About the course
This interdisciplinary nine-month master’s degree analyses global migration and mobility together with broader processes of social and political transformation. Drawing on innovative theoretical and methodological perspectives from across the social sciences, it offers an intellectually demanding route to understanding cultural, economic and political dimensions of migration in settings from labour relations to development programming and border politics.
The degree provides a broad, theoretical understanding of human mobility and the role of both internal and international migration in economic and political processes, social change and globalisation. Engaging critically with the politics of movement in today’s world, it prepares you for doctoral study or for careers in government, international organisations, or civil society. It also gives an overview of the major debates and literatures on contemporary migration. You will have the opportunity to plan, organise and carry out independent research and to gain the skills necessary to convey theoretical knowledge of migration to a variety of different audiences.
Successful students will leave with the critical analytical and research skills needed to contribute new perspectives to the study of migration in and beyond academia. With a strong focus on migration and mobility across world regions, you will gain insight into migration’s close connection to global systems of trade, labour, politics, and power. A strong focus on the politics of knowledge production will provide additional insights for your position in reshaping local and international debates over human movement.
In the first and second terms you will follow these core courses:
Migration and the Economy
- Governance of Migration
- Anthropology of Migration
- Migration and Development
- Methods in Social Research
In the second term, you will also take two highly focused, research-led option courses that change annually to reflect contemporary debates and academic themes. In the final term, you will write a dissertation based on original research on a topic of your choice.
Teaching and learning
Apart from four core faculty members from the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (SAME) and the Department of International Development (ODID) who are dedicated to this degree, research staff from Oxford’s internationally renowned Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) and other units will provide additional teaching input. Teaching on the degree is both theory- and problem-focused and is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, student-led presentations, workshops, essays and library work. You will be expected to prepare for each lecture or seminar by reading a selection of recommended book chapters, articles and working papers. The MSc is a demanding course and, as is typical at Oxford, you will be expected to keep up with a considerable reading workload. Class sizes are small to mid-size, encouraging active participation and enabling students to learn from each other.
To support your academic development throughout the course, you will have regular one-to-one meetings with a dedicated supervisor. During your in-term meetings the supervisor will also guide your work on the dissertation and prove an invaluable resource for you throughout the year. You will also have a college advisor who is available to discuss your personal wellbeing.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Oxford Department of International Development in conjunction with the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography. It is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. While initial supervisor allocations are made based on your stated scholarly interests, you may be able to change supervisor after the first term if there is a strong case to be made that your dissertation topic demands it. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Oxford Department of International Development and School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography.
Assessment consists of formative and summative assessment. Formative assessment, which does not count towards your final degree but helps you to develop your analytical and writing skills, will be in the form of short essays, response papers and presentations.
Summative assessment, which will count towards your final degree, currently takes the form of examinations, submitted essays, research methods coursework, and a dissertation.
My experience on the MSc was fantastic. While the programme offered me a general but complex understanding of the (geo)politics of human mobility, it also gave me the possibility to examine the specificities of my topic of interest together with my supervisor – an expert in the field. Whether one is interested in the production of theory or public policy, the MSc will challenge your conceptions and ideas around human mobility.
Erik, DPhil student
The MSc in Migration Studies seeks to prepare students for further social science research, or for a career within the increasing number of organisations – public and private, national and international – concerned with migration issues. Graduates of the MSc have gone on to doctoral degrees, law school, research and consultancy. Many are now employed by organisations such as the European Commission, ILO, IOM, UNICEF, RAND, Red Cross, Red Crescent, think tanks, national governments and leading universities.
The course offers support for career development to current students, including informal careers advice sessions and careers workshops.
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, 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.
Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25
Proven and potential academic excellence
The requirements described below are specific to this course and apply only in the year of entry that is shown. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.
Please be aware that any studentships that are linked to this course may have different or additional requirements and you should read any studentship information carefully before applying.
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any subject.
Entrance to the course is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
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.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 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
- Relevant professional experience, for example in the field of migration, is desirable but not required.
- Publications are not expected or required for admission, but any can be listed on the CV.
- It is essential that you apply as early as possible and ensure that you submit all required materials by the advertised deadlines.
- It is not possible for the department to advise individuals on whether their qualifications or experience match the entry requirements and selection criteria. The strength of an application will always be determined by the general standard of applications in any given admissions cycle, so it will always be unpredictable to say how strong an individual application is without knowing the context in which it will be assessed.
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.
|Minimum overall score
|Minimum score per component
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)
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. 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 described 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. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
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.
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.
The degree is jointly offered by the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) and the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (SAME).
As a student on the course, you will have access to all lectures, weekly public seminars and research activity within COMPAS, and may also attend the weekly public seminars run by the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA) and those held at ODID, including the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) series.
You will have access to the rich resources of Oxford’s historic libraries, including the Bodleian, the Social Sciences Library, and the Tylor Library in SAME, which holds a significant collection of material on the anthropology of migration. University alumni can sign up for lifetime access to key online journals.
ODID and SAME both offer access to computing resources (including hot-desking areas with desktops, printing and WiFi), as will your college. Technical support is also available from the two departments and the college, as well as through the University’s IT Services, which also offers training courses. All course material is available on Canvas, Oxford’s Virtual Learning Environment.
Teaching takes place within the two departments and in ODID there is a common room area where students from all six courses offered by the department can gather. A lunch café is available during term.
Departments offering this course
This course is offered jointly by the following departments:
Oxford Department of International Development
Studying international development at Oxford means engaging with some of the most pressing issues of our time: from global governance and security to migration and human rights; from poverty and inequality to technological innovation and enterprise; from children and youth to environmental change and sustainability.
At Oxford you will take a unique, multi- and interdisciplinary approach to examine these and other complex issues affecting the countries of the developing world and the emerging economies. The approach encompasses economics, politics, international relations, anthropology, history, sociology, and law, and teaching is provided by world-class scholars in these fields. Our courses also offer small class sizes, personal supervision, training in methods, and the opportunity to research and write an original thesis and make an active contribution.
The department is a lively community that is recognised internationally as one of the top centres for research and teaching in development studies. It hosts some 70 distinguished academics and a number of externally funded research groups that are at the forefront of their specialist subject areas.
Our students come from across the world. At Oxford, they are taught to develop as critical and independent thinkers and when they leave us they go on to forge varied and successful careers as scholars, practitioners and policy-makers in the field of international development and beyond.
School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography
The School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography is renowned for its contributions to anthropological theory, its commitment to long-term ethnographic fieldwork, and its association with the Pitt Rivers Museum.
Home to over forty academic staff, over a hundred doctoral students, providing both master’s programmes and undergraduate degrees, the school is one of the world’s largest and most vibrant centres for teaching and research in the discipline.
The school is divided into a number of constituent parts:
- The Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology is a leading centre for anthropological teaching and research in the UK and the world. This is complemented by its relationship with the Pitt Rivers Museum, which houses one of the world's many ethnographic collections.
- The Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology (ICEA) brings together evolutionary anthropology and cognitive science with the aim of developing understanding of the evolution of human behaviour.
- The Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) researches and informs the key processes of social and technological innovation that are critical to business, governments and civil society in the 21st century and beyond.
- The Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) provides a strategic, integrated research approach to understanding contemporary and future migration dynamics in the UK and EU.
- The Centre for the Study of Social Cohesion (CSSC) conducts research on the causes and consequences of social cohesion – the bonds that hold groups together, from families and gangs to nations and world religions.
The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. 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:
Annual fees for entry in 2024-25
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.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. However, as part of your course requirements, you will choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional research expenses. 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 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 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. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs).
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. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.
The following colleges accept students on the MSc in Migration Studies:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.
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. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide.
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.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.
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.
For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You should not upload a separate document. If a separate CV/résumé is uploaded, it will be removed from your application.
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.
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 people who know you and can comment on your academic abilities and potential, ie your former supervisors or course directors. If you have a relevant professional reference you may include this as a fourth referee in your application. If you do not have a third academic reference you may submit a professional reference as your third, but it would be ideal if your professional referee could comment on your writing ability (eg if you have been involved in producing research or other written output for an organisation).
The Admissions Committee for the MSc in Migration Studies looks, above all, for evidence that applicants are academically qualified for the course. The references are one of the important sources of information about applicants’ academic preparation. As such, the committee highly values references from academic sources.
An application with only one academic reference out of the three required overall would not automatically be 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.
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.
Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A minimum of 500 words up to a maximum of 1,000 words
In writing your statement, explain why you wish to study migration; how your previous academic or professional experience has prepared you for doing so; what thematic or geographical areas of interest you would like to explore in your dissertation; and why you think that the Oxford degree is best suited for enabling you to pursue your academic and/or professional goals.
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.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This statement will be assessed for evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study and the nature of the course applied to; commitment to the subject; and evidence of a defined set of research interests.
Two essays, a maximum of 2,000 words each
Two academic essays from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Other writing samples may be submitted if academic essays are not available. 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. This written work does not have to be on a topic related to the degree.
If you undertook your undergraduate studies a long time ago, you might also consider writing a new piece of academic work for the application on a relevant topic of your choosing.
Please note that multi-authored works are not acceptable. 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.
The written work will be assessed for your ability to construct and defend an argument and for your powers of analysis and expression.