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MA Refugee Studies

Course overview

Start date

Subject area

Social Sciences





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Course summary

Forced migration is a global phenomenon and an area of increasing concern in Europe and beyond. On this course you will study the multiple factors associated with refugee crises and the economic, political, social, cultural, and environment pressures which lie behind the search for asylum. 

A distinctive feature of this course is that it considers the perspective and experiences of the people forced to flee conflict, generalised violence, and human rights violations. It highlights social, cultural and community responses to people in search of sanctuary in the contexts of restrictive border practices. It encourages informed understanding about contemporary conflicts, forced displacement and human security. 

Although the majority of refugees are in countries of the developing world, structures of exclusion are most fully developed in the post-industrial societies, notably within Europe.

The course highlights problems associated with limitations of asylum rights in the European states and the climate of hostility towards refugees from countries outside Western Europe. It also considers alternative, positive, approaches to asylum rights.

Contact us

If you have any questions, talk to a member of our Applicant Enquiries team on +44 (0) 20 8223 3333 or email

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A refugee-centered approach to our learning

Our students have diverse backgrounds and some are refugees themselves. Our academic team have extensive work and research experience in the refugee field.

UEL is home to the Refugee Council Archive

The Refugee Council Archive is one of the largest collections of materials on refugees and forced migration. It’s a treasure trove of information on displacement, flight and exile and on refugee community life.

Placement opportunities

We focus on practical experience for employability. We’ll encourage you to establish links with NGOs to find placement opportunities, and to engage with our EU-funded course for refugees, and other civic engagement projects at UEL.

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What we're researching

You will be taught by internationally recognised, widely published researchers in the fields of conflict, gender, forced migration and refugees. 

Our academic team are actively researching the key issues of today’s globalised world such as: refugee and post-conflict studies, gender power systems of conflict and violence, gender and religion, and digital diasporas.

We are engaged in cutting-edge research on psychosocial aspects of forced displacement, conflict and reconciliation, refugee children in need of protection, gender aspects of forced migration, social capital and integration, human rights, gender and land/housing.

Our staff also have regional expertise and excellent contacts in Africa, Latin America, Middle East, Europe and Western Balkans.

We have a number of research centres and groups in the area of global studies and run many research seminars and events. All of our postgraduate students are welcome to become part of our vibrant research community.

Making a difference

UEL is one of the UK’s leading modern research universities. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF), 17 per cent of our overall research submission was classified as ‘world-leading’ for its quality and impact – almost double our previous REF score. A further 45 per cent of our work was considered ‘internationally excellent’.

Jane Greenstock

MA Refugee Studies

I found it to be an immensely interesting, well-taught and worthwhile Master's course. The knowledge I gained, through access to some excellent teachers and the Refugee Archive collection was exactly what I hoped to get out of the course, which concerns issues that are globally important. I appreciated the fact that the modules were all taught from a refugee-centred point of view and enabled students to understand research methods from different perspectives.

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:2 Honours

We would normally expect you to have Grade C in GCSE English and Maths. 


(Including European Union)

We accept a range of qualifications from across the world. Please see our country pages for information on specific entry requirements for your country.


Applicant should be able to demonstrate a clear commitment to refugee related work and issues.  Experience of refugee related work at the time of application is welcomed.

Overall IELTS 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in Writing, Speaking, Reading and Listening (or recognised equivalent).

As an inclusive university we recognise that applicants who have been out of education for some time may not have the formal qualifications usually required for entry to a course. We welcome applications from those who can demonstrate their enthusiasm and commitment to study and have relevant life/work experience that equips them to succeed on the course. We will assess this from the information provided in your application (particularly your personal statement) and may ask you to attend an interview or submit a piece of work to help us decide on your eligibility for the course. Our pre-entry Information Advice and Guidance Team are able to provide further advice on entry requirements and suitability for study.

You can speak to a member of our Applicant Enquiries team on +44 (0)20 8223 3333, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. Alternatively, you can visit our Information, Advice and Guidance centre. Please click here for details.

What you'll study


  • Introduction to Forced Migration (core)
  • Research Methods (core)
  • International Human Rights (option)
  • International Refugee Law (option)
  • Conflict, Displacement and Human Security (option)
  • Current Issues in Forced Migration (option)
  • University Wide Option (option)
  • Dissertation (core)

How you'll be assessed

We assess you by your coursework, which includes essays, reports, presentations, research proposal and your dissertation. All modules will be assessed and the final award takes account of all module marks.

Course specification

How you'll learn

One of the most rewarding elements of the course is that it attracts students from diverse origins and with widely differing experiences, including refugees from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and Western and Eastern Europe.

In addition to lectures and seminars, you will benefit from access to workshops and conferences organised by the Centre for Migration, Refugees and Belonging, the Centre for Social Justice and Change, the Feminist Research Group and other university-wide groups.

This means you have the opportunity to link up with key researchers in the area and gain an insight into the latest thinking on critical issues.

You will also benefit from access to the Refugee Archive at the University of East London, which is one of the largest collections of materials on refugees and forced migration.

The archive contains materials on refugees in all parts of the world, with special emphasis on the UK. For more than 30 years it was housed at the Refugee Council – the lead organisation in Britain on refugee issues.

As an optional extra, you may also be involved in internships with local and international organisations and agencies working with refugees. 

Our academic staff are actively involved in some of the key international research and are therefore well connected with major bodies such as UNICEF as well as government departments and NGOs.

What you'll learn

The core modules give you a wide-ranging introduction to forced migration and a detailed study of research methods. You will also have the opportunity to study specialist options on social, cultural, political, legal and psychosocial aspects of refugee studies and community development. 

A distinguishing feature of the course is its emphasis on the lived experience of refugees and of refugee communities. You will develop a full appreciation of refugee experiences, achievements and needs.

You will study refugees from the point of view of the law, politics and anthropology and you will analyse their experiences on a global and local scale.

The course looks at how NGOs and the United Nations work with refugees and also how some people have sought to criminalise them.

The course will equip you with advanced skills in interdisciplinary analysis and research.

You will learn from the first-hand experience of refugees and people who have worked with refugees.

Your studies will focus on two core modules: Introduction to Forced Migration and Research Methods, and two specialist option modules in the area of social, cultural, political, legal and psychosocial aspects of refugee studies and community development. This will prepare you to begin a dissertation during the summer term for submission in September.

Your future career

This course is suited to people who are working in areas concerned with human rights, legal representation of refugees, counseling, education, social and community issues and refugee welfare.

If you are already working in this area, the course will give you the confidence and experience to apply for more senior positions.

If you are aiming to enter the field for the first time, it will give you the skills to apply for roles with NGOs, government departments or other organisations working closely with refugees. 

Our course will also prepare you to undertake further research in the fields of forced migration and diasporic studies, legal studies and social policy.  You will benefit from working closely with experienced academics in the field. If you are interested to continue to PhD level, our course gives you the opportunity to apply for ESRC funding through the UBEL Doctoral Training Partnership Programme

Dr Giorgia Doná is Professor of Forced Migration and Refugee Studies and her research focuses on forced migration and refugee movements, violence and society, child protection and psycho-social assistance, with a geographical focus on Central America and East Africa. She has undertaken consultancy work for UNICEF, governments and NGOs.

Dr Afaf Jabiri is Senior Lecturer in Refugee Studies and NGOs management. Her research focuses on forced migration and refugees in the Middle East, Palestinian refugees, gender and religion; and gender and development. She is a member of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Centre for Human Rights’ Global Initiative on violence against women. She was the Regional Director of the Karama (Dignity) Network and the Director of the Jordanian Women’s Union Aid Centre and Shelter for Women’s Survivors of Violence. She has also worked as women’s protection officer at UNHCR and served as a policy and advocacy advisor for international and domestic NGOs and UN agencies.

Dr Maja Korac-Sanderson is Reader in Migration and Refugee Studies and is a co-founder of the Women in Conflict Zones Network (WICZNET), an international network of scholars, policymakers and grassroots women’s groups from around the world. Her research focuses on conflict, gender and displacement, as well as conflict, intervention and development.

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Our international team travel overseas regularly to meet prospective students and attend recruitment fairs. Our academics also give regular lectures overseas and are happy to speak to prospective students. In addition, we have a large worldwide network of advisors who can provide guidance and support with applying to study at the University of East London.

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