Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module SGIA42415: Capstone Exercise: Humanitarian Intervention Simulation

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA42415: Capstone Exercise: Humanitarian Intervention Simulation

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap
Tied to L2K609
Tied to L2K909


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The capstone exercise will provide an opportunity for students to operationalise learning and knowledge from Modules 1-4 and their chosen Optional Modules in a simulated conflict setting


  • During conflict, and the immediate post-conflict context, there are urgent actions that need to be tackled including: poor security and law enforcement; a lack of administrative structures; a need for emergency relief and care of IDPs and refugees; the rebuilding of economies; the disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration of combatants. Humanitarian intervenors have to communicate, negotiate and make (rapid) decisions with a myriad of actors including: politicians, military forces, warlords and criminal elements, civilians, other INGOs and LNGos, media representatives. The exercise will expose students to problems that can occur through rogue and unexpected incidents and issues related to communication, information and intelligence flows.
  • The exercise allows students to reflect on how they may behave in such situations.
  • Prior to the exercise students will be given full briefings on the scenario, background readings, and be expected to prepare for a ‘role’ they will be playing.
  • Although the capstone exercise involves students from both MAs, students following will be given roles that specifically explore issues related to their programme (whether MA in 3D or MA in CP, SP and S). Where appropriate, external practitioners such as the British/Territorial Army and development or humanitarian agencies will be engaged as partners and/or participants in the exercise.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • a developed knowledge of the conflict operational environment in which humanitarian interventions take place and how these are impacted upon by internal and external influences.
  • an appreciation of the importance of communication and information during humanitarian operations.
  • an advanced understanding of the connections (Tracks 1-3) between humanitarian actors
  • an ability to situate local humanitarian concerns within the wider political and social context of the conflict in question, and appreciate the specificities of working and negotiating in asymmetric conflicts
  • an understanding of how the taught elements are operationally applicable in situations of tension and conflict.
  • an understanding of the methodologies used to study conflict and negotiation processes, and of the impact of our choice of methodology and conceptual framework on our understanding of conflict and negotiations, and vice versa.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • to analyse conflicts and design responses in tense situations.
  • to employ skills of principled negotiation processes.
  • to engage in research projects at MA level in the subject of conflict analysis and principled negotiation
  • to apply subject related knowledge and advanced theoretical models to the evaluation of current local and global issues, to interpret and analyse empirical data at an advanced level and according to competing explanatory frameworks, and to recognise the impact of a chosen conceptual framework on one’s research findings
Key Skills:
  • to demonstrate an ability to construct argument critically for both oral and written presentation from different sources of material, including material delivered orally and in an article review, report or policy document.
  • to demonstrate an independent approach to learning, critical thinking and creative problem-solving.
  • to use sophisticated techniques of information retrieval and management using an array of print and digital resources.
  • to demonstrate an ability to work cooperatively and constructively in group exercises and role plays
  • to formulate complex arguments in articulate and structured English, within the discursive conventions and genres of academic writing and written to high academic standard
  • to demonstrate effective time management.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • • The module will be delivered over two consecutive days and will have pre-briefing elements. Formative assessment will take the form of continuing formative feedback at various stages during the role play, and a debriefing session at the end of each day, including at the end of the workshop, at which staff will comment on students’ performances and contributions in terms of how well the theory was applied to the case study being played out (LOK1-5, LOSS1-4, 6 and indirectly LOSS5); challenging students’ interpretations and understanding of the data they used to construct their characters and the situation they find themselves in, and their analytical acuity in reaching those interpretations (LOK1-4, LOSS1-6, LOKS1); pointing out the impact of methodologies and assumptions on the students’ interpretation of the case study dynamics and their characters (LOK6); challenging students to think critically and independently (LOKS1-2); and suggesting further avenues for research and reading (indirectly supporting LOKS3). Students are expected and encouraged to take notes and use these notes to prepare for their subsequent summative assessment.
  • • Students will be assessed summatively using two elements (1) an article review or role briefing prior to the start of the workshop and (2) a policy document or report after the workshop. Students will be provided with an induction to provide them with some basic background knowledge, analytical pointers and guidance on literature to aid them on their self-guided learning in preparation for the capstone exercise. During the role plays students will be monitored and formative feedback will be provided on their contribution. After the module the students will produce a report or policy document reflecting on the content and skills learning acquired during the module incorporating perspectives from research, academic or work contexts. During the workshop there will be spaces for discussion and reflection on skill development.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Module in workshop format 1 Term 3 16 hours 16
Preparation, reading, assessments Term 3 134
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Assessment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Article Review 1000 words 30%
Policy Document 2500 words 70%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment will take the form of continuing formative feedback at various stages during the role play and a debriefing session at the end of each day, including at the end of the workshop. Students are expected and encouraged to take notes during the debriefings and use these notes to prepare for their subsequent summative assessment.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University