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Diploma in Global Humanitarian Engineering information

22 November 2023

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 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 Global 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

The diploma is divided into three parts:

Part 1

Three Engineering Design courses taken as part of your BE(Hons) degree and cross-credited to your Diploma automatically.

There are no additional courses to be taken as part of Part 1.

Part 2

Three Humanities courses chosen from a schedule to develop and broaden your understanding of humanitarian issues. Subjects range from anthropology, history, and philosophy to political science and international relations. 

These courses are additional to the BE(Hons) degree and cannot be cross-credited.

Part 3

Part 3 consists of a Capstone course in your area of interest chosen from the following two Capstone options as outlined below.

Capstone Option A – ENGR315

1. Humanitarian Field Engineering - Block Course

In this option all students complete a Humanitarian Field Engineering block course (focussing on water and sanitation for developing communities and emergency relief, the block course is all about hand-on learning through a series of field exercises)

Plus a choice of one of the following four options, in addition to the block course:

2a. Engineering in Developing Communities (ENCN401)

A course looking at water supply and sanitation (solid and liquid waste management) issues in developing communities, agricultural issues and impacts of land-use changes, humanitarian aid during natural disaster relief, engineering in a cultural and sustainable context using appropriate technology.


2b. A 4-6 week Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) placement

In this option students organise a 4-6 week placement with an NGO, either based in New Zealand or overseas and submit a proposal for approval. Ongoing projects with the aim of securing long-term partnerships are preferred and UC staff may be able to help facilitate placements.


2c. An Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Design Summit

Run by Engineers Without Borders Australia, a Design Summit is a two-week immersive experience in a developing community. EWB Australia’s international Design Summit Programme operates in Nepal, Malaysia, Cambodia and India. These can be good opportunities for networking and finding longer-term opportunities.


2d. A suitable activity proposed by you and approved by the Director of Studies

Capstone Option B – ENGR316

Humanitarian Engineering - Professional Report

In this option students follow an independent programme of study, research or investigation on issues related to professional practice in Humanitarian Engineering. This could be commissioned by an Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) or a contribution to an academic’s humanitarian research. It is normally carried out in New Zealand.

Contact us

For all enquiries about the diploma, please contact the Faculty of Engineering student advisors.

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