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Politics of Migration



Migration control is one of the most debated issues of our times. This seminar will give fundamental insights into the key dilemmas that states face when designing and implementing migration policies. It draws on state-of-the-art research and mobilizes historical and contemporary examples from around the world to examine the drivers, dynamics and effects of migration policies. We will investigate the following questions: Who are the key actors that shape migration policymaking? How do the politics of border control differ from the politics of family reunification or low-skilled labor migration? Is migration governance in democracies fundamentally different from that in autocracies? And are migration policies effective in shaping the volume and composition of global migration?

The seminar first looks at the origins and trends of migration control across the globe. It then zooms into the policymaking process and discusses the role of different actors and factors in migration policy: public opinion, civil society, political parties and courts, as well as human rights norms, foreign policy and transnational business interests. Lastly, we will explore policy implementation dynamics, i.e. what migration policy does on the ground. The overall objective of the course is to equip students with the necessary theoretical and empirical knowledge to understand the complex dynamics that shape migration policymaking and to critically evaluate new developments in migration control.

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course, students should

  • have gained foundational knowledge of migration policymaking theories and the dilemmas that different actors face in the policy process

  • be able of drawing from diverse empirical insights into the drivers, dynamics and effects of migration policies to contextualize and reflect on contemporary migration debates

  • be able to develop a critical perspective on scientific, media and political discourses on migration politics by dissecting the assumptions that underlie them

  • have trained their public speaking and argumentation skills through sustained participation and engagement in group and class discussions.



Mode of instruction

Seminars consisting of a mix of short input lectures, student presentations and group discussions.

Course Load

This 10 EC seminar requires 280 hours of study:

  • Seminar attendance (4h/week, 7 weeks) = 28h

  • Weekly reading and course preparation (8h/session, 14 sessions) = 112h

  • Work on group presentation = 38h

  • Work on reflection paper = 6h

  • Work on final paper = 96h

Assessment method

The course is assessed through the following four elements:

15% Participation
20% Group presentation
15% Reflection paper
50% Final Essay

Reading list

There is no textbook for this course. Readings include book chapters and journal articles from political science, as well as related disciplines such as sociology, area studies, political geography, anthropology, law and economics.


See general info on tab 'Year 3'