Humanitarian pathway

27 October 2023

The Bachelor of Youth and Community Leadership (BYCL) humanitarian pathway is perfect option for anyone who is passionate about taking action to protect life and health, and promote respect for human beings. Learn more about UC's humanitarian pathway.


The Bachelor of Youth and Community Leadership (BYCL) humanitarian pathway is the perfect option for anyone who is passionate about taking action to protect life and health, and ensure respect for human beings. Social humanitarians believe in bettering the lives of others and improving the conditions of humanity. They are doers, always ready to get involved and give aid when others are in times of need. They are strong advocates who bring to light important social issues facing us today. This pathway has been designed in consultation with key organisations and community groups for people interested in enhancing human welfare and wellbeing.

Is this pathway for me?


Humanitarianism can take many forms, from involvement in disaster relief and civil emergencies, to volunteering locally to help people in need by providing resources and social support. The possibilities to affect change are endless, yet it usually starts with asking “how can I help?” If you are someone who is naturally inclined to support others when they need it, this could be the pathway for you.

Through the BYCL humanitarian pathway you will learn how to engage with individuals and communities, to understand their needs so you (and others) can provide appropriate welfare and support. Through a mixture of theoretical knowledge and practical experiences, you will develop the skills and confidence to act with compassion, alleviate suffering and preserve human dignity.

Humanitarian action is founded on four principles: humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence ( Whether you want to be a volunteer or work in an NGO, this pathway prepares you to positively enhance people's lives.


What is humanitarianism?

Humanitarianism is the belief that all human beings deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Humanitarians are advocates for human rights and fair treatment. They are supporters of sustainability, fairness and equity. They are normally generous with their time, engaging in volunteer work, community support initiatives, mentoring and youth support. Humanitarians are often leaders, motivating the actions of individuals and groups to affect those people in communities who need it the most, locally, nationally and internationally.


What makes this pathway so special?
  • The BYCL humanitarian pathway allows you to take the courses you need to address the opportunities you identify. This could include courses in politics, international relations, cultural studies, sociology, education, media and communication, education, geography, and more!
  • Through CHCH101 and other BYCL core courses, you will explore projects that could specifically address issues or inequities that you wish to change. Getting involved with UC Sustainability and Student Volunteer Army initiatives adds to your experience.
  • The BYCL degree is designed for the future of work. You will be equipped with transferable skills and disciplinary knowledge to thrive in rapidly changing employment contexts.
  • You have the flexibility to build the degree you want! Along with a humanitarian focus, you can develop a programme of study that can make you an exceptional candidate for any workplace with a unique set of skills and expertise.
  • Join a dynamic group of students intent on making positive change in their communities and beyond.


What are the courses?

The BYCL is a 360-point degree, with at least 225 points at 200-level or above:

The degree does not have any majors, but there are some identified study pathways. To study the BYCL humanitarian work pathway, you can design your study drawing on the compulsory and recommended courses below and supplementing with courses to meet your interests and certain course requirements.

Your first year comprises a minimum of 120 points or eight 15-point courses. There are two compulsory courses plus four highly recommended courses for the humanitarian work pathway. 

Talk to a Student Advisor about your course options. They will help you select courses from across subjects while ensuring you meet any prerequisites and requirements for the BYCL degree.

Year 1 Compulsory courses

YACL101 (15pts) Introduction to Youth Leadership: Leading the Self
CHCH101 (15pts) Strengthening Communities through Social Innovation

The following elective courses are highly recommended:

EDUC101 (15pts) Spark! How & What People Learn
EDUC103 (15pts) Education, Culture and Society
COMS101 (15pts) Media and Society
HSRV104 (15pts) Youth Realities

For a fulltime study programme, you will complete a further two 100-level courses (30 points). These can be from subjects such as cultural studieseducationhuman servicesmanagementmāori and indigenous studies, and sociology. When selecting your courses remember to consider prerequisites for desired 200 and 300- level courses. 


Students taking action

Helping others through dialogue and engagement is central to the BYCL degree. You will have opportunities to create group projects and connect with UC’s community in Ōtautahi Christchurch, including marae visits with local iwi, volunteer efforts with the Student Volunteer Army, and work with the Children’s University.


CHCH101 service-learning course

Through the CHCH101 Strengthening Communities through Social Innovation course, over a thousand students have gained academic credit while offering over 25,000 hours of service to more than 50 community organisations and government agencies. CHCH101 has attracted international students from Japan, Vanuatu, and the USA.

Recent projects include: transforming a mental health services space for the Canterbury District Health Board; designing and implementing a community meeting with local candidates for the Election 2020; supporting resthome residents; and helping to clean up and rejuvenate community gardens.


Student Volunteer Army

Humble beginnings have evolved into a nationwide youth volunteering movement for the University of Canterbury (UC)’s Student Volunteer Army (SVA), which is best known for the impressive response initiated by students during following the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

Starting as a simple Facebook event, the SVA grew into one of UC’s most sought after clubs on campus. Nearly a decade on the group is evolving further, encouraging young change makers in New Zealand secondary schools and helping them make a difference in their communities through the SVA Service Award programme. Since its launch in 2019, 170 schools across New Zealand have signed up to the Service Award. 8,000 students are volunteering in their communities, recording their hours and attributing them to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Bachelor of Youth and Community Leadership Overview
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