MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies | University of Oxford
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MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies

About the course

This nine-month master’s degree places forced migration in an academic framework, preparing you for doctoral study or for work relevant to human rights, refugees, and migration. It offers an intellectually demanding, interdisciplinary route to understanding forced migration in contexts of conflict, repression, natural disasters, environmental change and development policy-making.

Aims

The course offers students an understanding of the complex and varied nature of forced migration and refugee populations, of their centrality to global, regional and national processes of political, social and economic change, and of the needs and aspirations of forcibly displaced people themselves. It also helps students develop a broad understanding of academic research related to forced migration and refugees, as well as critical thinking and sound evaluative tools.

You will gain the ability to plan, organise and carry out research into aspects of forced migration and refugee studies as well as the skills necessary to convey theoretical knowledge of forced migration to a variety of different audiences

Structure

In the first term you will follow core courses which introduce the subject of forced migration from anthropological, political and legal perspectives. There is also a course dedicated to research methods relevant to the study of forced migration.

In the second term, you will take a further core course on morality and continue to study research methods. In addition you will choose two options courses from a list which changes from year to year but which usually includes a course on advanced international and human rights law, a course on humanitarianism, and courses furthering regional specialisation.

In the third term, you will write a 10,000- to 15,000-word thesis. This is typically a desk-based study, since there is little time to undertake individual fieldwork within the nine months of the course. Although you may attend other options courses, you will only be examined on the core courses, your two chosen option courses and the thesis.

Teaching

Teaching takes place in small classes of anything from 4 to 25 students, to encourage active participation and to enable students to learn from each other. Teaching styles vary and include lectures, workshops, individual and group tutorials, seminars and student presentations. You will be expected to prepare for each class by reading a selection of recommended books, book chapters and articles. 

Individual supervisors will support your academic development from the start; they are allocated on the basis of your research interests, the expertise of staff supervising on the course and their availability. You will work with your individual supervisor on your thesis throughout the degree, meeting roughly every two weeks in term time. The department’s teaching staff are all leading experts in the field of forced migration, drawn from a range of disciplines including anthropology, geography, international law, history and politics, international relations, sociology and development studies. In addition, you will have a college advisor whom you may consult on issues concerning your personal wellbeing.

Assessment

On-course assessment, which will not count towards your degree, takes the form of regular presentations and short essays. The degree is formally assessed by a piece of practical research methods coursework at the end of the second term, three written examinations on the core and options courses at the start of the third term, and a 10,000- to 15,000-word thesis at the end of the third term.

Graduate destinations

Graduates of the MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies have gone on to doctoral degrees, law school, and work relevant to human rights, refugees, and migration. Graduates of the course are now employed in organisations such as the UNHCR, the International Organisation for Migration, UNDP, Save the Children, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Brookings and MacArthur Foundations, as well as national governments and universities around the world.

The course offers support for careers development to current students, including informal careers advice sessions, careers workshops and facilitating internships at key organisations, and to alumni, by disseminating information about employment prospects and maintaining an online network.

"The MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies is a course that I wish could be made accessible and mandatory to anyone pursuing a career at the policy, field or academic level within the realm of what is broadly termed the ‘humanitarian sector'." Chloé Lewis, Graduated 2011

Related courses

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in a social science subject. It is also possible for students who have not specialised in a social science to read for the MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.

Entrance to the course is very competitive and most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.8 or above, a first-class degree or the equivalent.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

The admissions committee will occasionally consider a lower degree classification if the first qualification was taken some years ago, if you have gone on to further study since in which you have excelled, or if you have substantive work experience of relevance to the course.

Relevant professional experience is desirable but not required. 

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Publications

Publications are not expected or required for admission, but any can be listed on the CV.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Relevant professional experience is desirable but not required.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Oxford Department of International Development to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Oxford Department of International Development and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Oxford Department of International Development.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

It is essential to apply as early as possible and to submit all required materials by the advertised deadlines. 

Resources

The degree is offered by the Refugee Studies Centre, the world’s foremost multidisciplinary centre for refugee and forced migration studies. The RSC is part of the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID), an international leader in teaching and research in development studies which ranked top in its subject area in the UK’s 2014 Research Excellence Framework.

As a student on the course you will have access to a wide range of public seminars organised by the department, including the RSC Public Seminar Series. Beyond the immediate degree, Oxford offers a great variety of events, including seminars and lectures by distinguished academics and policy-makers in related fields. Other RSC resources include Forced Migration Online, Forced Migration Review, and the RSC Working Paper Series, to which students who are awarded a distinction for their thesis or group essay are invited to contribute.

Libraries

The Social Sciences Library, the biggest free-standing social science library in the UK, is a short walk away and houses the Refugee Studies Centre collection, the world’s largest collection of material on the study of refugees and forced migration. These holdings form part of the rich resources of the historic Bodleian Library. As alumni of the University, students can sign up for lifetime access to key online journals.

IT support

The department provides hot-desking areas with desktops and printing, as well as wireless internet access. Technical support is available through the department, your college and the University’s IT Services, which also offers training courses. Course materials are available online via Weblearn, the University’s Virtual Learning Environment.

Departmental facilities

Teaching takes place in the department’s seminar rooms, and there is a common room area where students from all the department's courses can gather. Light lunches are available during term.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

A number of Research Council awards are available each year from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (further details will be announced in October 2016), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£16,770£3,021£19,791
Overseas£22,145£3,021£25,166

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.

Additional information

Each academic year, as part of the course, the department runs an optional study visit to Geneva, organised with colleagues at UNHCR, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and other agencies, to help students develop a broader understanding of how the major IGOs and NGOs in the humanitarian aid field operate. If you choose to take part in this study trip, you will need to cover any related travel, accommodation and living expenses. The department estimates that these costs are likely to range from £150 to £300. You may be eligible to apply to the department's Dissertation Support Fund and/or to your college to assist with the costs.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £1,002 and £1,471 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.

How to apply

You are not expected to make contact with an academic member of staff before applying for the course.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
500 to 1,000 words

This statement is your chance to tell the Admissions Committee why this degree appeals to you above all others. The department does not wish to be prescriptive about the content of the statement, but do bear in mind that the degree is much in demand and you should explain why this academically demanding course is for you. You may explain your interest and experience in forced migration, but most of all, you should write a clear explanation of your motivation for studying this topic and the ways in which your experience has led you to a desire to study the topic from an academic and theoretical angle.

In writing your statement, you could also consider what has inspired your interest in forced migration; what skills and experience you bring to the course; what experience of research or practical work in the area you already have; and what are the topics or geographical areas that particularly interest you and that you would like to pursue in your thesis.

Generally margins of around 2.5cm and a font size of at least 11 points are preferred, though single-line spacing is fine. Please ensure that your document is formatted in a way that makes it easy to read.

This will be assessed for your reasons for applying.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts from longer pieces of work are acceptable but if two extracts are submitted they should not come from the same piece of work; and should each be prefaced by a note which puts it in context. It is not essential that the writing samples relate closely to the proposed area of study.

You should not submit policy papers and other non-academic pieces of writing. The Admissions Committee is keen to assess your academic research and writing skills, and policy papers do not demonstrate these skills.

Please note that multi-authored works are not acceptable. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

If you undertook your undergraduate studies a long time, you might also consider writing a new piece of academic work in English for the application.

This will be assessed for your ability to construct and defend an argument, powers of analysis and powers of expression.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, academic preferred

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Ideally references should be academic, from academic staff who can comment on your academic performance, abilities and potential based on their experiences as your former supervisors, course directors or other academics who are familiar with your academic work.

If you have a relevant professional reference you may include this a fourth referee in your application.

If you intend to submit a professional reference for your your third reference, please be advised that this is not as useful to assessors as an academic reference. The only non-academic references which are useful are those which comment on your academic skills, in particular research and writing.

The Admissions Committee for the MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies looks, above all, for evidence that applicants of academic excellence. The references are one of the important sources of information about applicants’ academic preparation. As such, the committee strongly prefers academic references.

An application with only one academic reference out of the three required overall would not automatically refused but you will need to make a persuasive case that you are well-prepared to succeed in an academically rigorous and demanding course.

Your references will support your intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and ability to study at graduate level.