DPhil in Migration Studies
About the course
The DPhil in Migration Studies, offered by the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (SAME) and the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID), presents the unrivalled opportunity to undertake an interdisciplinary, in- depth project focused on a specific and contemporary challenge facing the world by drawing on world-class research departments, centres and scholars.
As a DPhil student you will undertake your own original research project under the guidance of your supervisor. Academics from SAME and ODID can offer supervision in a wide range of subjects. Examples include migrant integration, identity formation, transnationalism, urban change, diasporas, humanitarianism, asylum and refugees, citizenship, health and wellbeing.
You will also benefit from long established research and teaching programmes on migration, each with particular focus on collaborating with non-academics and generating research ‘impact’. The DPhil programme offers the opportunity to link research training to research practice at the two research centres: The Centre on Migration Policy and Society (COMPAS) and the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC).
Most applicants are admitted as Probationer Research Students (PRS) and are expected to complete the degree in three-four years (six-eight years part-time). In the first year (the first two years in the case of part-time) students attend weekly PRS seminars which provide training in research and writing as well as research presentation and critique; during this period you will develop and begin work on your thesis topic. In their first year (first two years if part-time) students also attend the weekly ‘work-in-progress’ seminar at COMPAS and present their research in each. First year students also take at least two ‘methods modules’ courses chosen to complement their research interests from the wide range offered across the departments and can avail themselves of the many research training opportunities on offer in the Social Sciences Division and elsewhere in the University (eg the Oxford University Language Centre, IT Learning Centre). These requirements are spread over the first two years in the case of part-time students. You will also have the opportunity to attend lectures, seminars and classes in your topic area.
You are likely to have already completed appropriate research training at master’s degree level, either within Oxford or another university. There is a joint Quantitative Research Methods for Migration Studies course for master's-level students on the MSc in Migration Studies and MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, and separate courses in qualitative methods. Graduates who have followed this route will therefore have completed the necessary training. Students new to Oxford can attend these research method courses if necessary. Supervisors will conduct a Training Needs Analysis to discuss the required skills and identify any gaps.
Students spend their second year (part-time: third and fourth years) gathering data as part of their original research. The nature of this varies considerably depending upon the research area and topic focus, from living with another population, to data gathering and analysis, for example. Its location will be dictated by the research focus and could be in Oxford or, in principle, anywhere in the world (subject to the usual health and safety considerations).
In their third year (part-time: fifth and sixth years) students write up their research thesis, and are encouraged to regularly attend weekly ‘work-in-progress’ seminars in which they present their developing work to their peers and staff for feedback; . Throughout the course DPhil students are strongly encouraged to attend the many research seminars, presentations and lectures on offer within the department and elsewhere in the University.
The school’s research degrees are not available by distance learning. To ensure a comprehensive integration into the school and University's research culture and with their full-time peer groups, part-time students will be required to attend supervision, study, research seminars and skills training, together with other obligations (for example, supervision meetings). Although there will be no requirement to reside in Oxford, part-time research students must attend the University on a regular basis. You may be expected to be in Oxford on a number of days each week during term time in the first two years of the programme. There will be limited flexibility in the dates of attendance, which will be determined by class schedule and term dates. It is therefore likely that part-time students are either already resident in Oxford or will live within commuting distance of the city. Although the school appreciates that part-time research students will have non-standard attendance and work patterns, they are required to attend for a minimum of 30 days during term time in each academic year.
During the later years of the programme, there will be flexibility in the dates of attendance, which will be determined by mutual agreement with your supervisor. You are expected to have at least three meetings per term with your supervisor.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (SAME) or Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff.
In some circumstances we could consider making a joint supervision arrangement and in that case one of the two supervisors may be found outside SAME or ODID.
In your first year (first two years if part-time) you will typically meet at least monthly with your supervisor. You will then maintain regular (at least monthly) contact throughout the rest of the course with your supervisor for guidance while conducting your research.
The supervisor will help develop and guide your project and, at later stages, provide feedback on chapter drafts. However, you will work to a significant extent on your own, and you will need a high level of motivation and self-discipline.
You will be admitted to the course as a Probationer Research Student (PRS). In some cases Oxford MPhil students may be offered the opportunity to apply directly to full DPhil student status.
If you are admitted with PRS status, within a maximum of four terms as a full-time PRS student or eight terms as a part-time PRS student, you will be expected to apply for, and achieve, transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status. This application is normally made in the third term for full-time students and in the sixth term for part-time students.
Students who are successful at transfer will also be expected to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status, to show that your work continues to be on track. Both milestones will involve submission of written work and an interview with two assessors (other than your supervisor) and therefore provide important experience for the final oral examination.
This will need to be done within nine terms for full-time students and eighteen terms for part-time students who were admitted with PRS status, or within six terms for full-time students and twelve terms for part-time students who were admitted directly with full DPhil status.
The course is ultimately examined by the submission of a thesis and oral examination, after three to four years of full-time study, or six to eight years of part-time study.
The increasing importance of the issue of migration on the global stage means that there are multiple paths to future employment in academia – where migration is growing in importance, with the establishment of numerous migration-related programmes at universities around the world – but also with significant opportunities in national governments and multilateral organisations.
Oxford graduates in similar programmes have gone on to occupy key posts in leading institutions of international governance, including: UNHCR, Norwegian Refugee Council, European Council on Refugees and Exiles, IOM, ILO, and the European Commission.
Changes to this course and your supervision
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. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
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 illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
All graduate courses offered by the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography
All graduate courses offered by the Oxford Department of International Development
Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a master’s degree with distinction or an overall grade of 67% or above and a distinction in the thesis element, in a relevant subject that includes appropriate research methods training; and
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any subject.
However, entrance is competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree and a master's degree with distinction or the equivalent.
Applicants for the DPhil in Migration Studies will normally be required to have, or obtain, a taught-course qualification in a relevant social science subject before embarking on doctoral research.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.75 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Publications are not expected.
- It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent and published work of their proposed supervisor and have an understanding of the background to their proposed area of study.
- Part-time applicants will also be expected to show evidence of the ability to commit time to study and, if applicable, an employer's commitment to make time available to study, to complete coursework, and attend course and University events and modules. Where appropriate, evidence should also be provided of permission to use employers’ data in the proposed research project.
- It is essential that you apply as early as possible and ensure that you submit all required materials by the advertised deadlines.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
Doctoral Students will be accommodated principally at COMPAS, but there is also possible access to space in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (SAME) and the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) subject to availability. Social meetings, seminars, and clear office hours for methods support, will bring you together with other students and staff working in different parts of the university.
Networks and links
As a doctoral student you will become part of a vibrant research community. The Oxford Network on Migration and Mobility will provide a focus of activity, linking across research centres and departments. You will also be able join the Migration Studies Society, and there will be opportunities to take on leadership roles.
SAME and ODID have student representation on Graduate Joint Consultative Committee (GJCC) that meets every term and broader participation in other student representative structures.
Programmes of research seminars are available from both departments, some specifically for research students and others featuring talks by invited speakers, often from outside the university.
You will also have access to training opportunities provided by the Social Sciences Divisional Office, which offers advanced research and career development training.
You can make use of the Social Sciences Library, the largest freestanding social science library in the UK with considerable print and digital strengths. This is complemented by the world-class resources of the Bodleian Library and the satellite libraries, such as the Pitt Rivers Museum's Balfour Library. You will be able to access key online journals and as alumni of the University can sign up for lifetime access.
The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.
Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the following department websites:
- Funding information from Anthropology
- Funding information from ODID
Annual fees for entry in 2023-24
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
Course 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 course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.
Where can I find further information about fees?
The Fees and Funding section of this website provides further information about course fees, including information about fee status and eligibility and your length of fee liability.
There are no compulsory elements of this programme that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses. Standard travel insurance can be provided by the University. However, students may be required to pay any additional insurance premiums associated with travel to areas with an increased level of risk and/or for travel of more than 12 months’ duration, and should factor this into their planning for fieldwork.
There are no compulsory elements of this programme that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.
All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).
For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges.
The following colleges accept students for full-time study on this course:
The following colleges accept students for part-time study on this course:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students
If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
It is advisable but not necessary for you to make contact with potential supervisors before you apply. However, as an offer of a place cannot be made if there is no suitable supervisor in the department, you are advised to check the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID), School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (SAME), Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) and Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) websites to see if your proposed research matches with research being done in the department.
General questions about the course should be directed to the course administrator via the contact details provided on this page.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Proposed field and title of research project
Under the 'Field and title of research project' please enter your proposed field or area of research if this is known. If the department has advertised a specific research project that you would like to be considered for, please enter the project title here instead.
You should not use this field to type out a full research proposal. You will be able to upload your research supporting materials separately if they are required (as described below).
If known, under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic(s) who you would like to supervise your research. Otherwise, leave this field blank.
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.
Your references will be assessed for your intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and interest in the course and subject area, and ability to work in both a group and independently.
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.
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.
A maximum of 2,000 words
Your research proposal must be written in English. The word count does not include any bibliography.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
Your statement should explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your intended relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.
You should include an indication of the area in which you wish to carry out your research and relevant supervisor(s) and/or group(s). Please indicate if you have a preference for specific projects and if you have previous experience in related areas.
This will be assessed for:
- the originality of your project
- evidence of understanding of the proposed area of study
- your ability to present a reasoned case in proficient English
- the feasibility of successfully completing your project in the time available for the course
- your preliminary knowledge of research techniques
- your capacity for sustained independent work.
It is normal for your ideas to change in some ways as you commence your research and develop your project. However, you should make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment. Your proposal should focus on the research project rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.
Two essays, a minimum of 2,000 words to a maximum of 3,000 words each
You can submit an extract or excepted sections from a longer essay as your written work as long as you include a brief note to give the context of the extract (for example, to explain that it is two chapters of a research dissertation that comprises twelve chapters in all, giving the full title of the dissertation).
Please note that multi-authored works are not acceptable. Work that is not academic, for example journalism or popular writing, is not appropriate. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
Start or continue your application
You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.