Alumni Insights: Applying to the MSc in Migration Studies

COMPAS Communications

Are you interested in joining our Migration Studies MSc cohort starting in 2023? Want to know more about the programme and studying with COMPAS? We hear from the Course Director Ruben Andersson and recent COMPAS alumni who give an insight into their experience on the MSc degree programme.

Make sure to apply by 20 January 2023 at 12 noon GMT.


Ruben Andersson

Ruben Andersson is the current Course Director for the MSc in Migration Studies and a professor of social anthropology at Oxford’s Department of International Development. 

Which Oxford University department is the MSc in Migration based at? 

The MSc in Migration Studies is a joint master’s programme between the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (SAME) and the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID). For their dissertations students can be supervised by faculty staff from either of these departments.   

The Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) based at SAME plays a key role in the degree as it provides an opportunity for students to get involved in cutting-edge research on migration, including through interactions with our DPhil in Migration Studies and via weekly seminars. ODID hosts the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) which provides further opportunities for engaging with academic discussions on refugees, while the Migration Oxford initiative brings together a wealth of migration research across the university. 

How is the MSc in Migration Studies different from other master’s programmes? 

The MSc in Migration Studies is an interdisciplinary degree, which allows candidates to explore issues related to citizenship, borders, identity, labour markets, security and urbanism, and many other topics besides, under the umbrella of migration. Students take core modules in research methods, international development, economics, governance and anthropology of migration, and can choose optional modules drawing on a range of themes and approaches. Through all this, students are trained and exposed to discussion about migration well beyond the topics of their dissertation. 

Why study migration at Oxford? 

In Oxford, you will have access to one of the largest interdisciplinary networks of researchers working on migration in the world. You will have the opportunity to engage with major research projects from exploring migration governance in Africa to emptying villages in Eastern Europe and challenges in immigration policy worldwide. Finally, you will have the opportunity to disseminate your research, such as via the Migration Podcast, the alumni magazine Routed, or the annual Oxford Migration Conference organized by our students. I invite you to hear from some of our recent MSc alumni who offer a unique insight into student life on the programme.

Jordana Irzyk

Jordana is a COMPAS alumna of the MSc Migration Studies 2021-22. She currently works in the education sector as the Assistant Director of Admission at Worcester Academy, Massachusetts. A fun fact about Jordana is she is a twin!

How did you hear about the MSc programme?

I attended Oxford as a Visiting Student and heard from my tutors about the program. It was also the first program that appeared in my online search for masters programs in migration.

What attracted you to the MSc in Migration Studies?

I wanted to study outside of the United States and fell in love with the city when I attended Oxford as a visiting student. I appreciated the interdisciplinary nature of the program, and that there were core classes all students took. This helped ensure baseline knowledge as students in the cohort had backgrounds in many different subjects. Such diversity among my peers was also a huge attraction for me. I was further impressed with the elective offerings and the close supervision for the dissertation process.

What is your favourite memory of your time on the Migration Studies programme?

My favorite memory is sitting with my cohort discussing topics of critical importance such as visa restrictions, ethical anthropological research, and conditional belongingness for migrants from marginalized backgrounds in historic Oxford pubs!

How did the programme help prepare you for your current role?

I recruit a lot of international students for my position and the program helped me have a better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of such “capital” migration for both the sending and receiving countries. It helps me to navigate the nuances of study abroad and grapple with difficult, yet important, questions concerning the “prestige” of American independent schools.

What does a day in the life of your role look like?

My day consists of interviewing students and their families from all over the world, writing reports on the students, reading applications, and setting up tours for prospective students. I also advise a group of juniors on their whole educational experience and spend my afternoons coaching either cross country or track. I supervise study hall for students in the dorm in the evening and make sure that they feel supported and able to both be themselves and continue to grow.

What advice would you give to applicants of the programme?

Be comfortable with the fact that a lot of your learning will be outside of the classroom when talking about topics you are interested in with your peers. Get to know your cohort really well, as they will be incredible people who can expand your mind. Lean on each other for (emotional) support when needed.

If I knew before I started the course what I know now, I would…

Start my dissertation research earlier!

Miguel Luis Arias

Miguel is a COMPAS alumnus of the MSc Migration Studies 2021-22. He currently works in the international development sector as a Project Lead-Consultant for UNDP and a Reintegration Consultant for IOM Philippines. A fun fact about Miguel is he has completed two Spartan Races in the Philippines!

How did you hear about the MSc programme?

I heard about the programme through a Youtube video and learned more through the ODID website.

What attracted you to the MSc in Migration Studies?

The interdisciplinary character of the MSc programme primarily attracted me to it. It goes beyond the orientation of international development practice in looking at migration through the lens of economics and development by drawing from innovative theoretical and methodological perspectives of other disciplines, such as anthropology and political science. The programme boasts a renowned set of faculty and scholars and a diverse cohort of students from all over the world, which enriches discussion during lectures and seminars.

What is your favourite memory of your time on the Migration Studies programme? 

I love the seminars! They were intimate and focused. Seminars allowed us to dive deep into the topics we covered in the lectures. It allowed me to pick on the brains of my cohort mates and learn about their views, experiences and the tools they use to analyse social phenomena. It is a refreshing way to challenge each other by critically analysing not just the readings and the concepts that we are covering for a specific lecture but also our own epistemic and ontological positions. The diversity of the cohort (combination of practitioners and aspiring academics) also allowed us to bridge the gap and tension between theory and practice during the seminars.

How did the programme help prepare you for your current role? 

The programme helped sharpen my analytical thinking, research and writing skills. It also challenged my on-the-ground and practice-based knowledge of migration and armed me with other disciplinary lenses, such as anthropology. This helped me stand out in practice (in the world of work) given the strong and heavy orientation on mainstream approaches and the disciplines of economics and development.

What does a day in the life of your role look like? 

As a Project Lead for a regional research initiative, I work with a group of consultants and researchers (my team) as well as UNDP in the Philippines and their regional hub in Bangkok. My usual day is marked by catch-up meetings and huddles with my team of researchers in the Philippines, Pakistan and the US, as well as our partners like UNDP Philippines and UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub. A typical day for me also includes planning, reading, analysing data and writing. Some days are dedicated to data gathering or consultation and validation workshops with relevant stakeholders in the Philippines and across the Asia-Pacific region.

Meanwhile, as a Reintegration Consultant responsible for leading the development of a handbook for reintegration programming, I function as an individual consultant and work closely with IOM Philippines, specifically in setting up meetings and workshops with stakeholders. A typical day for me involves lots of reading, writing and revising.

What advice would you give to applicants of the programme?

Studying at Oxford is a huge undertaking. It is mentally, physically and emotionally demanding. You need to be ready to stand on your own feet, be away from your loved ones, not eat your favourite local food, not speak your mother tongue, and be immersed in a different way of living. But to do and complete a degree at Oxford is rewarding. You will meet many bright students and renowned experts and make amazing friends from all over the world. You must give due time to prepare your application so you can reach out to potential referees and develop a solid and convincing statement of purpose. You may also need to reflect on how your experience aligns with your previous experience and how the programme suits your medium and long-term career and/or academic goals. Reach out and talk to alumni and ask about their experience applying and studying at Oxford.

If I knew before I started the course what I know now, I would…

Have planned and prepared my time in Oxford more efficiently – there are just too many opportunities and activities around Oxford! There are activities organised by the MSc programme, ODID, SAME and COMPAS, as well as optional talks organised by other Oxford departments, colleges and the Oxford Union. There are lots of museums and parks you can access for free plus the opportunity to attend formal hall in the different Oxford colleges! Then there are more than 400 clubs and societies so you will definitely find a community where you belong. It is tough to maximise all these activities and opportunities given the rigour of the programme. Breaks in between terms will likely be used to revise and prepare for exams. Hence, pausing and taking advantage of the non-academic activities in Oxford will help one cope with stress and fatigue. So make sure to sharpen your organisation and time management skills and have them ready for a year of an arduous and exciting journey!

Make sure to apply by 20 January 2023 at 12 noon GMT. For more information on the programme and how to apply visit: