MSc in Migration Studies

This interdisciplinary, nine-month master’s degree integrates the study of migration and mobility with broader processes of development and social transformation world-wide. Taught by world-class researchers, it 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. It also gives 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. You should also gain an understanding of the dilemmas facing policy-makers at both national and international level, an understanding of the value of a critical perspective for both academic and policy work, as well as the ability to help transfer theoretical knowledge to policy-oriented research.

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 and mobilisation provides additional insight for your position in reshaping local and international debates over human movement.

Applicants to this degree who are interested in progressing onto migration-related doctoral study are eligible to apply for an ESRC 1+3 Studentship which could provide them with four years of full funding. These studentships, previously only available for UK and EU students, are now also available to non-EU students. See the Fees and Funding page for more information.

Teaching and Learning

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 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 – generally between 5 and 26 students – encouraging active participation and enabling students to learn from each other.

The Course Director for 2022-2 is Professor Ruben Andersson


Course Structure

In the first and second terms you will do the following core courses:

  • Migration and the Economy
  • Governance of Migration
  • Anthropology of Migration
  • Migration and Development
  • Methods of Social Research

In the second term, you will study two options which you will have chosen in the first term from a list that changes from year to year, and in the final term, you will write a dissertation of up to 15,000 words.

Core Courses

Migration and the Economy

At the end of this course, you will have developed a firm understanding of the theorisation of the economic dimensions of migration as well as skills in relating these theo­reti­cal perspectives to concrete policy scenarios and outcomes. Students will be able to relate these insights into the complementary debates on development and anthropological approach­es offered elsewhere on the degree.

Governance of Migration

This course explores the intersections of human mobility and the governance of people, places, and political processes. The goal is to foster critical dialogue between theoretical and conceptual schema and emerging empirical dynamics. It does this through two broad themes. The first explores theories of power, sovereignty, and space drawing on themes from political science, human geography, sociology and anthropology. The second considers sites where rapid mobility helps generate or transform the exercise of authority and regulation at multiple scales. The course draws empirical examples from across the world with an emphasis on world regions that may otherwise be unfamiliar to students or where contemporary political debates over human mobility provide a strong heuristic into broader processes of socio-political transformation. The case material is intended to foster comparative perspectives with the aim of challenging and contributing to the theorization of mobility, space and power.

Anthropology of Migration

This course aims to: (1), to provide students with a sound understanding of how mobility and migration are studied anthropologically; and (2), delve into some of the key migration-related themes studied by contemporary anthropology. The course moves across scales, from considering the historical, economic, and political conditions within which mobility and migration emerge as socially and culturally embedded practices to examining how mobility and migration come to be constituted as problems to be governed, are experienced subject­ive­ly ­– and last, but not least – mobilised politically. The distinctive feature of anthropology is that it ties together micro-level analysis of experiences and practices of indivi­duals and communities with macro-level analysis of economic and political formations

Migration and Development

At the end of this part of the course, students will have developed a firm understanding of the interlinkages of migration and development thinking in theory and, to some extent, in practice. We will be developing our own critical perspective on the much-debated ‘migration-development nexus’, taking the reading list as a starting point for expanding into new areas, thoughts and perspectives beyond those in the ‘canon’ of migration studies.

Methods of Social Research

The course aims to familiarise you with common qualitative and quantitative research methods in migration studies. It will train you to be both a critical consumer and producer of social scientific data by increasing your understanding of the choices involved in conducting research and the consequences of these choices. The materials covered in the course will also support you in developing the methodology for your dissertation.

Option Courses

Please note that the option courses available change from year to year. Below is a list of options that were available in 2021-22: 

  • Ethics and Mobility: China–Africa as a Case Study
  • Existential Borderlands
  • Migration and Policy
  • Migration, Time, and Temporality
  • New Technologies and People on the Move
  • Transnationalism and Diasporas


Students can also choose from option courses run by the Anthropology department.

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.

Find out more about what some recent graduates of the course are doing now.


Photo: Julien Brachet

Teaching Awards

The degree has received four University Awards for its innovative and effective teaching (two in 2012, one in 2013, and one in 2014), and two shortlisted nominations for the Student Union Teaching Award (2014, 2018).

Please refer to the course webpage on the University's Graduate Admissions pages for full information on selection criteria, application deadlines and English language requirements. Also see our How to Apply page.

Enquiries about the MSc in Migration Studies should be addressed to the Graduate Student Administrator,

The MSc Migration Studies is partnered with the Said Business School's 1+1 MBA programme. More information can be found on the University's course page for the Oxford 1+1 MBA and also the Said Business School's page.