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MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies

About the course

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

Course objectives

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

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

Course structure

In the first and second terms you will follow core courses that introduce the subject of forced migration from a range of disciplinary perspectives, including anthropological, political and legal perspectives. There is also a two-term course dedicated to research methods relevant to the study of forced migration.

In the second term you will choose two options courses from a list which changes from year to year, but which usually includes a course on advanced International Human Rights and Refugee Law, and courses furthering regional specialisation.

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

Teaching and learning

Teaching takes place in small classes, usually from 5 to 25 students, including regular one-to-one supervisions. This emphasis on small group teaching helps encourage active participation, enabling students to learn from each other as well as from department’s teaching staff, who are all leading experts in the field of forced migration, drawn from a range of disciplines typically including anthropology, geography, international law, history and politics, international relations, sociology and development studies. Teaching styles vary, including lectures, workshops, individual and group tutorials, seminars and student presentations. You will be expected to prepare for class by reading a selection of recommended books, book chapters and articles and by preparing formative essays and presentations. There will be around two hours of formal teaching each weekday during term time, with informal group work and self-directed study expected to take up an additional six hours each day.


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

Individual supervisors will support your academic development from the start; they are allocated on the basis of your research interests, the expertise of staff supervising on the course and their availability. You will work with your individual supervisor on your thesis throughout the degree, meeting roughly every two weeks in term time. In addition, you will have a college advisor whom you may consult on issues concerning your personal wellbeing.


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

Graduate destinations

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

The course offers support for career development to current students, including informal careers advice sessions and information about employment prospects.

‘Following graduation from the MSc Refugee and Forced Migration Studies program, I am working as an Associate Climate Change and Disaster Displacement Officer at the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) headquarters. I was considered for this role because of my previous professional experiences in this field, but I am convinced that I was hired because of the MSc curriculum – more specifically the legal and institutional background that this degree provides to students. I would certainly recommend the program to anyone seeking to engage with challenges of forced displacement in the 21st century – amidst a world where there is no singular “driver” of displacement, but rather where poverty, conflict, globalization, urbanization, climate change, among other drivers co-mingle to force persons to flee, both internally and across borders.  The multi-disciplinary theoretical approaches in the MSc RFMS coursework equip students with the skills to critically engage and grapple with these complete themes, and thus also for a meaningful career in policy, practice or research.’ (Erica Bower, graduated 2016)

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 Oxford Department of International Development

Entry requirements for entry in 2022-23

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 a social science subject.

It is also possible for students who have not specialised in a social science to read for the MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies.

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. However, most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.8 or above.

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 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 to apply as early as possible and to 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.

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.

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.

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. The After you apply section of this website provides further information about the academic assessment of your application, including the potential outcomes. Please note that any offer of a place may be subject to academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions may vary depending upon your individual academic circumstances.

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 on selection procedures 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.

Further information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and information about using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

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, your offer letter will give full details of your offer and any academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course.  In addition to any academic conditions which are set, 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 offered by the Refugee Studies Centre, the world’s foremost multidisciplinary centre for refugee and forced migration studies. The RSC is part of the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID), an international leader in teaching and research in development studies which ranked top in its subject area in the UK’s 2014 Research Excellence Framework.

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


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

IT support

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

Departmental facilities

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


The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2022-23. 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 department's website.


Annual fees for entry in 2022-23

Fee status

Annual Course fees


Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

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.

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

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 may need to 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 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. Each academic year, as part of the course, the department runs an optional study visit. 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 £350 or more. 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 2022-23 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,215 and £1,755 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 2022-23, 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 Refugee and Forced Migration Studies:

How to apply

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

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

Official transcript(s)

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

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


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 to a maximum of 1,000 words

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

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

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

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for your reasons for applying.

Written work:
Two essays, a maximum of 2,000 words each

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

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

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

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

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

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

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, academic preferred

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

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

If you have a relevant professional reference, you may include this as a fourth reference in support of your application.

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

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

An application with only one academic reference out of the three required overall would not automatically 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.

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 link 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.

Application GuideApply

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