MSc in Migration Studies | University of Oxford
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MSc in Migration Studies

About the course

This interdisciplinary, nine-month master’s degree analyses global migration and mobility, in historical context, and as part of the broader processes of development and social change. 

Taught by world-class researchers, the course will introduce you to key migration and mobility-related concepts, methods and theories across the social sciences, and prepare you for further research or a professional career.


The course 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, as well as an overview of the major debates and literature on contemporary migration from different disciplinary perspectives in the social sciences.

You will gain skills in critical analysis and research, and should develop an ability to contribute new perspectives to the study of migration. You should also gain an understanding of the dilemmas facing policy-makers at both national and international level, an understanding of the value of critical perspective for both academic and policy work, as well as the ability to help transfer theoretical knowledge to policy-oriented research.


In the first and second terms you will follow three core courses:

  • The Politics of Movement: International Migration in the Social Sciences
  • Migration, Globalisation and Social Transformation
  • Methods in Social Research

These will be supplemented by a fortnightly discussion class, Keywords: a Key to Migration Debates and Social Theory.

In the second term, you will choose two option courses from a list which changes from year to year, and in the final term, you will write a dissertation of up to 15,000 words.


Apart from four core faculty members 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 lecture courses, classes and tutorials, seminars, student-led presentations, essays and library work. You will be expected to prepare for each lecture, class or tutorial 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 – generally between 5 and 26 students – encouraging active participation and enabling students to learn from each other.


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 (1,500 words), response papers and presentations.

Summative assessment, which will count towards your final degree, currently takes the form of a 5,000-word essay, written exams, a research portfolio and a 15,000-word dissertation.


A supervisor will support your academic development throughout the course, with regular one-to-one term-time meetings to oversee progress. The supervisor also guides your work on the dissertation. After the first term you may be able to change supervisor if there is a strong case to be made that your dissertation topic demands it. In addition, you will have a college advisor whom you may consult on issues concerning 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, 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 and School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography.

Graduate destinations

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.

"The programme challenged me to think across disciplines and to both understand and critically engage with theory policy.  At the same time, it provided space for me to pursue my own questions and interests as they related to migration." -- Alumnus, 2017-18.

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. 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 sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on 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.

Oxford 1+1 MBA programme

This course can be studied as a part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme. The Oxford 1+1 MBA programme is a unique, two-year graduate experience that combines the depth of a specialised, one-year master’s degree with the breadth of a top-ranking, one-year MBA.

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • 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.

Further guidance

  • 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 by unpredictable to say how strong an individual application is without knowing the context in which it will be assessed.

English language requirement

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.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide.

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

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


Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

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.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements: 

Financial Declaration

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). Both departments ranked highly in the UK’s 2014 Research Excellence Framework. ODID ranked top in its subject area, and SAME ranked top in terms of research excellence and volume, with the highest number of top-rated publications, and very strong research 'impact'.

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.

IT support

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.

Departmental facilities

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.


There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.


Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£22,050

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 likely increases 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.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

Each academic year, as part of the course, the department runs an optional study visit. In previous years, this has been to Rabat, Athens and the Danish-Swedish Borders, but the location varies year-to-year and may also be within the United Kingdom. This is an opportunity to meet migration practitioners, other academics, and community activists working on specific migration-related issues. If you choose to take part in this study visit, you will need to cover any related travel, accommodation and living expenses. The department estimates that these costs are likely to be around £300. You may be eligible to apply to the department's Dissertation Support Fund and/or to your college to assist with these costs.

Living costs

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 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

How to apply

You are not expected to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.

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.


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

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.

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.

Written work:
Two essays 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, 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.

The written work will be assessed for your ability to construct and defend an argument and for your powers of analysis and 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 people who know you and 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 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 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. 

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply

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