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An introduction to refugee and forced migration studies


This core module provides you with a sound interdisciplinary understanding of the key concepts, theories and debates in refugee and forced migration studies and their relationship to refugee protection policy and practices over the past century.

Topics covered

  • What is ‘forced migration’? What labels are applied to ‘refugees’, ‘IDPs’, ‘asylum seekers’ and ‘illegal migrants’?
  • Early history of the international refugee regime
  • The relationships between different institutions involved in refugee protection and how humanitarian actors respond to complex emergencies
  • The causes and consequences of refugee and forced migration crises
  • Solutions? Resettlement, local integration and repatriation and peace-building.

Learning outcomes

This module provides you with a sound interdisciplinary understanding of the field of forced migration studies and its fundamental debates. You will learn how to create, deploy and defend sound written arguments evaluating key concepts, theories, policies and practices and appraise a range of non-legal sources in the refugee and forced migration field.


Each core module is assessed via a final item of coursework, which comprises 70% of the overall grade, and five online assessments (E-tivities), which make up 30% of the overall grade.

Module team

Nicholas Maple, module convenor

Nicholas Maple - Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies

Nicholas is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. His current work looks at urban displacement and mobility in sub-Saharan Africa. His PhD research focused on Southern Africa, looking at the relationship between refugee camps/settlements and urban displacement of refugees.

He is also the Academic Support Officer for the MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies at the University of London. In addition, he is the module convener of the core module RPM020 - An introduction to refugee and forced migration studies, and supervises MA dissertations at the University of London and University of the Witwatersrand.

Nicholas has nearly two years’ experience working in the field as an advocate for organisations such as Asylum Access, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Dr Christina Oelgemoller, module convenor

Dr Christina Oelgemoller - Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies

Christina is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Refugee Law Initiative (RLI) and lecturer in International Relations at Loughborough University. Previously, she was in the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, during which time she was awarded her DPhil.

Her doctoral work is an interdisciplinary study in geography and international relations entitled Migration management: the radical violence of the international politics of migration. In this work, questions were examined about the construction of the ‘illegal migrant’ as a particular political subject, framed in the context of changes in the doctrine formation of international migration since the 1980s on the back of - among other factors - the Indochina refugee crisis. ‘Migration management’ raises important questions about normative violence, governance and ethics.

Christina has a multidisciplinary background, with degrees in social policy, politics and law; intercultural work, human rights and conflict management; and research methods awarded by universities in Germany and the UK. Outside of academia, she has worked for several years in organisations including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) branch office in Berlin and an international NGO in Geneva.

Lidia Kuzemska tutor

Lidia Kuzemska - Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies

Lidia Kuzemska a sociologist working on issues of forced internal migration, citizenship and borders. She recently received her PhD from Lancaster University, and also holds an MA in European Studies from the College of Europe (Belgium/Poland) and an MA in Sociology from the Lviv National University (Ukraine). Currently, she is a co-managing editor of the Refugee Review journal and a Research Affiliate of the Internal Displacement Research Programme (SAS).

Lucy Hovil

Lucy Hovil - Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies

Lucy has spent 18 years working with local and international civil society on issues of forced displacement and conflict across Sub-Saharan Africa. Areas of experience include forced migration, conflict analysis and conflict sensitivity, access to justice, transitional justice, gender-based violence and qualitative research design. She has extensive work experience with a broad range of governments, non-governmental organisations, academic institutions and donors in order to understand conflict contexts, their impact on local populations and how best policy interventions can improve their effectiveness.

Lucy is currently the Managing Editor of the International Journal of Transitional Justice, a Deployable Civilian Expert for the UK Government’s Stabilisation Unit, and a Senior Research Associate for the International Refugee Rights Initiative. Her book, Refugees, conflict and the search for belonging was published by Palgrave in 2016.