The Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies as an institution

The Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies changed its name in June 2020. Formerly known as the Centre of Education and Research in Humanitarian Action (CERAH), the Geneva Centre offers a new name that is simple, yet effective. It reflects our vision and the various services we offer from 2020: a wide range of specialist and academic courses on humanitarian action, both online and residential.
The new name is a new choice of branding; it does not affect our institutional position. The Centre continues to be supported by the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Graduate Institute of International & Development Studies (IHEID).

We are a joint centre of UNIGE and IHEID. The Centre is the fruit of a gradual and collective effort of the past 20 years bringing together a multitude of academic and humanitarian actors in order to offer high level continuing university education for humanitarian professionals. We benefit from key partnerships with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Taking the advantage of Geneva, one of the main humanitarian hubs in the world, our trainings are developed with the participation and intervention in the class of representatives of the main humanitarian organisations represented in Geneva. This gives our students the opportunity to base the learning on real cases with experienced practitioners as much as with academic professionals.
Today, as an interdisciplinary and multi-thematic centre, the Centre has become an internationally renowned academic platform, offering integrated, evidence-based training and research looking at trends and changes in the humanitarian sector, as well as policy events on contemporary topics affecting the sector.

Our principles of action have been defined as:





Sustainable growth




The Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies is a joint center of the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.

The MAS, CAS, DAS diplomas are awarded by both institutions. The programme benefits from both of them as it is interdisciplinary. The quality of the educational/training programme is reinforced by this collaboration.

You are a student of both. As a student from the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies, you have access to most services of both institutions, such as libraries, computers, cafeterias, job forums and alumni services. You will be given a student card from UNIGE and one from IHEID upon your arrival. These student cards will allow you to print copies, borrow books, use the cafeterias in both institutions, as well as benefit from reduced prices in some restaurants around the universities’ campuses. Note that the Geneva Centre is not located in either of IHEID or UNIGE facilities (see access map).

For more information about our Alumni services, visit this page.

We have partnership agreements with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), MSF and the ICRC, who are important institutions in the humanitarian field. They provide essential insight in terms of policymaking, programme conceptualization and implementation. Combined with academic teaching, their experience is an important added value to the quality of the trainings at the Centre. Beyond these formal and important partnerships, other humanitarian organisations contribute to the training through various interventions in the courses.

Our courses and their value

The Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies recognises the importance of allowing professionals to develop and expand their conceptual and analytical capabilities and also to develop and strengthen practical skills.

The Diploma of Advanced Studies (DAS) focuses more on the former while the Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) and Executive Short Courses (ESC) main focus is the latter. Our courses strengthen participants’ competencies around particular functions and attitudes that are related to very specific operational fields.

  • Professionals in the humanitarian, development or social sector looking to develop their competencies as well as reflect and capitalise on their experiences;
  • Professionals from other sectors who wish to increase their understanding of the humanitarian sector for a potential career change;
  • Graduate students with relevant volunteer or intern experience, looking to undertake a post-graduate course with a view to entering the humanitarian sector.

A bachelor’s degree or an equivalent university degree requiring three years of study,
plus a relevant work experience in the humanitarian, social or development sector
(two years).


All classes at the Centre are delivered in English. All students must have an excellent
command of English. Students whose mother tongue is not English, who do not have
secondary or post-secondary qualifications taught in English, or who have not spent a
minimum of one year studying at university level in English (please provide transcripts
certifying that courses were delivered in English), must provide a certificate to prove
their mastery of English.

Recognised tests and scores:

  • TOEFL: Internet-test: 100
  • IELTS: 7.0
  • CPE: B-C
  • CAE: B-C

Continuing education is a form of knowledge transfer between university and real world experience. It is offered to people who have a university degree and professional experience and is part of their lifelong learning process. The Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies therefore requires a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) plus a minimum of two years’ work experience from its participants. The continuing education offering at Swiss universities ranges from one- day courses to comprehensive diploma programmes of several months and years.

The title Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) is delivered for continuing education qualifications with a volume of at least 60 credits.

The title Diploma of Advanced Studies (DAS) is delivered for continuing education qualifications with a volume of at least 30 credits.

The title Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) is delivered for continuing education qualifications with a volume of at least 10 credits.

All our diplomas are integrated in the framework of the European Credit System (ECTS) and are jointly awarded by UNIGE and IHEID. The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is a tool of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) for making studies and courses more transparent and thus helping to enhance the quality of higher education.

The MAS programme offers complete training and education in highly specialised fields and allows gaining additional qualifications to the original profession which can lead to new employment perspectives. It is composed of a Core Course (DAS), specialisation options (one CAS and five elective ESC) and a dissertation. The MAS usually lasts 14 months but can be split into three (flexible option). The official title is “Master of Advanced Studies in Humanitarian Action”. The MAS gives 60 ECTS credits, which correspond to 1,800 hours of work.

The DAS programme offers complete training in highly specialised fields and allow gaining additional qualifications to the original profession which can lead to new employment perspectives. The official title is “Diploma of Advanced Studies in Humanitarian Action”. The DAS lasts four months. The aim of the DAS is to develop students’ conceptual and analytical skills offering a global overview of the landscape in which Humanitarian Action has to develop itself. With each module, a specific angle of analysis is taken (different disciplines or different approaches). The students will enhance their understanding of humanitarian realities, their background and their theoretical foundations. The DAS is worth 30 ECTS credits, which correspond to 900 hours of work.

A CAS is a degree-granting programme designed for professionals, it combines cutting-edge theoretical knowledge with practical courses. It is an internationally recognized “Certificate of Advanced Studies” that is equivalent to 10 ECTS, which correspond to 300 hours of work. It is intended to enhance participants’ careers and skills in their working environment. The CAS is more practical than the DAS and specific either to some professional skills necessary in humanitarian action or offering a more in-depth understanding of a discipline related to aid applied to concrete realities of the field.

Oriented towards practical knowledge, tools and applied concepts related to one aspect or one specific domain of interest, the Executive Short Courses are usually organised in one week if in presence and two (or more) weeks if delivered online. The full attendance to such training (including student’s assessment) and the fulfillment of the required pre- and post-course assignments allows to get 2 ECTS, which correspond to 60 hours of work.

No. In order to be admitted to a PHD, you need to have a Master of Arts or a Master of Science (120 ECTS credits).

The ECTS grading scale is a grading system defined by the European Commission. Since many grading systems co-exist in Europe and, considering that interpretation of grades varies considerably from one country to another, if not from one institution to another, the ECTS grading scale has been developed to provide a common measure and facilitate the transfer of students and their grades between European higher education institutions, by allowing national and local grading systems to be interchangeable. It is still the choice of the Universities to recognise them. Grades are reported on a carefully calibrated and uniform A-to-F scale combined with keywords and short qualitative definitions. Each institution makes its own decision on how to apply the ECTS grading scale to its system.

Studying at the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies

There are scholarships available every year but in a limited number. Scholarships are awarded by “Service de la Solidarité Internationale de la République du Canton de Genève” and the Fondation Hans Wilsdorf which establish the conditions to obtain grants according to their own criteria. The students must come from and work in a country outside the OECD or Chile or Mexico.
Scholarships offered are only for students who attend the MAS programme during one academic year starting from September (course fees and/or living expenses). No system based on merit or on social conditions is in place.

For more information about our scholarship programme and funding options, visit this page.

One of the richness of the programmes at the Geneva Centre is its audience of professionals in humanitarian action coming from all over the world and working for various organisations including small local NGOs, UN agencies, international specialized NGOs and collaborators of state funding agencies. The interaction between students is therefore very rich and offers perspectives on real cultural and institutional diversity.

Once you enrol with us, you will receive a study plan that informs you of the programmes, as well as the tests and requirements to validate your MAS, DAS or CAS.

The regulations also contain provisions for objections and appeals. On arrival at the University, consult the regulations and the curriculum.

Training with us is intensive and recognized to be a full-time occupation for our MAS, DAS, CAS and one-week ESC. Students will be in class 4 to 5 days per week and 4 to 5 hours per day. Besides face-to-face teaching, students will also be required to do additional readings, learning activities, work on assignments, and reflect on their dissertation and their lectures when not in class. In practical terms, it means that the time and space for private and family life is reduced. It is important to prepare and arrange for that. In case there is an unforeseen need to take a leave for professional or personal reasons during the course, you will have to request the authorization and get the agreement from the MAS Coordinator.

Participants come to the Centre with different backgrounds and professional levels. The teaching aims to give a common foundation to all of them. The learning process, however, will rely on the individual and will be different for each participant. Some will gain new competencies and develop existing ones, others will capitalise on professional experience at different levels.

For each teaching week of the programmes, you will receive a syllabus, to be used before and during classes. This will indicate covered topics, discussions, learning outcomes as well as mandatory readings. Optional readings will be provided as well, and participants will be strongly encouraged to explore them in an effort to enhance their learning. All reading requirements are posted on our online learning platform (Moodle). Participants should expect an approximate weekly workload of 50-60 hours.

Classwork means the work done in class (or during live sessions online), such as lectures, case studies, role-plays, workshops attended by the participants in the class. Homework includes all the work accomplished by a participant at home, including reading, dissertation writing, and assignments on given topics.

The majority of our courses are very intensive and recognized as full-time activities: the MAS, the DAS and the CAS “Quality Management of Humanitarian Projects”. It is therefore fairly challenging to carry on with a professional life aside. The only period when this seems possible may be during weekends or holidays.

Online courses require 20-25 hours of dedicated work per week. We recommend that participants allow at least 50 per cent of their time for the online courses and adapt their professional work accordingly.

It is possible to split the MAS in two or three years. You may decide to attend the Core Course (DAS) for one year and the specialisation options (CAS and ESC) in one or two years. You may do it in the order you want. Your MAS thesis should be finalised by the end of the chosen period for the MAS. Any request of change, after being registered, needs to receive the approval of the MAS Coordinator.

Unfortunately, this can happen. If you fail the programme, you need to have a meeting with the MAS Coordinator in order to discuss your specific situation and explore different options.

Yes. You have the opportunity to choose specialisation options with the ESC: students can choose five specialisations Executive Short Courses (ESC), out of all ESC offered by the Centre.

To validate the skills and knowledge acquired during the training, the Centre uses the Swiss notation system. You will get introduced to it once you enrol in our programmes.

We have a specific pedagogical approach linked with adult learning principles, which are:

  • The students are a driving force;
  • Learning comes from action and doing;
  • Learning comes from understanding the action (its utility, structure);
  • Learning happens over time.
    Therefore, we consider that learning is an interactive process that happens through peer-to-peer discussions and sharing, between students, lecturers and external speakers. Learning is also a continuing process taking place in class during debates and groupwork, conferences and visits organized outside the classroom. Participation is evaluated through discussions and assignments.

The presence during the course is essential, and being present a minimum of 80 % of the time is required. This is a condition for credit validation.

Our role is not to facilitate internship placement or job opportunities. Nevertheless, several activities and services are provided throughout the year, in order to support the students. The courses offer an important opportunity to interact with professionals coming from various organisations. The Centre’s Alumni services, as well as the large Alumni Network of UNIGE and IHEID, are also a good opportunity to interact.

All MAS/DAS/CAS participants are encouraged to make full use of our facilities. You will be given access to the library once you are registered (with your student cards). You will also be given a personal IT account to access your UNIGE email, the libraries’ catalogues and the course material. Wifi is available in our office, as well as computers in UNIGE and IHEID libraries.

Living in Geneva

  • A humanitarian hub (opportunities to network, varied input from those actors in the trainings)
  • Opportunities to participate to events linked to humanitarian action (conferences, exhibitions…)
  • A multicultural environment with plenty students and facilities.

It is your own responsibility to go through all the processes and procedures in order
to stay in Geneva (student’s via, accommodation, health insurance, bank account).
The procedures and the search for accommodation take time, as the housing situation is difficult.

Our administration is responsible for the academic support of the students. We only offer some guidance for the following procedures:
The student is responsible for finding accommodation. You are strongly advised to do it as early as possible, as the accommodation is now a condition to obtain a visa. Information on accommodation is available in the student’s guide provided by the administration.
In order to get a visa, you will need to obtain the necessary papers for residence in the canton of Geneva from the Swiss Embassy in your country of origin. Allow yourself enough time to go through the visa process, which can take up to 3 months. The administration will provide you with a recommendation letter as well as some support in the follow up of the process.
Residence permit
Obtaining the visa to enter Switzerland is not enough to make your stay legal. When you arrive in Geneva, you must go to the Office cantonal de la population (OCP) with your visa, passport-sized photographs, and a copy of your passport. Due to the current pandemic, the OCP has normally sent you a specific appointment. In case you did not receive anything, you need to contact them. The deadline to submit your request is 14 days after your arrival in Geneva. More information on that matter is available in the student’s guide provided to the students. The administration is available for some advice.

We advise you to arrive in Geneva at least one week before the programme starts in
order to complete the administrative tasks

Yes. Health Insurance is mandatory in Switzerland. Unlike other countries, there is no social security, so you must get one from a private insurance company. Don’t forget to ask your insurer for an insurance that covers health and accident. A list of insurances is proposed in the student’s guide.

The cost of living in Geneva is high. Public transport, accommodation and food are expenses that students have to cover by themselves. The monthly cost for a student is usually estimated at around 2,000 Swiss Francs, including rent, health insurance, public transport, food, telephone and a little spending money. We only offer a very limited number of scholarships and these are only available to MAS and DAS students. We strongly advise you to look for your own financial support. Some tips about student’s life and prices in Geneva are offered in the student’s guide.

Our Centre is located in the neighbourhood of Plainpalais, near the main building of the University of Geneva (Unimail). You can find more details about our location and how to reach us here.