Careers and alumni
Students of the MSc have gone on to doctoral degrees, law school, and work relevant to human rights, refugees and migration
The RSC has initiated an innovative and practical careers development programme for students on the degree. Drawing on the Oxford University Careers Service and existing links with non-governmental and charitable organisations, this includes:
- informal careers advice sessions;
- careers workshops;
- facilitating internships at key organisations;
- encouraging contact with alumni from the degree;
- disseminating information about employment prospects.
Each academic year, as part of the degree, we run an optional study visit to Geneva, organised with colleagues at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other agencies, to help our students develop a broad understanding of how the major IGOs and NGOs operate in the humanitarian aid field.
Arafat Jamal, Head, Partnership and Coordination Service, UNHCR (MSc 1998–99)
My year at the RSC was a richly rewarding and refreshing mid-point in my career; a time to reflect, absorb and recalibrate. I enrolled in the MSc in Forced Migration programme (now the MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies) in 1998, after having worked for several years with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). While I had a good sense of the areas in which I wished to focus and deepen my knowledge, I discovered that it was a field much broader than I had previously known. I also took full advantage of the wider Oxford experience, attending both QEH and wider university lectures, poring through historic volumes in the Bodleian Library, and simply enjoying student life again, a much sweeter and more valued experience the second time around.
Since graduating, I have worked in a number of positions with UNHCR, ranging from policy development, to durable solutions to emergency response, at Headquarters, and in Lebanon, Jordan and Libya. When I was at the RSC, I sometimes felt compelled to bring discussions back to ‘reality’, and leaven discussions with experiences from the field. Now back in the field, I find that the Oxford experience refreshed my intellectual habits, and furnished me with an enduring structure with which to process experiences, and formulate effective polices and approaches.
Erik Abild, Head of the Secretary General's Office, Norwegian Refugee Council (MSc 2008–09)
The MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies and my time in Oxford was a door opener: both in terms of professional opportunities and contacts, but maybe most importantly in terms of thinking. The interdisciplinary nature of the MSc course is challenging in a way that reflects the real world, both in terms of understanding the background to an issue, but also in terms of seeing potential solutions. The professors and students also reflected this interdisciplinary nature of the course: a combination of world leading academic expertise with a student group from a variety of backgrounds, many with significant experience from working in international organisations with refugees and humanitarian issues.
For me, I got my first international job during my time in Oxford. The day after my graduation I left for Egypt and crossed in to Gaza, which in 2009 was under a blockade. There I led the work of a humanitarian organisation working on health issues. Two years later I started working for the Norwegian Refugee Council, Norway’s largest humanitarian organisation. In my current position, as the Head of the Secretary General’s Office, I work on a wide range of issues. From policy and strategic partnerships, to the external profiling and missions, all with the objective of supporting the organisation’s work to protect and assist refugees and displaced people. The experiences and knowledge that I gained in Oxford have proved to be useful in my day to day job, and I would highly recommend the MSc course and the experience that Oxford brings.
Merit Hietanen, Operations Support Officer, UNRWA (MSc 2008-09)
I have been working with UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees) for the last 5 years in the Middle East. Currently, I am based in Jordan as an Operations Support Officer focusing on protection and neutrality of Palestine refugees. Previously, I was based in Gaza for almost four years, where I worked as the Gender Officer among other roles. During the conflict in Gaza in 2014, I was coordinating all water distributions as well as the general WASH response to the emergency shelters for some 300,000 IDPs and continued with a role coordinating protection in the shelters in the post-conflict situation.
Before and after graduation I worked for the Refugee Advice Centre in Finland and the Refugee and Migrant Justice in the UK, both organisations that provide legal aid to asylum seekers and other migrants.
Before starting my studies at Oxford, I had already engaged in work with asylum seekers and refugees. My interests had for long converged between environmental issues and forced migration and hence the course in the RSC allowed me to dive into research on environmentally displaced persons.
The MSc Forced Migration profoundly expanded my theoretical understanding of displacement and migration and gave me a robust base upon which to build my practical expertise in the field. I feel the course provided me with important understanding of displacement that is fundamental to understand each context I work in. Furthermore, I built lasting friendships with other students whom I have been able to turn to for peer support, advice and with some of whom I have worked with. They also provide a lovely social network to bump into around the world.
Kate Ogg, Senior Lecturer, Australian National University (MSc 2011–12)
Before commencing the MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at the University of Oxford I was a practising lawyer but wanted to transition into academia. Within a month after graduating from the MSc course I was offered a full time, permanent lectureship at the College of Law at the Australian National University (one of Australia's top law schools).
There are a few aspects of the MSc that helped me make this transition into my dream job so quickly and have influenced the way I approach research and teaching. One is the degree's focus on a specific field of study. Undertaking the MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies was more beneficial for me than completing a generic LLM or the BCL. It shows a commitment to a specific field of scholarship and this specialisation is essential for early career academics.
Second, the interdisciplinary focus of the degree has given me many more options for early career research. The degree provides exceptional course work based training in qualitative and quantitative social science methodologies and I also had the opportunity to further develop my legal research skills through the individual research thesis. This array of skills development has opened up opportunities for me to conduct socio-legal research in the field of refugee studies as opposed to traditional, doctrinal legal scholarship.
Third, the RSC's emphasis on the need to produce scholarship that is both theoretically grounded as well as likely to have a real world impact has had a profound influence on the way that I teach. I similarly encourage my students of international human rights law to adopt a critical perceptive of human rights law and discourse that is grounded in a particular theoretical perspective and to use this to create ideas or platforms for legal and policy reform.
Minos Mouzourakis, Refugee support aegean, formerly Head of Legal and Policy Research, ecre (MSc 2013-2014)
I started the MSc after a double LLB in the UK and France and interning at the asylum unit of the Council of the European Union in Brussels. Directly after the completion of the MSc, I was offered a position within a team of high-calibre academic researchers in a European Parliament-commissioned study on asylum, which led to a legal research assistantship at the University of Oxford. Thanks to these opportunities I was able to pursue the senior-level role of Asylum Information Database (AIDA) Coordinator at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), a pan-European alliance representing over 90 non-governmental organisations working to protect refugees and asylum seekers across Europe.
I found the MSc an extremely valuable academic opportunity and career step for two main reasons. The first is its interdisciplinary design. We are too used to positioning ourselves and thinking in specific boxes: lawyer, anthropologist, political scientist… Yet an in-depth understanding of forced migration, as any other field, requires one to develop critical, cross-cutting thinking. As a lawyer reading for the MSc – rather than, say, an LLM – I found myself exploring completely new territory in my encounters with political theories or sociological perspectives. I learnt that being able to step outside the legal sphere and to analyse questions through different angles not only makes one a skilled researcher but, crucially, a better lawyer.
The second reason is its people. The RSC staff team is made up by dynamic, critical thinkers who drive their students to question assumptions, explore new ideas and develop persuasive argumentation. I experienced their positive influence throughout the various taught subjects, as well as my supervisor’s advice throughout a research thesis I was given the chance to publish after the MSc. At the same time, the RSC closely connects students with refugee and forced migration experts across the world, not least through its seminars and conferences which enable one to meet outstanding academics and practitioners on a weekly basis.
Warda Shazadi Meighen, Refugee, Immigration and Human Rights Lawyer (MSc 2014–15)
Global migration captured my imagination from a young age and years ago, inspired me to become a lawyer. Prior to pursuing an MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at the University of Oxford, I was a barrister and solicitor, focused on citizenship, immigration and refugee matters. I had previously amassed a broad knowledge base by working on the prosecution of genociders at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Tanzania, Supreme Court of Canada litigation focused on terrorism and publication bans and corporate finance at a prominent law firm in New York. After several years of practice, I was ready to specialize in migration, refugee and human rights law.
As soon as I came across the MSc program, I knew it was the right program for me. I had a strong legal foundation, having studied migration in law school and having practiced law in two jurisdictions. I specifically chose the MSc to extend the theoretical foundation on which to buttress my legal practice.
Within a few months of graduating from the MSc, I was offered a full time position by the country’s top refugee and constitutional lawyer. I swiftly became immersed in litigating the revocation of citizenship, niqab bans and exceptions to the Safe Third Country Agreement between the United States and Canada.
There are numerous facets of the MSc which quickened my transition into the perfect position for me. First, the MSc calls upon students to identify an area of focus early in the program and to engage their supervisors and prominent scholars in the field to produce a dissertation. I used this opportunity to focus on health care cuts for refugee claimants in Canada, an issue of great interest to me. Within months of graduating from the program, I was sought out for a challenge at the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal from a decision of the Federal Court in which the cuts were found to be “cruel and unusual” and in violation of equality guarantees under the constitution.
Second, the MSc provides valuable exposure to how different jurisdictions engage with similar migration issues. Having now returned to legal practice, I approach my work with a fresh perspective and am able to situate the day-to-day legal issues I work on within broader global trends. The MSc provided me with the foundation to connect my work to theory; I regularly publish and speak on migration issues at conferences alongside my practice.
Finally, the RSC provides full immersion in various aspects of refugee and forced migration studies, including not only migration and human rights law, but also the causes and consequences of forced migration. As a result of this, my understanding of migration as global phenomena is considerably enhanced. I can conceptualize refugee issues both within and outside of law with relative ease. This understanding propelled me to be in a position where I can act as more than a legal advisor for my clients. The MSc also propelled me to work in a pro bono capacity with Lifeline Syria, an organization which provides private resettlement assistance to Syrian refugees.