Shaping the future of humanitarian aid together

In the past decades, humanitarian crises have risen in number and complexity. The international humanitarian system is facing new challenges and undergoing major changes. But how can we respond accordingly? This course – People-Centred Humanitarian Aid – offers insight into important trends and practical advice on how to implement good practices. It provides an interactive open learning process based on concrete case studies. The course is aimed at both experienced and junior professionals and supports peer learning and future network building.

The goal of this course is ambitious. Together with the participants, we want to shape the future of humanitarian aid. Three cross-cutting issues – participation, the humanitarian–development nexus, and innovation – are to be part of a contemporary humanitarian approach that places the people affected by crisis at the centre of attention.

More than 20 NGOs from different countries, experienced independent professionals, the Geneva-based donor organization Swiss Solidarity, and ebaix, a Swiss association specialized in joint learning, participated in the development of this course.

Course structure and modules

The six course modules are split into three week-long blocks. Each block requires six full days of attendance. The course covers topics that are central to the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) and were debated at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. These include:

  • the need for a stronger localization of humanitarian aid and how this will affect the work of international NGOs
  • a better integration and participation of the populations affected by crisis and ways to increase their influence on aid decisions
  • new technologies and innovative approaches enabling humanitarian organizations to become more efficient, transparent, and accountable
  • a more effective and open-minded cooperation between the humanitarian and development sectors

Reasons to attend this course

  • The course provides insights and means to ensure that communities affected by crisis are at the centre of our programmes, from assessments to impact analyses.
  • The course is practice-oriented and provides a safe learning environment for participants to benefit from recent field experiences presented by high-level experts, NGOs, and fellow participants (peer learning).
  • The course establishes a bridge between generations. Junior staff with sufficient field experience can challenge more experienced humanitarian specialists and vice versa.
  • Participants will become part of a dynamic network lasting beyond the course duration, allowing them to continue jointly reflecting on their engagement and the future of humanitarian aid. 
Course information

Certificate of Advanced Studies in People-Centred Humanitarian Aid, Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern (CAS UniBE)

Structure Training course for professionals (in-person) with three block weeks, each consisting of six full days (Monday–Saturday)
Accreditation 15 ECTS (4 ECTS per block week, 3 ECTS for written thesis)
Duration 10 months
Dates Block week 1: 07 to 12 October 2019

Block week 2: 13 to 18 January 2020

Block week 3: 30 March to 4 April 2020

Venue University of Bern, Centre for Development and Environment, Mittelstrasse 43, 3012 Bern
Language of instruction English
Admission - Experienced humanitarian and development cooperation professionals

- Junior professionals (up to 1/3 of places)

Course fees 8,500 Swiss francs / 7,500 Euros
Application by 2 September 2019
Responsible body University of Bern, Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

The course is designed primarily for programme managers with several years of experience in humanitarian aid or in development cooperation. The practical relevance of the course will be guaranteed through mutual exchange based on case studies and experiences.

The course also targets junior professionals with less experience. In order to simultaneously serve the different target groups and ensure a mutually stimulating course flow, junior professionals must have completed a field mission prior to the start of the course. Junior professionals may occupy no more than one-third of the study places (cf. Documents: Concept note Young Talent Promotion)

15 ECTS are awarded upon successful completion of this CAS. Each block week, including transfer tasks and any assessments, are worth 4 ECTS.

The certificate thesis is worth 3 ECTS and can be composed in either English, French, or German. Students are provided with a great deal of freedom in terms of creativity and content of their thesis, which may be application-oriented.

It is mandatory for all students enrolled in this course to participate in all course blocks and to complete assessments. In-person attendance to all course elements must be at least 90%.

Please make sure to arrange your travel according to the course schedule in order not to miss any classes. Be aware that this may include travelling to Bern on the weekend before the start of any block course.

Experienced professionals

  • Master’s degree (university or technical university)
  • Fluency in written and spoken English
  • At least 3 years of relevant professional experience in humanitarian aid or in development cooperation

Junior professionals

  • Master’s degree (university or technical university)
  • Fluency in written and spoken English
  • Current employment at a humanitarian organization
  • 10 months’ field experience in either humanitarian aid or in development cooperation

In individual cases, experienced persons with other qualifications can be considered.

Application process

Please complete the application form.

You will be contacted via email about the status and success of your application and any next steps. Course places are limited to 24 participants. If the number of suitable applicants exceeds the space available, selection will be made according to the order in which the applications were received.

The closing date for application is 2 September 2019. Depending on the number of applicants, the Course Management reserves the right to decide whether or not the course will take place. Programme modifications, especially in regard to the announced lecturers and learning objectives, are at the discretion of the Course Management and will be announced in advance by email.

Course fees

Tuition fees are 8,500 Swiss francs / 7,500 euros for six modules offered in three block weeks in October 2019, January 2020, and March/April 2020. The fees include preparatory and follow-up learning material, individual expert supervision of written assignments, and, upon successful completion of the course, the “Certificate of Advanced Studies in People-Centred Humanitarian Aid”.

The fees also include lunches and snacks during course hours.

Course participants must cover their own transportation, other meals, and accommodation costs. A list of cost-effective accommodation options in Bern can be provided upon request.


The total amount of 8,500 Swiss francs / 7,500 Euros can be paid in two instalments. The first instalment of 4,500 Swiss francs / 4,000 Euros is due after the applicant has been confirmed as a registered participant. The second instalment of 4,000 Swiss francs / 3,500 Euros is due by 31 January 2020.

Cancellation conditions and compensation

Application to the CAS is binding.

Withdrawing your application prior to the application deadline is possible; you will be charged only processing costs of CHF 500. Candidates whose application is withdrawn after the application deadline will incur the full charge of the course. If a suitable and timely replacement can be found by the candidate, only processing costs of CHF 250 will be charged.

Applicants who are accepted become registered participants. If a registered participant does not attend the course at all, or attends only parts of it, no reimbursement can be claimed.

In case of illness or accident, block weeks, individual modules, and course assessments can be compensated in the next CAS on People-Centred Humanitarian Aid, on presentation of the corresponding medical certificate. The same applies to work emergencies, to which the participant’s employer must attest. The absences and compensations must be approved by the Course Coordinator.

Participants may, if they wish, take out a cancellation insurance. For more information, please contact the ZUW Secretariat (+41 (0)31 631 39 28 /

The judicial venue for any disputes concerning this relationship is CH-3000 Bern. Swiss law applies.

Responsible body

The Committee of Continuing Education (Weiterbildungskommission WBK) of the University of Bern issued the study regulations and authorized the CAS in People-Centred Humanitarian Aid. It has appointed a Course Management Team to run the course, which is implemented by the Centre for Continuing Education (Zentrum für universitäre Weiterbildung ZUW) of the University of Bern.

Course Management

The Course Management of the CAS in People-Centred Humanitarian Aid appoints the Course Coordinator and approves the study programme. It decides on the admission of students and lecturers, on assessment terms, and on the conferment of the degree. At the same time, it is responsible for quality assurance and the further development of the training course.

If you have any questions, please contact Ulla Gämperli, by email ( or by phone (+41 (0) 31 631 35 27) on a Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday afternoon.