MSc in Migration Studies

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

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. 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.

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.

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.

The Course Director for 2020-21 is Associate Professor Ruben Andersson


 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: Migration 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.

Core Courses

The Politics of Movement: International Migration in the Social Sciences

Dr Di Wu

The aim of the paper is to provide an interdisciplinary narrative about the history and politics of global mobility and migration. The course will begin with a discussion of different epistemological approaches to studying mobility and migration, following which it will contextualize mobility and migration historically, economically, and politically. Subsequently, the course will examine ways of moving and staying, modes of governing and facilitating migration, as well as the themes of integration, dwelling, identity, and social movements. The course is grounded in anthropology, but also draws on history, communications studies, sociology, economics, geography, and political theory. It will provide insight into themes that students will be able to explore in greater depth through options courses in Hilary Term.

Migration, Globalisation and Social Transformation

Associate Profssor Ruben Andersson

This course engages the ‘canon’ of macro migration theory with a critical and historical eye. On the one hand, it will show how these theories need to be taken seriously on their own terms: by understanding their assumptions and parameters, we will develop a synthetic understanding of the macro-oriented reaches of migration studies – which is important, not least, in understanding the assumptions that are embedded in policy formulation in this area. On the other hand, a critical look into the historical and political context of such theories will allow us to place migration scholarship in relation to the state-driven quest to exert power over human mobility. In both these tasks, the course relates all the theories to the politics of development. It is clear that most macro theories of migration have developmental implications, though they frequently disagree on what ‘development’ actually is – whether it can be measured by GDP growth, the extent of ‘modernisation’, human development indices, or the active ‘underdevelopment’ of the postcolonial world. Both migration and development governance, moreover, have involved powerful actors seeking to exert control over human life in various ways, something that will be discussed further in the seminars. These issues are taken further in the research-led second term of the course, which considers in-depth the contested future pathways for the study of migration and mobility.

Methods in Research Methods

Professor Loren Landau

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.

Keywords: Migration and Social Theory

Dr Emmanouil Pratsinakis

Keywords are concepts that function as organizing principles or “binding words” (Williams 1977) of ways of thinking and acting. For example, contemporary political life is hardly imaginable without the notion of human rights. Shifts in the kinds of concepts we use to make sense of and organise social reality indicate wider sociocultural changes, but they can also be instrumental in shaping such changes. In this seminar-style course, we will engage with selected concepts as nodal points through which to think critically about how migration is understood and governed by scholars, policy makers, and the public.

Option Courses

Please note that the option courses available change from year to year. Below is a list of options that were available in 2019-20: 

  • Migration, Capitalism and Spatial Inequality: Postsocialist Perspectives
  • Migration, Development and Security
  • The Politics of Urban Mobility in the Global South
  • Public Opinion, Media and Migration
  • New Technologies and People on the Move
  • Reproduction Migrations in the Asia Pacific
  • Transnationalism and Diasporas

Students can also choose from option courses run by the MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, and 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 one shortlisted nomination for the Student Union Teaching Award (2014).

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.