The Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies as an institution

We are a joint centre of the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (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.

Taking the advantage of Geneva, one of the main humanitarian hubs in the world, our trainings are developed with the participation and intervention in 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 professional.


The Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies is independent of any type of pressure or interests in developing its own ideas and reflections. As an academic centre, and based on rigorous methods, it is free to analyse, compare and create knowledge, tools and processes. Critical thinking and analysis, as well as creative concepts, designs and research are central to the centre and continuously encouraged. While close links and exchanges with partner humanitarian and academic institutions are valued, an “independent mind” is essential for us to truly contribute with its own thinking and experience to the humanitarian endeavour.


We promote diversity in many ways: encouraging diverse and divergent thinking and expression among its teachers, researchers, students and partners; drawing on several disciplines and their branches; ensuring that a variety of academic, professional and organisational humanitarian experiences are represented within the Centre and favouring different cultural perspectives by hiring and connecting professionals coming from all around the world.

Ethical action

Ethical action permeates our activities in many ways. For example, diversity must be matched by mutual respect and ethical behaviour. This implies respecting other opinions and approaches, and respecting confidentiality when needed. Ethical action also implies that decisions and actions are based on what best serves the interests of people affected by conflict and disaster as opposed to self-serving professional interests. Finally, research undertaken by the centre must abide by the highest ethical standards.

Ensuring effectiveness and promoting quality

All activities undertaken by the centre, whether in the realm of training, research or debate, are evidence-based, results-oriented and ultimately geared towards improving the humanitarian situation on the ground. We have a duty to apply the highest quality standards to its activities and to ensure as much as possible that their impact is measurable and positive, while avoiding harm. Quality is central to our mission to improve the quality of humanitarian responses.

The Swiss Agency for Accreditation and Quality Assurance has recognised the Master programme offered by the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies in partnership with the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. The accreditation agency noted that the Masters of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Humanitarian Action fulfilled the required quality standards and commended the interdisciplinary nature of the programme. It further lauded the active engagement of all professors, practitioners and students in the programme’s development and quality control.

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 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 of the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies, you have access to most services of both institutions, such as libraries, computers, cafeterias, job forums and more. Note that the the centre is not located in either of Graduate Institute or UNIGE facilities,  we are located in central Geneva (Paquis area near the lake) on the ground floor of a student residence alongside other humanitarian and development think tanks and organisations.  

We have partnership agreements with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who are important institutions in the humanitarian field. They provide essential insight in terms of policy making, programme conceptualization and implementation. Combined with academic teaching, their experience is an important added value to the quality of our trainings.

Beyond these formal and important partnerships, other humanitarian organisations contribute to the training through various interventions in our courses, for more information visit our partnership page.

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 Certificates of Advanced Studies (CAS) and Executive Short Courses main focus is the latter. They strengthen people’s 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 relevant work experience in the humanitarian, social or development sector.


All classes at the Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action 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 full-time at a 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 (Test of English as Foreign Language): Internet-test : 100
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System) : 7.0
  • CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English, Cambridge English, part of the University of Cambridge) : B-C
  • CAE (Cambridge Advanced English, Cambridge English, part of the University of Cambridge): 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 for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action therefore requires a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) plus a minimum of two years’ work experience from its students. The continuing education offering at Swiss universities ranges from 1-day courses to comprehensive diploma programmes of several months and years.

Continuing Education

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*.

*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. 

All our diplomas are integrated in the framework of the European Credit System (ECTS) and are jointly awarded by the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.

Master of Advanced Studies (MAS)

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), two specialisation options (CAS) and a dissertation. The MAS usually lasts one year but can be split into three. 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.

Diploma of Advanced Studies (DAS)

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’ analytical skills offering a global overview of the landscape in which Humanitarian Action has to develop itself. With each week a specific angle of analysis (different disciplines or different approaches) the students will enhance their understanding of humanitarian realities their background and their theoretical foundations. The DAS in humanitarian action is worth 30 ECTS credits which correspond to 900 hours of work.

Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS)

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. It is intended to enhance participants’ careers and skills in their working environment. The CAS are 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. 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 (European standard credit system).

No. In order to be admitted to a PHD, you need to have a Master of Arts or a scientific Master.

No. In order to be admitted to a PHD, you need to have a Master of Arts or a scientific Master.

Studying at the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies

The ECTS grading scale is a grading system defined in the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) framework 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.

For more information on our scholarship programme, please visit this page.

One of the richness of the programmes at the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies is its audience of professionals in Humanitarian Action coming from all over the world and working for various organisations including small local NGO, UN agencies, international specialized NGO 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 enroll for a course with us, you will receive a study plan that informs you on the programmes and lessons, 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 recognised to be a full time occupation for our MAS, DAS CAS and one-week Executive Short Courses (the blended learning certificate is a 8-month part-time course). Students will be in class four to five days per week and six to eight hours per day. They will also be required to do additional readings in the evening, work on assignments, and reflect on their dissertation and their lectures.  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 other reasons) during the course, you will have to request the authorisation and get the agreement from the Centre.

Students come to the the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies with different levels. The teaching aims to give a common foundation to all of them. However, the learning process will rely on the individual and will be different for each student. 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 that will have to be read as it will be used during classes. This will indicate covered topics, discussions, learning outcomes as well as required readings. Each week you will have compulsory readings tailored to closely fit the needs of the course. Supplementary readings will be provided as well, and participants will be strongly encouraged to explore them in an effort to enhance their learning. Most of the reading requirements will be posted in electronic form on the platforms we use (Chamilo/Moodle). Participants should expect an approximate weekly workload of a minimum of five hours in addition to the class work.

Class work means the work done in class, such as lectures, case studies, role plays, workshops attended by the student in the class. Home work includes all the work accomplished by a student at home, including reading, research, and assignments on given topics.

The majority of our courses are very intensive and recognised as a full time activity: the MAS, the DAS and most of the CAS. On top of that, lectures that take place for four-five days a week, and assignments and readings are given to students. It is therefore quite difficult to carry on with a professional life aside. The only period when this seems possible may be during weekends.
The only programme that allow the possibility to work while taking the course is our Blended Learning Certificate which requires approximately eight hours of work per week.

It is possible to split the MAS in two or three years. You may decide to attend the Core Course (DAS) one year and the rest of the course in one or two years. You may do it in the order you want. Your dissertation 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 Centre’s management.

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

CERAH has 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

By whom?

– Between students
– Between students, lecturers and external speakers
– Between students and alumni

How ?

– During classes, discussions, debates
– During work group
– During conferences/visits organised within the course
– Participation is evaluated and is worth 20% of the mark based on the quality of interventions (- Relevant contributions, Contribution during group work, Interest on the class dynamic, Positive attitude)

Based on what?

  • Your past experiences, lessons learned, good/bad practice
  • Your questions, ideas, positions
  • Your readings
  • Your past trainings

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 in order to support the students.

Having a personal computer will ease your life (but is not mandatory). Documents will be posted in electronic form on the platforms we use (Chamilo/Moodle) to be consulted out of class. You can use the computers at disposal of students in UNIGE and Graduate Institute libraries for students. During classes there are some sessions in which students can be invited to do searches on the web. This can be done by sharing one computer for several students. In general, you are required not to use your laptop during class.

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. You will also be given a personal IT account notably to access the course material and internet access for the UNIGE computer rooms. There is a wireless network access for laptops in most parts of the University. It is also possible to use the computers at the library of the Graduate Institute at Maison de la Paix. You need to ask for a password from the counter.

The students elect representatives. The process is presented to the students at the beginning of the Master. Student representatives are a possible channel between the students as a group or as individuals and the Centre