insight into the evolution of policy, how content is decided upon and the relative influence of different individuals, organisations and institutions upon each stage of the policy development process.

Year 2: Humanitarian Engineering and Data Sciences 

To come

Year 3: Health, Poverty and Development

Health, Poverty and Development will provide you with an understanding of key issues in global development, combining perspectives from politics, economics and public health. The module begins with debates around what “development” means, followed by analysis of fundamental processes that influence development outcomes, such as trade, industrialisation and aid. You will be introduced to concepts such as poverty and famine and look at their causes. The module also asks whether universal frameworks of human rights and international justice are relevant in today’s multipolar world, and whether they provide a guide for the interventions of global health actors.

Year 3: Global Communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases

This module will introduce you to global patterns of both communicable and non-communicable diseases. You will learn about the control and management of these diseases, and the political, economic and social factors that influence them. The module focuses on infectious diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases, while also reflecting the growing burden of non-communicable diseases in both developed and developing countries. The non-communicable diseases section will focus on illnesses such as cancer and heart disease and the factors that underpin them. All of these debates will look at how health systems respond to these problems, but also examine the role of factors outside of healthcare that sustain and prolong illness at both individual and population levels.  The module aims to enable you to analyse and evaluate the burden of disease in resource-limited settings and potential interventions and barriers to intervention. You will gain insight into the evolution of disease control methodology, epidemiology, the dual burden of communicable and non-communicable disease and how historical interventions inform current policy. 

Year 3: Conflict, Humanitarianism and Health

Conflict, humanitarianism and health will provide you with an understanding of violent conflict and its causes and health consequences. You will be introduced to some of the key debates about the humanitarian response to conflict, including its effectiveness, coordination, relationship to development, its regulation by international law, and the role of the other actors such as non-state armed opposition groups. Learning global power relations and politics will provide you with a backdrop to understanding conflict dynamics while innovations in humanitarian response are discussed and analysed. You will examine the difficulties of conducting assessments, analysing and understanding health data, and planning and monitoring health interventions in situations of conflict. The module also looks at future conflict scenarios and how the humanitarian system may need to adapt as the methods and means for conducting warfare evolves.

Year 3: Global Maternal and Child Health

This module will provide you with an introduction to the problems facing mothers and children in developing countries. The seminars address the main causes of child and maternal mortality and the socio-cultural factors affecting them. Malnutrition, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and the perinatal period are examined in detail as well as important infectious diseases such vaccine preventable diseases, HIV, malaria and diarrhoeal disease. The impact of public health programmes addressing these diseases are explored. 

Anthropology and Social Science pathway

Year 1: Key Concepts in Social Anthropology (30 credits)

To come

Year 2: Anthropological Theory

To come

Year 2: Kinship, Ethnicity and Gender

To come

Year 2: Social Inequality and Mobility

This module introduces students to the key debates on social inequality and mobility in contemporary societies, covering a wide range of topics, including social class and its impact on life chances and life choices; income inequality, mobility and top income; education, meritocracy and the heritability of intelligence (the Flynn effect); poverty and the underclass; discrimination and segregation; inequality across the world, and the very long run dynamics of social inequality, inequality and mobility in different forms of society.

Year 2: Population Studies

Whether you realise it or not, demographic processes are constantly influencing your life. What do I mean by demographic processes? I mean patterns of childbearing (fertility), death (mortality), and the geographic movement of human beings (migration) around the globe. Demography, also called Population Studies, is the study of human populations in terms of their size, composition, and distribution, and the causes and consequences of change in these three characteristics. Demography is a fascinating topic because it deals with many questions you may find personally relevant, such as: At what age will I marry? Have children? Will I live with my partner before marriage? What are my chances of divorce? What kind of job will I have? How many times will I move? When will I retire? How long will I live? What will I most likely die of? In sum, nearly all of the major events in your life have demographic implications. This module introduces students to population studies. Through in-class activities and out of class assignments, students will examine global variation in demographic patterns and their social, economic, political and cultural determinants.

Year 3: Anthropology of War

This course begins with Hannah Arendt’s notion of thoughtlessness. We study the wooden phrases or formulaic language that accompany acts of war. Language and ritual both qualify the cultural elaboration of torture and warfare. Sacrifice and ritualised killing as well as dehumanization are central topics for an anthropology of war. The lectures are constructed around personalised accounts, and records of the speech of the Red Army’s Nikolai Moskvin, the Polish hero Leszek, the Indonesian Komando Aksi’s Inong, the Samburu warrior Simba in Kenya, Theresa Holland of West Belfast, Um Mahmoud of Hamas in Gaza, and Duch the commander of S-21 in Cambodia. The culture of both victim and perpetrator, with its local and global aspects, is the starting point to study war and predation in its human guise.

Year 3: Political Sociology

This module explores the social bases of political partisanship and political participation in the UK and other societies. It explores the social bases for left—right political attitudes, and also the support for the far left or the far right.  It studies the determinants of political participation, including turnout at elections as well as sit-ins, demonstrations and strikes.  Other topics covered include nationalism and civil wars, and changes in social and political attitudes on a wide range of issues such as immigration, minority groups, and Inglehart’s thesis of post-materialism.

Year 3: Thinking Through Identities

This module provides a broad introduction to the ways in which social identities have been studied in the social sciences. It will present key debates and the disagreements and areas of overlap between different theories. It offers students an opportunity to explore cutting edge research on social identities and the fact that everybody has multiple identities but tends to think of themselves in singular ways. It will explore the relevance of different theories for understanding the place of identity in social life by applying theories to everyday situations.

Year 3: Social Networks

Social networks are ubiquitous and influential. They constitute a form of social structure that is omnipresent in almost all social situations and interactions. Social networks influence the actions of their individual members and affect many aspects of people’s life. The module provides an overview of the study of social networks. The module presents an introduction to and history of social network analysis, and treats the fundamental tools of the analysis of social networks. These tools include the methods to collect and handle social network data, types of networks, structures and components of networks, various measures and metrics that describe a network and its components (centrality, degree, clustering, etc.). Next to these tools, the module presents applications of social network analysis to the study of important social phenomena such as social capital, social influence, crime, politics, the spread of diseases and ideas, fashions and fads, the impact of network in the labour market, homophily, social media, and networks between organisations and countries.  We will discuss how to store and analyse networks using the R software. No prior knowledge of R is assumed. 

Some pathway modules have a cap on student numbers and therefore may not be available for all students. 

Meet the team

Our teaching team includes lecturers from across the department. Find out more on our People page.

Shams Headshot

Dr. Mohammad Shamsudduha (“Shams”), Programme lead

Hello! I am Dr. Mohammad Shamsudduha but everyone calls me Shams. I will be the Programme Lead for the BSc and I will be teaching the Climate and Natural Hazard Risks and the Humanitarian Data Science modules. I am a geoscientist by academic background and my research is centred around earth’s water resources, environment, and people. I look forward to meeting you all at the start of term!

Read more about Shams in this interview on the MAPS faculty website.

Sonja Ayeb Karlsson

Dr Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, Admissions Tutor

I am Dr Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, the admissions tutor for the BSc. I am responsible for overseeing the admissions process, from talking to prospective students to ensuring applications are dealt with efficiently. You'll meet me at our online events and open days.

Lisa Guppy

Dr Lisa Guppy, Departmental Tutor

Hi! I'm Dr Lisa Guppy and I am the departmental tutor, which means I'm here to help students with all things academic. I'll aslo be teaching on the programme. I have worked across humanitarian, peace and development fields, primarily United Nations organisations, across Asia, Africa, North America and the Middle East.

Sonia Fullerton

Sonia Fullerton, Teaching and Learning Adminstrator

I am the teaching and learning administrator for the programme. I'm here to support students with their academic queries and I'm the first point of contact in the student office.

Careers and employability

This programme was created to help professionalise the humanitarian sector. Teaching and module content is based on consultation with global and national employers, and the key skills you will acquire will prepare you for you future humanitarian career, whichever pathway you choose.

Between the second and third years, we will use our extensive networks to help facilitate an optional four-week summer placement, in the UK or internationally, to help you connect your academic learning with skills in the humanitarian workplace.

We also hold an annual Careers and Opportunities Fair to give you an insight into working in the sector and introduce you to some key employers. 

In 2021, UCL was ranked at 20th in the world in the latest QS Graduate Employability Rankings for graduate employability, placing us 3rd in the UK and 1st in London. 


We will award two fee-reduction scholarships for international students, to the value of £9,000, paid towards tuition fees. Application deadline is in the April before the start of the programme. See our scholarships page for more information and how to apply.

Frequently asked questions

What is humanitarianism?

Humanitarianism means different things to different people, groups and organisations. For many, humanitarianism is about saving lives, reducing suffering and improving the conditions that people are living in.

At the international level, humanitarianism is associated with the United Nations, governments and non-governmental organisations undertaking life-saving interventions during conflicts and disasters. But humanitarian action can also include practices of relief and care undertaken by ad hoc and unskilled individuals and groups, such as local volunteers.

To study humanitarianism requires examining responses to conflict, disasters, climate change, pandemic and other emergencies from a range of different perspectives and using lenses and tools from a range of different disciplines, as the problems and solutions relating to crisis are multidimensional.

How do I choose my pathways on the BSc Global Humanitarian Studies Degree?

As you’ll have seen on our programme information, there are four pathways on this degree programme:

  1. Digital Science
  2. Management Science
  3. Global Health
  4. Anthropology and Social Science

The main advice we give is to choose what interests and excites you! Take a look at the module information, read around the topic of humanitarianism online, and you can even have a chat with our Admissions Tutor, Dr Bayes Ahmed to talk through your interests.

While you have to choose your pathway when you apply to the degree, you will have the opportunity to change in the first two weeks or so of the programme, after a discussion with the Departmental Tutor.

Over the course of your degree you’ll also have access to the numerous seminars, talks and events put on by IRDR and other parts of UCL.

How does a Global Humanitarian Studies degree differ from International Development Studies?

Humanitarianism is different from international development as it refers to efforts to save lives and reduce suffering primarily after an emergency, like a conflict or disaster. International development aid tends to focus on longer term structural change in a society, with or without an emergency—for example the alleviation of poverty or improving the governance. However, humanitarianism and international development are not two distinct forms of action; emergency relief and development aid can complement, overlap, transition into each other, or even undermine each other. 

Humanitarian Studies as an academic area is a relatively new field of study that has grown in significance and impact since the 1990s. While it builds on theories and approaches from other areas, like International Development or Security, Humanitarian Studies has its own unique set of thinkers, approaches, dilemmas and questions, that focus primarily on the policy, practice, theory and ethics of relief during and after a crisis.

Check out the United Nations’ latest humanitarian case studies on their “Centre for Humanitarian Data” website to see what current humanitarian crises are in focus: https://centre.humdata.org/category/case-study/ 

How does a Global Humanitarian Studies degree link to Geography and other social science subjects?

The BSc in Global Humanitarian Studies does not replace single discipline degree programmes, such as Geography. Instead, it draws on relevant literature, debates and learning tools from these disciplines, and combines the most relevant, in order to tackle the multidimensional questions within Humanitarian Studies. 

Students on the BSc will therefore have the chance to engage with a range of topics familiar to geographers, while learning about how other disciplines approach these questions. Topics might include:

  • vulnerability (e.g. what makes populations vulnerable to particular crises in different locations around the world?) 
  • resilience (e.g. how can populations be supported to adapt and “bounce back” from crises?) 
  • urbanisation (e.g. how is the expansion of megacities affecting vulnerability and the ability of humanitarian organisations to respond?)
  • borders (What role do borders and boundaries – whether political or natural – play is crisis response?)
  • decolonisation (e.g. how have racism and legacies of colonialism shaped - and are still shaping - the aid industry?)
How does a Global Humanitarian Studies degree link to Maths and other Science subjects?

The BSc in Global Humanitarian Studies does not replace single discipline degree programmes, such as Mathematics. Instead, it draws on relevant literature, debates and learning tools from these disciplines, and combines the most relevant, in order to tackle the multidimensional questions within Humanitarian Studies. 

Students on the BSc will therefore have the chance to engage with a range of topics familiar to mathematicians, while learning about how other disciplines approach these questions. Topics might include:

  • Geospatial analysis (e.g. how to use mapping technologies to understand a hazard risk or humanitarian need?)
  • Data analytics/Big data (e.g. how can data innovations improve the effectiveness of emergency responses).
Will coronavirus affect my application or study?

You can find up to date information about how UCL is working with the UK Government to keep all students safe on the UCL Coronavirus Hub

Find out more

Find out more about the course, fees and funding, teaching and assessment on our course information page.

You can ask our staff and students questions at one of our IRDR virtual open days (see our events page for upcoming dates) or find out more about studying at UCL at one of the main University open days

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