Frequently Asked Questions


What makes CERAH unique ?

CERAH is a joint centre of the University of Geneva and (UNIGE) the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID). It is the fruit of a gradual and collective effort of the past 18 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, CERAH trainings are developed with the participation and intervention in class of representatives of the main Humanitarian Organisations represented in Geneva. An opportunity to base the learning on real cases with experienced practitioners as much as with academic professional.

It gives a unique opportunity for the students to network and better know the various aid actors.

Today, as an interdisciplinary and multi-thematic centre, CERAH becomes an internationally renowned academic platform offering a wide range of post-graduate qualifications for humanitarian professionals and developing a research portfolio in humanitarian studies.

CERAH's values and principles


CERAH 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, CERAH 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 CERAH and continuously encouraged. While close links and exchanges with partner humanitarian and academic institutions are valued, an “independent mind” is essential for CERAH to truly contribute with its own thinking and experience to the humanitarian endeavour.


CERAH promotes 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 CERAH; and, favouring different cultural perspectives by hiring and connecting professionals coming from all around the world.

Ethical action

Ethical action permeates CERAH’s 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 CERAH must abide by the highest ethical standards.

Ensuring effectiveness and promoting quality

All activities undertaken by CERAH, 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. CERAH thus has 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 the CERAH’s mission to improve the quality of humanitarian responses.

Recognition of the quality of CERAH’s trainings (Certification AAQ)

The Swiss Agency for Accreditation and Quality Assurance has recognised the Master programme offered by the Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action (CERAH) 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.

What does it mean to participate in a joint Center training programme?

CERAH 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.

As a CERAH student, am I a student from UNIGE or the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies?

You are a student of both. As a CERAH student, you have access to most services of both institutions, such as libraries, computers, cafeterias, job forums… Note that the CERAH is not located in either of Graduate Institute or UNIGE facilities.

What partnerships does the CERAH have with other institutions?

The CERAH has 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 the trainings at the CERAH. 

Beyond these formal and important partnerships, other humanitarian organisations contribute to the training through various interventions in CERAH’s the courses.


What are the particularities of CERAH programmes?

CERAH 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 Thematic 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.

The Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Humanitarian Action is a combination of both since its Core Course is the DAS, its two specialisation options are the CAS and its third component is the student’s dissertation.


For whom is this programme?
  • 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.
What are the qualifications to have to be accepted in the programme?

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 CERAH 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


What are MAS, DAS and CAS diplomas in Continuing Education?

Continuing Training and Education

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. CERAH 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 EducationThe 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 CERAH 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 at the CERAH usually lasts one year but can be split into three (more information about flexibility/modularity). 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 at the CERAH 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.


What is a Thematic Short Course (TSC)?

Oriented towards practical knowledge, tools and applied concepts related to one aspect or one specific domain of interest, the Thematic 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).

Do the MAS/DAS/CAS lead to being admitted to a PHD?

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

Studying at CERAH

What does it mean to have training with ECTS credits?

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.

How can I benefit from a scholarship?

There are scholarships available every year, but their number is limited. Scholarships are awarded by « Service de la Solidarité Internationale de la République du Canton de Genève» and the Wilfsdorf Foundation, which establish the conditions to obtain grants according to their own criteria. The students have to come from and work in a country outside the OECD or from Chile or Mexico. The grants are only for students who attend the Master during one year starting from September. CERAH has to respect these rules. No system based on merit or on social conditions is in place.

Which kind of public attends CERAH’s trainings?

One of the richness of the programmes at CERAH 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 is therefore very rich and offers perspectives on real cultural and institutional diversity. An opportunity for reflection of the reality of today’s humanitarian stakeholders, their different sensitivities and expertise.

Are there rules and regulations regarding the internal functioning?

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.

How intensive are CERAH programmes?

Training at the CERAH is intensive and recognized to be a full time occupation. Students will be in class 4 to 5 days per week and 6 to 8 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 authorization and get the agreement from CERAH.

At the end of the programme, do all students have the same competencies?

Students come to the CERAH 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.

How much reading will I be expected to do before and during the course?

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 CERAH uses (Chamilo/Moodle). Participants should expect an approximate weekly workload of a minimum of 5 hours in addition to the class work.

What is meant by class work and home 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.

Is it possible to continue my work during a course taken at CERAH?

The majority of CERAH courses are very intensive and recognized as a full time activity: the MAS, the DAS and most of the CAS. On top of lectures that take place around 4/5 days a week, 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 programmes that allow the possibility to work while taking the course are the Distance learning/blended courses (CAS Strategy HDL, the CAS People Management).

I want to attend the MAS in more than a year, what options do I have?

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 two specialisation options (CAS) 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 CERAH management. You have to introduce a formal request to the Head or Learning.

Is it possible to change the specialisation options chosen for the MAS?

Yes. You have the opportunity to revise your choice of specialisation options. You will have a presentation of the options by the team, and then the opportunity to revise your initial choice and submit, for approval, your final choice with the related motivation on the 11th of November.

If I registered for a CAS, is it guaranteed that I can attend it?

It is not guaranteed. The CERAH team will select the participants of a CAS according to the compatibility between the person’s skills as well as his/her professional project and the requirements of the programme. If the CAS doesn’t have enough participants registered, it could be cancelled. The decision is made on the 1st of December.

What is the grading system?

To validate the skills and knowledge acquired during the training CERAH uses the Swiss notation system. Marking is as follows:

6 = excellent
5.5 to 5.75 = very good
5 to 5.25 = quite good
4.5 to 4.75 = good
4 = Average to pass

3 = some elements missing
2 = many elements missing
1 = off-topic, all elements missing
0 = nil (no-show without justification, cheating)

Ratings are rounded up or down to the nearest quarter.

If the candidate has not attained the mark of 4 for the personal work or in the overall marking, a remedial session is organised.

What is the average rate of success of the MAS?

There is approximately 90% of success.

What happens if I fail part of the programme?

You need to have a meeting with the Head of Learning in order to explore different options.

The training at the CERAH involves a lot of interactions. What does this mean?

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
What is expected from me in terms of presence?

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.

Does the CERAH facilitate Job opportunities/ internships?

No. The role of the CERAH is not to facilitate internship placement or job opportunities. Nevertheless several activities and services are provided in order to support the students.

- Through the trainings, the CERAH offers an important opportunity to interact with professionals coming from various organisations.
- CERAH organises a “Professional Humanitarian Corner” where professionals from HR department of a series of humanitarian organisations present the specificities of the recruitment process within their organisations
 - CERAH provides alumni Platform where job opportunities are posted.

Do I need a laptop to follow the courses?

Having a personal computer will ease your life (but is absolutely not mandatory!): Documents will be posted in electronic form on the platforms CERAH uses (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. In class there are some sessions during which students can or are 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.

Will I have full access to the libraries and IT facilities of UNIGE and the Graduate Institute?

All MAS/DAS/CAS participants are encouraged to make full use of CERAH 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.

Is there a system of representation of students?

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

Living in Geneva

The unique advantage of studying 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 for them

What should I know in order to prepare my stay in Geneva?

It is your own responsibility to go through all the processes and procedures in order to stay in Geneva.

The procedures and the search for accommodation take time
- The housing situation is difficult and finding accommodation can be a challenge.
- Life in Geneva is very expensive.

What type of administrative support can I expect from the CERAH in order to get the authorization to come and stay in Geneva?

The administration of the CERAH is responsible for the academic support of the students. However, in order to move to Geneva, the students have a number of procedures to go through. The CERAH team can give some administrative support.


The student is responsible of finding accommodation. You are strongly advised to do it as early as possible as having found accommodation is now a condition to obtain a visa. You can find a non-exhaustive list of accommodation possibilities in Geneva in the documents below:

More information on accommodation is available on the student’s guide provided by the CERAH. In case you don’t find accommodation, the CERAH can give some support in that matter without guaranteeing any success.


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. Give yourself plenty of time to obtain the visa because the paperwork can take up to 3 months. The student has to pay for the visa with his/her own resources.  CERAH 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. We advise you to contact the OCP to check whether or not you will need to show them any additional documents. The deadline for submitting 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 CERAH team is available for some advice.


When should I come to Geneva if I attend the MAS or DAS programme at the CERAH?

We advise you to arrive in Geneva at least 8 days before the programme starts to complete the administrative tasks

Do I need a Health Insurance during my stay in Geneva?

In Switzerland, having a Health Insurance is mandatory. 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.

How much should I budget for during my stay in Geneva?

Visas, transport and accommodation are expenses that the student will have to cover by him/herself. You should draw up a budget before embarking on a course. The cost of living is high. The monthly cost for a student is usually estimated at about CHF 2,000 including rent, health insurance, public transport, food, telephone and a little spending money. CERAH can offer only a very limited number of grants and these are only available to MAS and DAS students. We strongly advise you to look for your own financial support. You can obtain information about financial aid at the University of Geneva:  Bureau d’information sociale (BUIS).

Humanitarian Distance Learning - Designing strategies and projects for humanitarian action

Is the CAS a full-time course?

This is an 8-month programme equivalent to 10 ECTS credits. The course is full-time during the face-to-face session in Kampala, Uganda, but not during the distance learning sessions. An average of 10 hours of homework per week is expected during the distance learning weeks.

What is expected from me in terms of presence and work?

The presence during the residential session in Kampala is essential. This is a condition for credit validation. During the distance-learning parts, you must follow the programme of the training and upload on the platform the required assignments.

What will my timetable look like?

During the distance learning period you will organise your time as you wish, as long as you follow the programme of the CAS.

How much reading will I be expected to do before and during the course?

For each teaching phase of the programme you will be given all the instruction on the Moodle platform. This will indicate the topics covered the discussions and learning outcomes, as well as the required readings. Each week you will have tailored compulsory readings fitting the needs of the course. Additional optional reading will also be provided, and we encourage participants to explore them in order to enhance their learning. Participants can expect an approximate average of 5 hours of reading per week in addition to the taught courses.

What happens if I fail part of the programme?

You need to talk to the Head of Learning in order to explore different options.

If I obtain my HDL CAS Designing Strategies and Projects in Humanitarian Action, can I apply for the Master of Advanced Studies in Humanitarian Action?

Yes, you can but you will need to choose one other CAS. In this scenario, the HDL CAS is the equivalent of one CAS. As a reminder, the Master of Advanced Studies is composed of 3 elements:

A core curriculum of 3 months (Diploma of Advanced Studies: DAS)
- Two elective courses on a specialized subject (Certificates of Advanced Studies: CAS)
- A dissertation on a topic of humanitarian action chosen by the participant

If the CAS HDL corresponds to 15 ECTS credits, will I have 65 ECTS credits for my Master of Advanced Studies instead of 60 ECTS credits?

No, our Master of Advanced Studies is always 60 ECTS credits. However, you can use the remaining 5 ECTS credits. You will get a certificate with your remaining credits.

How will the CAS HDL allow me to build my Community of Practice?

During this training, you will meet other professionals from your field and have the opportunity to share your experience with them. At the end, you will have access to the Alumni platform which will help you keep the contact with the other students of your CAS, but also get in touch with other CERAH students.

How is the CAS PM organised?

The CAS People Management is made up of 7 weeks of blended learning: 2 weeks distance and 4 weeks face to face.