First ever distance learning masters in refugee studies launched

Tuesday 1 July 2014

The Refugee Law Initiative (RLI) research centre at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study is pioneering a distance learning course on refugee and migration studies to play its part in addressing the problems caused by the escalating global refugee crisis.

The new MA degree course, Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies, which begins in October 2014, will enable students to think constructively about related policy and law and also develop policy recommendations.

The course is the first of its kind, and arrives as new data, released by the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), reveals that for the first time since the Second World War, more than 50 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

‘Having worked for the last 15 years in the refugee field, I can say that law and policy are the meat and bread of what we use to try to improve the humanitarian situation of refugees and other displaced persons,’ said RLI programme director, Dr David James Cantor. ‘A critique of current laws and policies by itself can be useful, but of far less value than the positive recommendations that need to be generated.

‘The course has a very strong academic component that is informed by the world-leading expertise of those designing and teaching the modules. However, unlike many other postgraduate programmes, this is complemented by a consistent focus on developing students’ vocational skills in a way that will readily enable them to work in this field.’

In common with other Masters programmes, Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies will offer intense and challenging content and learning, but won’t cost anything like the price of the average UK Masters degree which is currently around £6,000 a year, with some universities charging more than double that figure. The total cost for the two-year part-time programme is around £7,000 and it will be administered through the University of London International Programmes. Applications should be made by 1 September 2014.

‘Distance learning will ensure that the course will be an affordable option for students in the developing world, as well as the developed world,’ explained Dr. Cantor. ‘They won’t have to pay international student fees, deal with the bureaucracy and cost of visas, airfares, accommodation, or give up professional or domestic commitments.’ 

‘In this way we are hoping to create a virtual meeting place for students from all parts of the globe. Distance learning also means that we can more easily enrol leading specialists and practitioners who will provide expert knowledge. In these ways, we intend to offer democratic access to the course and recruit students and experts from around the world.’

For more information about the course please contact either:
Dr David James Cantor (+44 (0) 20 7862 8827, or 
Dr Sarah Singer, (+44 (0) 20 7862 8571, Refugee Law Initiative, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

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Notes for editors:

1. For media enquiries please contact Kyla Njoku, External Relations, University of London at / +44 (0)20 7862 8014.

2. The Refugee Law Initiative at the Human Rights Consortium of the School of Advanced Study, University of London is the only academic centre in the UK to concentrate specifically on international refugee law. As a national focal point for leading and promoting research in this field, it works to integrate the shared interests of refugee law scholars and practitioners, stimulate collaboration between academics and non-academics, and achieve policy impact at the national and international level. The Refugee Law Initiative hosts seminars, workshops, short courses and other events to promote and facilitate cutting-edge research on the protection of refugees and other displaced persons. It leads and manages high-impact research, policy and training projects, and carries out consultancy work on refugee law and protection.

3. Dr David James Cantor, BA Hons (Cantab), MSc Dist, PhD - Director and founder of the successful Refugee Law Initiative ( and a Reader in Human Rights Law at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. He is also an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Future Research Leader and the Editor-in-Chief of the ‘International Refugee Law’ book series published by Martinus Nijhoff. David worked as a Legal Officer for the Refugee Legal Centre and also with UNHCR. He litigated over 500 refugee and human rights cases before the UK courts and tribunals as well as carrying out advocacy and policy work before government departments and Parliament. As an academic, he has undertaken extensive fieldwork on forced displacement in Colombia, where his work has influenced the formation and application of law and policy, as well as in other countries in the Andean region, Central America, Southern Cone and Mexico. He has trained governments from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Pacific on refugee protection and has also participated in UNHCR-organised expert meetings.

4. The School of Advanced Study, University of London (SAS) is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. SAS and its 10 member institutes offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. In 2012-13, SAS: welcomed 833 research fellows and associates; held 2,231 research dissemination events; received 21.7 million visits to its digital research resources and platforms; and received 194,529 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. Find out more at or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews

5. The University of London is a federal University and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University is recognised globally as a world leader in Higher Education. It consists of 18 self-governing Colleges of outstanding reputation, together with a number of prestigious central academic bodies and activities. The University of London International Programmes was established in 1858 and is a unique global network of 54,000 students in over 180 countries, on more than 100 study programmes ranging from social sciences to law to health. Former students and alumni include seven Nobel Prize winners (notably Nelson Mandela). Learn more about the University of London at