Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) was founded in 1982 as part of the Oxford Department of International Development (Queen Elizabeth House) at the University of Oxford.

Oxford Department of International Development – Queen Elizabeth House


Our mission is to build knowledge and understanding of the causes and effects of forced migration in order to help improve the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.


We aim to lead the world in research and education in the area of refugee and forced migration studies and to share our work on a national and global scale.

We seek to realise this vision by taking forward new and transformative approaches to research, teaching and engagement with society, informed by Oxford’s long traditions of independent scholarship and academic freedom.

About the Centre

The University of Oxford’s success and reputation are built upon the continuing quality of its scholarship and the richness of its academic resources and community. The goal of the RSC is to work from within this exceptional context to enhance research and learning in forced migration and refugee studies in ways that both support individual achievements and promote collaborative joint enterprise.

As the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford has long led the way in pursuing scholarly expertise and knowledge generation for the wider benefit of society. The University’s intense interdisciplinary approach is especially suited to confronting the hugely complex challenges of the modern world.

Queen's Anniversary PrizesA world-class centre for the study of forced migration and refugees has been created at the University of Oxford. With its pioneering research and innovative education and training programmes, the Refugee Studies Centre has had a major constructive influence throughout the developed and developing world and has stimulated effective international networks.  - Royal Anniversary Trust

In the early 1980s Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond undertook research regarding one such challenge: how to improve the performance of humanitarian agencies in the field. During fieldwork in Algeria she realised the paucity of academic literature available on the subject, and on her return to Oxford she founded the Refugee Studies Centre (then known as the Refugee Studies Programme).

The RSC – based in the Oxford Department of International Development, which in turn sits within the Social Sciences Division – started with a weekly seminar and rapidly gained momentum as a focal point for the study of refugee issues. From the beginning, the RSC aspired to bridge the divide between scholarship, policy and practice – an ethos eloquently expressed by another former director, Dr David Turton, who argued that ‘there is no justification for studying, and attempting to understand, the causes of human suffering if the purpose of one’s study is not, ultimately, to find ways of relieving and preventing that suffering.’

Today, we are engaged in a wide range of innovative research projects and we offer a number of popular learning programmes. To ensure the broader impact of our work we publish widely in books and journals and through academic papers; we build networks, run workshops and organise conferences; and we engage with our audiences online through podcastsvideos, and social media.

More than three decades after its establishment, the study of forced migration has become a recognised academic discipline, embraced by numerous educational institutions across the world. The need for independent, objective and critical scholarship on factors determining and resulting from displacement has never been greater, and the RSC remains in the forefront, shaping the agenda in today’s most critical debates.

Core activities

Research – The RSC provides multidisciplinary, independent and critical scholarship on factors determining and resulting from the forced displacement of populations. The Centre drives scholarship and social scientific debates on forced migration both through its own work and by encouraging collaboration between academics from a wide range of institutions and university departments.

Teaching – The RSC’s teaching programme is designed to support and develop the next generation of scholars and thinkers, as well as to foster a culture of critical reflection within the wider humanitarian community.

Dissemination  A varied portfolio of publicationsinformation resources and networking initiatives promotes influential engagement with a full range of academics, policymakers and practitioners. Details of ongoing activities and achievements are presented in the Annual Report and RSC Newsletter.


For information on how you can support the activities of the RSC, please visit the University's Development Office site.