Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)


Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap None.
Tied to L2T109
Tied to L2K909
Tied to L2K609
Tied to L2KA07


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide advanced knowledge of a range of theoretical, ethnographic, legal and cultural issues stemming from migration research
  • To provide advanced knowledge of existing migration policy frameworks and major inconsistencies in dominant policy approaches versus current research.
  • To enable students to understand the complex legal issues surrounding migration, displacement and asylum.
  • To enable students to critically analyse, reflect on and assess displacement in conflict and post-conflict conditions.
  • To enable students to critically reflect on political phenomena such as xenophobia and anti-migrant discourses.


  • The module will explore theoretical, legal, and policy dimensions of migration and forced displacement. Students will have the opportunity to gain a solid background on contemporary research evidence and the manner in which it often contradicts policy approaches. The different categories –migrant, refugee, asylum seeker- will be explained, alongside international legal frameworks.
  • Students will be exposed to key debates within migration literature that touch upon civil society (the role of NGOs and international NGOs), development, conflict and post-conflict contexts (refugee return schemes).
  • The module will tie migration migration research to post-colonial issues allowing students to understand the historical connections between economic violence, extractive economies, chronic underdevelopment and the colonial regime. It will also explore the rise of populism and the alt-right, and the centrality of migration in such radical discourses.
  • Transitory lives will combine ethnographic evidence (with their focus on the local and the particular) with a global, comparative and interdisciplinary approach to the topic. The focus will remain European, but other regions of the world (such as the US and Australia) will be covered.
  • The course will be organised in five parts, covering respectively the following themes: 1. Theorising migration (an overview of the most important aspects in the literature); 2. Exploring historical patterns of displacement, economic and political issues and the role of colonial regimes; 3. Displacement and human rights (overview of the international legal frameworks); 4. Displacement and the humanitarian regime (the role of national and international NGOs in the management of migration and forced displacement). 5. Regional and thematic case studies (indicatively but not exhaustively: migration and displacement in Europe, US, Australia, refugee return schemes, the issue of unaccompanied minors, the debate over vulnerability assessment toolkits).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will be able, by the end of the module:
  • To identify and explain, demonstrating interdisciplinary awareness, key approaches to migration and forced displacement;
  • To identify and explain differences between different categories of legal status (refugee, migrant, asylum seeker);
  • To critically discuss the role of civil society in the management of forced displacement internationally.
  • To have a critical and informed opinion over different policy debates (including push and pull factors)
  • To identify key, reliable information resources on migration and displacement.
  • To contextualise displacement in histories of under-development, economic exploitation, prolonged conflict and failed states.
  • To identify subtle (and not so subtle) forms of xenophobia and to understand the relationship between populism, nationalism and anti-migration narratives.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will be able, by the end of the module:
  • To identify, analyse and evaluate different academic approaches to migration
  • To appraise the importance of socio-cultural and historical context to understanding migration and forced displacement.
  • To apply some of the studied approaches and advanced theoretical models to the evaluation of current local and global issues, to interpret and analyse empirical data at an advanced level and according to competing explanatory frameworks, and to recognise the impact of a chosen conceptual framework on one’s research findings;
  • To engage in research projects at MA level in the subjects of migration and forced displacement.
Key Skills:
  • Students will be able, by the end of the module:
  • To construct and synthesise arguments critically for both oral and written presentation from different sources of material, including material delivered orally and in reports and essays
  • To demonstrate an independent approach to learning, thinking (self-)critically and creatively, and problem-solving;
  • To use sophisticated techniques of information retrieval and management using an array of print and digital resources;
  • To participate in and reflect on collaborative group work;
  • To formulate complex arguments in articulate and structured English in an effective way, within the discursive conventions and genres of academic writing and written to high academic standards;
  • To demonstrate effective time management

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module will be delivered as a block in workshop format over a period of an evening and two full consecutive days, and will involve a mixture of lectures, short presentations, discussion and small group work, and an oral presentation based on specific region or theme.
  • Summative assessment will include a pre-workshop article review, or a review of current migration policy of a specific country (European or other) and a post-workshop module essay, report or policy document. Which pre- and in-workshop assessments are chosen is dependent on the module convenor, so as to maximise flexibility for the interdisciplinary team delivering the programme. Which post-workshop assessment is selected is in the hands of students (in consultation with the module convenor), so as to maximise flexibility with a view to the wide range of professional backgrounds and needs students attending the course are expected to have. The post-workshop assignment has to be directly linked to one of the themes discussed during the workshop. The pre-workshop assignment is designed to provide students with a focused task to prepare them, through self-guided learning, for the workshop's discussion and/or role play, the knowledge, analytical pointed and literature advice for which will be provided through a virtual induction.
  • Formative assessment is intended to develop students' oral communication and academic writing skills, as well as effective time management. Students will receive formative feedback individually on written work of approximately 500 words. They will receive further feedback on their role play or oral presentation in a debriefing session after the event, in which students' performances will be discussed in view of the learning outcomes.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Workshop 1 Term 2 2 days 18
Preparation, and reading 132
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Article Review Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Article review (or review of national migration policy of a country - European or other) 1,000 words 100%
Component: Post-workshop report Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Report or Module Essay or Policy Document 2,500 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Oral presentations with feedback; 500 words written work with individual feedback

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University