MSc in Migration Studies | University of Oxford
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MSc students at a welcome event
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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.

Course objectives

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.

You will gain skills in critical analysis and research, and should develop an ability to contribute new perspectives to the study of migration both inside and outside academia. You will gain the ability to plan, organise and carry out research projects on migration and human mobility, as well as the skills necessary to convey theoretical knowledge of migration to a variety of different audiences.

Course structure

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

  • The Politics of Movement
  • Migration, Globalisation and Social Transformation
  • Methods in Social Research

These will be supplemented by a 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.

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, 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 6 and 26 students – encouraging active participation and enabling students to learn from each other.

Supervision

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.

Assessment

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 essays and exams, research methods coursework, and a 15,000-word dissertation.

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 MSc Programme challenges you not only to study migration critically but also to develop a lens through which you can examine the role of mobility in every area of study, and every story in the news. Doing so reveals a range of novel questions and innovative answers to many of the biggest challenges facing us as humans, and facing our planet as a whole."

- Alumnus, 2018-2019.

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 (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.

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 2021-22

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.

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.

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. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*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.

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.

Supervision

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.

Resources

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. 

Libraries

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.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. 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 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 college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the following department websites:

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2021-22

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£22,930
Overseas (including EU)£29,160

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 detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

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 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

College preference

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 on the MSc in Migration Studies:

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.

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:
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.

Written work:
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, 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.

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 the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.

Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant button below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

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