Diploma in Global Humanitarian Engineering

Humanitarian Group Meeting

Humanitarian engineering is an emerging discipline that focuses on improving the lot of under-served communities, be they poor, marginalised or otherwise disadvantaged, by increasing standard of living, capacity and resilience.

Humanitarian engineers often operate in complex settings (for social, cultural, political and historical reasons), which are physically challenging - they may be remote and sparsely populated, urban and densely populated, or a disaster zone. These environments are usually low in resources and have low resilience, but have many layers of human challenges.

The engineering skills that students gain at UC are a small part of the skill set you will require to make a meaningful contribution. The really hard 'hearts and minds' skills are learned through broadening your formal education, experience and reflection. The aim of our Diploma in Humanitarian Engineering is to help you understand the challenges of working in a humanitarian environment, develop and broaden your intellectual experience (from the purely engineering skills you get from your BE(Hons)), and equip you with some practical humanitarian skills.

Water, shelter and food lie at the very core of humanitarian endeavour, with water a clear first. For this reason, we focus on these fundamentals in our programme.

Our diploma will begin to equip you with some essential tools for working in a humanitarian context and complement the technical skills of the BE(Hons). You will learn illuminating things about communities and their challenges as well as yourself that will benefit you throughout your professional life.

We strongly support diversity in our humanitarian engineering programme and are confident that we support an environment that permits everyone to flourish and make the most their strengths. Students take the lead on many of our initiatives and tasks, including diversity, emergency response team and communications.

We are fortunate that many staff members in the Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering have substantial humanitarian interests, mainly in water (for example basic water supply and sanitation), although you will find other College of Engineering staff with interests in areas like microhydro and solar power. These include:

We encourage you to talk to staff about your interests, and how they might be able to help you. Furthermore, many staff are committed to building capacity in developing countries through postgraduate education and research. 

Diploma in Global Humanitarian Engineering - Structure

Our diploma is divided into two parts. In the first you will take three humanities courses from a schedule that will help develop your thinking about humanitarian challenges. In the second part we offer flexible pathways which include a humanitarian field engineering course. This flexibility is designed to allow you to develop your interests and passions. For example, you could find a placement with a national/international NGO, attend an international design summit (immersive experience in a developing community), work on a humanitarian-focused research project with an academic, or make a proposal on a topic of interest to you.

The field engineering was born of our experiences in the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010/11. We think that in the majority of humanitarian contexts engineers need to work at a more basic level than your BE(Hons) trains you for. So we teach you, for example, how to build and operate an emergency water supply, or how to build a gravity-fed water supply system. Alongside this we build leadership and teamwork. These practical skills will help you become more competent engineers.

Emergency Response Team (UCERT)

We run a student-led emergency response team that is tasked with establishing safe water supply following a disaster. Please contact Nick Dudley Ward for more information on this.

Water Pump

For all enquiries about the diploma contact:

Nick Dudley Ward

Senior Lecturer
Director of Studies, Diploma in Global Humanitarian Engineering
Civil & Natural Resources Engineering E439
Internal Phone: 92047