Home Education and trainingCoursesGraduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership

Join a ground-breaking program designed by practitioners, academics and leadership experts. On completion you will receive a Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership, accredited by Deakin University.

Course delivery and learning experience

All four units are delivered online through CloudDeakin


Run over a period of eight months total, including two intensive online units. Students can expect to complete a minimum of ten hours of study per week in the other two Cloud-based units.

Scholarship availability

Yes. Learn about scholarship opportunities.

Course fees

Fees are determined based on your geographical location as a student, and the type of organisation you work in. The fee structures are designed to support students from developing nations.

Learn more about our fee structures

Application Dates

The delivery of this course is on hold for 2023.

About the course

The world needs a new breed of leader. You.

The problems facing our planet are more demanding than ever. From natural disasters to widespread conflict and displacement, the issues are significant and systemic.

The Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership is as diverse and compelling as the challenges it equips you to solve.

Developed, tested, and refined based on proven efficacy in the field, the Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership is an unrivalled learning experience that sharpens your intellectual, emotional, interpersonal, and professional leadership skills.

The course is delivered through an innovative, blended approach that combines robust theory and practical application.

You will learn to:

  • Appreciate and understand humanitarian principles, values and ethics, including critical understanding and challenges in practice.
  • Understand and navigate humanitarian systems and actors.
  • Develop appreciation of emerging trends and challenges, with a focus on strategic considerations when leading humanitarian responses.
  • Understand the role of leadership, and how to provide effective leadership, in a humanitarian context.
  • Make decisions quickly and effectively, often with limited information.
  • Navigate complicated leadership and humanitarian dilemmas.
  • Lead effectively and strategically across humanitarian contexts (preparedness, relief, and recovery).

How you learn

Grow your leadership skills in the classroom, on the ground, and everywhere in between.

You will collaborate with an expert group of practicing humanitarians, academics, and leadership specialists from around the world to develop your experience and transferable skills.

You will learn to navigate the leadership and strategic problems faced by the aid system today. You will be equipped to bring the best of yourself to influence the people and processes that surround you, and the best out of yourself, to pioneer more effective responses to humanity’s most pressing challenges.

The Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership blends a practitioner and academic approach to learning through:

  • Academic lectures.
  • Expert-led seminars and workshops.
  • Guest speakers.
  • Individual coaching.
  • Peer learning.
  • Cutting-edge distance and learning resources.
  • Online intensive units with intensive simulation exercises.

Why it's unique

Blending theoretical behaviours with practical skills.

The Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership equips experienced humanitarians with the skill and insight required to embrace the next level of highly effective leadership. The theoretical aspects of the course are informed by key leadership behaviours, designed for practical application in a humanitarian response.

Communicating vision and strategic purpose

Theoretical Concepts

The Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership teaches you to:

  1. Communicate a compelling and inspired vision and sense of core purpose.
  2. Tailor communication styles to various audiences.
  3. Convey complex issues with clarity, brevity, and confidence.
  4. Show optimism about projects and response efforts.
Skills in action

The Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership-equipped leaders discuss these skills in the field:

On providing complex directions simply: “There’s importance in clearly communicating simplified messages and helping staff to frame their work to fit into that larger strategic direction.”

Strategic thinking

Theoretical Concepts

The Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership teaches you to:

  1. Align ideas and solutions to strategic imperatives.
  2. Evaluate opportunities and risks to make informed strategic decisions.
  3. Put in place, structured opportunities for others to generate alternative ideas.
Skills in action

Our graduates discuss these skills in the field:

On including team-members early: “There’s strategic thinking in setting up frameworks for all staff to be able to input into thinking about a response. That’s a lot about process development, about setting the parameters for discussion, communicating where we need to be in a certain amount of time and then delegating that to the respective deputies and field managers to make that happen.”

On strategies to manage multiple priorities: “We were constantly coming up with ideas or issues and then having to come up with solutions and I found my role a lot of the time was trying to align them with what the strategic priorities of the government were… and how do they best meet not only the humanitarian imperative but also the government priorities”.

Managerial courage

Theoretical Concepts

The Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership teaches you to:

  1. State a willingness to champion ideas.
  2. Confront difficult situations and seek resolutions.
  3. Take calculated risks and stand by your decisions.
  4. Make tough decisions and corrective actions without delay.
Skills in action

Our graduates discuss managerial courage in the field:

On improved confidence: “One of the areas that I’ve been more comfortable with is around understanding, in a humanitarian environment, that sometimes you just have to make the decisions on the information that you’ve got and for better or worse you do it with what you’ve got.”

On managing challenging stakeholder relationships: “I was able to become a voice, as I should be, for the field office and having those meetings at a field office level, what are our challenges, what are our issues that I need to bring up, going and bringing that up with the Manila office and really fighting the field office’s corner”

Deliver results

Theoretical Concepts

The Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership teaches you to:

  1. Remove barriers and constraints to ensure plans are achieved.
  2. Manage risks and take actions to reduce risks.
  3. Make changes to improve performances as result of information received.
  4. Create measures and metrics to track performance.
Skills in action

Our graduates discuss delivering results in the field:

On learning to establish a clear oversight of the situation and delegating varying responsibilities: “I needed to ensure that all of the results were being delivered on time, and if they weren’t, then to know what was going on and how we were going to deal with that.”

Build high performance teams

Theoretical Concepts

The Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership teaches you to:

  1. Facilitate and manage interaction between team members so that they perform more highly together than they would individually.
  2. Create climates of high team morale.
  3. Promote collaborative working across boundaries.
Skills in action

Our graduates discuss building high performance teams in the field:

On the importance of establishing an open, personal rapport: “It just made me realise that if you set that tone, and it’s so much about just setting the tone, in the right way, being positive, being enthusiastic, people will want to work for that. People will want to be part of that success. Remembering to be positive.”

Manage change and transformation

Theoretical Concepts

The Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership teaches you to:

  1. Address the concerns of others over change, help them to embrace it and demonstrate their own belief and high expectations.
  2. Celebrate success of change both at the end and throughout the process.
  3. Build the confidence of others in their own ability to embrace change.
  4. Effectively influence others by understanding their interests and showing how they will be met by a preferred solution.
Skills in action

The Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership-equipped leaders discuss managing change and transformation in the field:

On learning to embrace a climate of constant change: “Start it from day one. Start sowing the seed. Start trying to help people understand what this is going to mean for them, where it’s going to head, what it’s going to look like. Try to get people excited about it because… change always comes with this negative connotation as opposed to ‘wow look at the opportunities'”.


Are you ready to embrace the next level of leadership?

Successful applicants for the Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership will have:

  • At least five years’ work experience in an organisation or government body engaged in humanitarian responses, emergency management, development programmes or related areas.
  • A minimum of three years in a senior management or leadership role.
  • A strong desire to develop leadership skills to positively impact the future of the aid system.
  • Excellent verbal and written English communication skills, equivalent to level 6.5 IELTS as per Deakin University requirements. Please note you may be requested to undertake a written test or undergo an interview during the application process.