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Alexander Betts

MPhil, DPhil

Leopold Muller Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs

  • Director, Refugee Economies Programme

Alexander Betts is Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs, William Golding Senior Fellow in Politics at Brasenose College. He serves as the University's Local and Global Engagement Officer in the Vice-Chancellor's Office. 

His research focuses on the political economy of refugee protection. He is particularly interested in refugees' access to socio-economic rights and opportunities, and he has undertaken research across Africa and Europe, and also works on broader themes relating to the politics of migration and humanitarianism.

He is author of 12 books and around 100 scholarly publications. His most recent book is The Wealth of Refugees: How Displaced People Can Build Economies (Oxford University Press, 2021), which was awarded the International Studies Association’s ‘Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Migration’ section Distinguished Book Award for 2022. His other books include Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System (Penguin Allen Lane, 2017 with Paul Collier), which was named by the Economist among the ‘best books of 2017’, The Global Governed? Refugees as Providers of Social Protection (Cambridge University Press, 2020, with Kate Pincock and Evan Easton-Calabria), Mobilising the Diaspora: How Refugees Challenge Authoritarianism (Cambridge University Press, 2016, with Will Jones), Refugee Economies: Forced Displacement and Development (Oxford University Press, 2016, co-authored with Louise Bloom, Josiah Kaplan, and Naohiko Omata), Survival Migration: Failed Governance and the Crisis of Displacement (Cornell University Press, 2013), Global Migration Governance (Oxford University Press, 2011), Refugees in International Relations (Oxford University Press, 2010, with Gil Loescher), and Protection by Persuasion: International Cooperation in the Refugee Regime (Cornell University Press, 2009).

He leads the IKEA Foundation-funded Refugee Economies Programme, which undertakes participatory research on the economic lives of refugees in Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia, and has created one of the first multi-country data sets focusing on the economic lives of refugees and host communities. He has also received research grants from the ESRC, the MacArthur Foundation, the Leverhulme Trust, and the British Academy.

He has been recognised as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Science, was awarded the ESRC's Outstanding International Impact Prize, has received scholarly prizes from the American Political Science Association and the International Studies Association, has been named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world's top-100 global thinkers, by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader, by Friends of Europe as a European Young Leader under-40, and by Thinkers50 on their radar list of emerging business influencers.

His TED talks have been viewed by over 3 million people. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy. He regularly speaks to the news media, including the BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera. He previously worked for UNHCR, served as a Councillor on the Canadian-funded World Refugee Council, Chaired the World Bank’s KNOMAD Trust Fund for Research on ‘Forced Displacement and Development’, and served on a range of migration and development advisory groups including for IOM and UNDP.

He previously served as Associate Head (Graduate and Research Training) of the Social Science Division and Director of the ESRC Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (with Open University and Brunel University) between 2019 and 2023. He has had two terms as Director of the Refugee Studies Centre (2014-17 and 2022-23). He also serves as the University's academic champion for the Oxford Sanctuary Community and the Chair of the University's Sport Strategic Sub-Committee. 

Key publications

Recent publications

More publications


Alexander Betts teaches on the MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies. He is also Associate Faculty at the Blavatnik School of Government.

Alex currently supervises the following DPhil students:

  • Raphael Bradenbrink
  • Stephen Damianos
  • Angela Pilath
  • Samuel Ritholtz
  • Abril Rios Rivera
  • Emma Walker-Silverman