DV462      Half Unit
Forced Migration and Refugees

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Stuart Gordon


This course is available on the MSc in Conflict Studies, MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Gender, Development and Globalisation, MSc in Gender, Peace and Security, MSc in Health and International Development, MSc in Human Rights, MSc in Inequalities and Social Science, MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies and MSc in International Migration and Public Policy. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

We anticipate being able to offer places to all students who sign up in the first week of MT.

Course content

The course deals with the global governance of forced migration with a particular focus on refugees and their experiences.  The first lectures critically evaluate the ways in which the drivers of forced migration, particularly conflict and environmental change, are identified. It problematizes notions of mono-causality in favour of more complex and dynamic understandings of the reasons which may underpin individual, familial and collective experiences of forced displacement or immobility. 

The next section looks at the linkage between the refugee regime, international society and global order. We explore the governance of the overall refugee regime, looking in detail at the UN organisation with a specific mandate for refugee protection and relief, the UNHCR, as well as the issue of international refugee ‘burden sharing.’  We also explore the intersection between human rights and refugee law; challenging the idea of a separation between the regimes and asking whether this transforms the nature and role of UNHCR.  We also examine the extent to which the securitisation of refugee issues has occurred and how these processes impact on their governance and management.

The final section brings to the fore the agency of refugees and explores differing approaches to the study of refugees’ own lived experiences in flight and exile. We explore the tensions between the international community’s interest in fixing refugee populations in camps and refugees’ own practices (often irregular) of self -settlement in towns and cities.  We also devote considerable attention to a critical examination of the significance of gender and its intersection with other identities (age, generation and disability) in narratives and analyses of displacement.  We explore gendered experiences of immobility and displacement, looking at the multiple ways in which processes of and responses to forced migration influence broader gender identities, roles and relations. The final section looks at how we might ‘solve’ protracted refugee situations and the limitations of the current approaches. It begins by looking at why refugee return has dominated international attempts to solve crises, the problems that have arisen from this ‘push to repatriate’ and the types of challenges faced by returnees.


22 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

The teaching strategy is diverse and innovative: using both conventional discussions as well as a variety of small group exercises. These will feed directly into a formative piece of work related to the summative assessment. Students will work within small study groups to develop the formative work and will then work individually on the summative tasks.

Formative coursework

Students will co-produce seminar presentations with a supporting information brief for fellow students. Students will be allocated in groups of up to 4 to these presentations.

Indicative reading

First Lecture key readings

  1. Sarah Kenyon Lischer, ‘Conflict and Crisis Induced Displacement’ in Elena Fiddian- Qasmiyeh, Gil Loescher, Katy Long and Nando Sigona (Eds) The Oxford Handbook of Refugees and Forced Migration Studies (OUP: Oxford, 2014) pp 317-329.
  2. Adhikari, Prakash. "Conflict-Induced Displacement, Understanding the Causes of Flight." (2011). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/pols_etds/3 at http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar_url?url=https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1002%26context%3Dpols_etds&hl=en&sa=X&scisig=AAGBfm1fJ8FBqx8NdyNUNOIP0KV4ji5MzQ&nossl=1&oi=scholarr
  3. Justin Schon, ‘Motivation and opportunity for conflict-induced migration: An analysis of Syrian migration timing’ at justinschon.com/resources/JPR_forthcoming_main%20text.pdf
  4. Williams, N.E., Ghimire, D.J., Axinn, W.G. et al. AMicro-Level Event-Centered Approach to Investigating Armed Conflict and Population Responses Demography (2012) 49: 1521. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-012-0134-8      
  5. Anna Knoll and Lidet Tadesse Shiferaw, ‘Tackling the triggers of violence-induced displacement: the contribution of the African peace and security architecture and African governance architecture’
  6. European Centre for Development Policy Management September 2018 Discussion Paper No. 228 at www.ecdpm.org/dp228



Take-home assessment (100%) in the ST.

Students will produce 2 x 2000 word essays during a 72 hour take home exam sat in the early part of the ST. Students unable to commit to this are not to enrol in the course.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2019/20: 132

Average class size 2019/20: 14

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication