The Diploma of Advanced Studies (DAS) aims to offer professionals a critical understanding of the humanitarian system and response by learning from history and various other disciplines and an ability to contextualize humanitarian action in today’s world. It explores the role of humanitarianism in how the world is governed today and the political economy at play in relationships between States, non-State actors, international organisations, international and local non-governmental organizations and affected populations. Finally, the programme addresses the postcolonial dynamics of past and present humanitarian interventions to identify new avenues for contemporary and future crises.

The Diploma is a 100% residential programme in Geneva. The DAS programme is intensive, with at least four days per week in class. Participants should invest full time in classes, self-learning activities, assignments and a dissertation, and networking in Geneva.

Find out more about the Diploma in this article written by Professor Julie Billaud.

Module 1: Humanitarianisms

This module traces the genealogy of secular humanitarianism since the 19th century, to explore historical and political dynamics and mechanics that led to the development of several forms of humanitarianism, including its visual, moral and political economy along the 20th century. It compares what has become the dominant form of humanitarianism with other forms of international solidarity, such as grassroots movements and advocacy networks, or State interventionism, in North-South and East-West perspectives. It also questions the links between faith-based humanitarianism, charity and philanthropy in Western and non-Western contexts.

Module 2: Contexts, Action and Consequences

This module describes the various forms humanitarian action has taken looking at different fields of expertise and disciplines. The module explores the existing silos between areas of interventions and possibilities of integration. The changing nature of humanitarian crises is examined looking at the consequences these changes have had on the humanitarian response, notably the humanitarian-development nexus, the narrative of populations’ resilience and people-centred approaches. Applying concrete analytical tools for understanding risks, the module will offer an opportunity for students to value their experience and develop real-life solutions. Finally, the module will open discussions and debates on how to decolonize the humanitarian system.

Module 3: Revisiting Vulnerabilities and Needs

Using insights from various disciplines (anthropology, global health, international relations) this module asks: What does the principle of humanity mean in practice? What forms of selection, triage and exclusion does the preservation of such a principle entail? By introducing students to key theoretical texts on governmentality, this module revisits two taken for granted notions of humanitarian action (‘needs’ and ‘vulnerabilities’) so as to highlight the implicit representations that inform practices of categorization and the identification of ‘target/key populations’. We explore the politics of indicators, examine emblematic figures of vulnerability and turn the gaze on humanitarian actors so as to understand their ‘need to help’ suffering others but also their need of security while on mission. Finally, we discuss the relationship between violence and vulnerability, explore the dilemmas of triage and discourses of self-help and resilience that inform contemporary interventions.

Module 4: Humanitarian Normativity: Ethics, Norms and Principles

This module discusses the normative aspects of contemporary humanitarianism, using the insights of various disciplines (anthropology, international law, sociology and international relations) within the field of humanitarian studies as well as those of practitioners involved in protection work. It introduces students to the basic principles of international humanitarian law (IHL), Human Rights, refugee law as well as humanitarian ethics. It examines the tensions and contradictions that emerge when humanitarian actors seek to implement IHL in practice. It explores how the world has crossed into new humanitarian frontiers of ethical and legal problems by analyzing the overlap between humanitarianism and militarism, the links between the politics of security and relief and the relationship between advocacy and transitional justice.

Module 5: The Humanitarians and the Social World of Aidland

This module focuses on the humanitarian milieu in its sociological dimension, on Aidland as a specific transnational field with its – not always explicit – codes of conduct, values and behaviours. It examines the everyday life of humanitarian workers, be they expatriates or local staff, but also the production of internal differences among various humanitarian identities and categories of practitioners. It also questions the boundaries and interactions between humanitarian organisations, as well as between humanitarian workers, affected populations and donors, or through technologies.

DAS dissertation

Throughout the DAS, participants will engage in workshops designed to develop information-gathering and processing, ethnographic observation and visual analysis. These workshops will help participants write three assignments (film review, conference report and annotated bibliography) that constitute the dissertation’s core. The DAS dissertation aims to stimulate a critical and original reflection on issues linked to humanitarian action through specific writing exercises.

The DAS dissertation must be presented by 31 January 2025.

  • Admission process

The Master is open to maximum 30 students per year. Admission is based on the overall quality of the application, including academic achievement, quality of application documents, the relevance of previous work experience and English language skills.

The Selection Committee examines the quality of the applications and aims to reach a balance between the number of men and women, educational profiles and professional experience, geographical distribution and financial contribution.

Applications sent after the closing date and/or incomplete, will not be considered.

  • Admission criteria
    • A Bachelor’s degree or equivalent from a Swiss or foreign university;
    • At least two years of relevant professional experience;
    • Excellent command of English (see below)
  • Required documents
    • CV (Resume)
    • Highest educational qualification obtained
    • Proof of English language competence to be dated less than 2 years (see details below)
    • Work certificates/official document from your current and the previous two job positions
    • Two recent letters of recommendation (academic and/or professional) signed and with direct mention of the programme of your choice
    • Portrait photo (ID format)
    • Scanned copy of passport
  • Language Requirements

The minimum required English level is C1. Providing a language certificate is mandatory, except in the two following cases:

      1. If you are a native English speaker, please provide a copy of your passport as proof.
      2. If you have worked for at least five years in English with MSF or ICRC, please provide a copy of the English test you have undertaken internally with your employer.

Recognized Tests and Scores:

      • Cambridge English Advanced (CAE): 180-199
      • Cambridge English First (FCE): 180-190
      • C1 Business Higher
      • IELTS: 6.5-7.5
      • TOEFL iBT: 95-120
      • TOEIC Listening & Reading: 945
      • TOEIC Speaking & Writing: 360
      • PTE General Level 4
      • PTE Academic: 76-85
      • Duolingo: 130
      • EF SET (CEFR): C1
  • Enrollment deadlines

Regular academic year (starting in September)

      • 31 May 2024 for non-countries/ 30 June 2024 for EU/EFTA countries
  • Application procedure

To submit your application, please follow the four steps below:

      1. Go to the page of the course of your interest and click “apply”
      2. Fill in the application form on the online platform
      3. Upload all requested documents
      4. Submit

Please note that the processing of an application may take up to three weeks.
Applications sent after the closing date and/or incomplete will not be considered.

Once you have submitted your application, you will receive a confirmation by e-mail. Please note that the Selection Committee may take up to three weeks to validate an admission request.

We kindly ask you to take note of our cancellation policy.

For more information about the application process, please send us an email.