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Elective: The Politics of Migration and Refugees


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.
The number of participants is limited to 25.


With more international migrants today than ever before, migration is now a key issue for global politics. This course familiarizes students with a range of issues concerning processes of people mobility, including literature from different disciplines (history, sociology, economics, politics and law), which allow for a substantive exploration of this central issue.

After a historical overview of migration trends and an analysis of the main approaches to the study of migration, the course looks at contemporary forms of migration, including ‘economic’ mobility and forced migration as a result of conflict. Thus, the second part examines such issues as the migration-development nexus and the policies of labour sending and receiving countries. The third part introduces the issue of refugees in global politics, including the legal/institutional pillars of the refugee regime, trafficking practices, the policies of encampment and urban refugees, and the ways in which national security interests affect immigration policies. The last part of the course focuses on the unprecedented refugee crisis unleashed by the Syrian conflict, which has invested the region (mainly Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt) and eventually Europe. We will chart the impact of the ongoing ‘securitisation’ of migration on the Schengen free movement area, on the relationship between the EU and southern Mediterranean countries, and on civil liberties and human rights.

The study of migration provides a vantage point for examining changing international and state-society relations of both Western and less developed countries as well as critical issues of democracy and conflict as they arise in the contemporary context.

Course objectives

The elective courses for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the interdisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. They are characterised by an international or comparative approach.

Academic skills that are trained include:

Oral presentation skills:

  1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
  2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
    a. in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;
    b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
    c. using up-to-date presentation techniques;
    d. aimed at a specific audience;
  3. to actively participate in a discussion following the presentation.

Collaboration skills:

  1. to be socio-communicative in collaborative situations;
  2. to provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position;
  3. adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.

Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:

  1. to collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques;
  2. to analyze and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability;
  3. to formulate on this basis a sound research question;
  4. to design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved;
  5. to formulate a substantiated conclusion.

Written presentation skills:

  1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
  2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
    a. in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;
    b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
    c. using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;
    d. aimed at a specific audience.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Seminars are held every week, with the exception of the midterm exam week. This course includes supervised research.

Course Load

Total course load for this course is 10 EC (1 EC = 28 hours), this equals 280 hours, broken down by:

  • Attending lectures: 2 hours per week x 12 weeks = 24 hours

  • Studying the compulsory literature and completing weekly assignments: 108 hours

  • Preparation for presentation / moderation: 8 hours

  • Researching and writing the final research essay: 140 hours

Assessment method


Please note that in-class participation means active participation in the discussion rather than mere attendance. Moderation and in-class discussion will help students to develop oral skills as well provide a supportive forum for questioning competing understandings and perspectives, thus developing students’ critical thinking. Group work will also help to establish a collaborative learning environment, practicing informed and respectful discussion and build up a constructive dialogue throughout the semester.

The objective of the written assignment (memos and paper proposal) is to train students in approaches to research and academic writing. Memo preparation and writing trains students’ ability to synthesize and integrate information. The annotated bibliography is meant to be a preparatory exercise for the literature review, which is an essential part of the paper. For a guide on writing a literature review, see for instance

Paper format: double spaced, 12 point type, page numbers, title, abstract, footnotes, bibliography and a few numbered section headings (up to 6). Detailed instruction on the research paper TBA on Blackboard.

The instructor may also assign additional informal assignments (quizzes, presentations, review and policy relevant notes) at her discretion.


Partial grade Weighing
In-class Participation 10%
In-class Presentation / Moderation (incl. memo) 20%
Written Assignment (paper proposal) 20%
Final Research Essay (max. 5,000 words) 50%

End grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note that the end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average.


Students who have been active participants in class and submitted the final paper on time, but scored an overall insufficient mark, are entitled to a resit. For the resit, students are given a chance to hand in a new version of the final paper.
In case of resubmission of the final essay (insufficient grade only) the final grade for the essay will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion. The deadline for resubmission is 10 working days after receiving the grade for the final essay.

Retaking a passing grade

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2017 – 2018.

Exam review

How and when an exam review takes place will be determined by the examiner. This review will be within 30 days after official publication of exam results.


Blackboard will be used for tutorial groups. Students are requested to enroll on Blackboard for this course, but only after correct enrolment in uSis.

Reading list

There are no essential textbooks for this course. The texts in the list below are useful introductory books on the politics of migration:

  • Alexander Betts and Gil Loescher (eds.). Refugees in International Relations, Oxford University Press, 2011.

  • Steven Castles, Hein de Haas and Mark Miller. The age of migration, Palgrave 2013 (and newer editions).

  • Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh et al. (eds). The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, Oxford University Press, 2014.

  • Aristide Zolberg and Peter Benda (eds). Global Migrants, Global Refugees, Berghahn 2001.

  • Aristide Zolberg, Astri Suhrke and Sergio Aguayo. Escape from violence: conflict and the refugee. Oxford University Press, 1989.

  • We will also work with W.C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research, The University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Selected readings for each weekly seminar and the course syllabus, including information on where publications can be purchased and how this literature should be studied beforehand, will be made available on Blackboard before the start of the course. Articles and books listed in the syllabus as ‘required readings’ can be found in the library catalogue or online.

For each weekly seminar, a number of general questions are provided. These are intended to guide students to compare and synthesize the separate readings. Students are then required to post their answers to these questions as comments in Blackboard (see Mode of Instruction).


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis can be found here.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. A. Sottimano

When contacting the lecturer, please include your full name, student number and tutorial group number.


The deadline for submission of the final essay is 15 June 2018.