PhD Refugee History

An advanced research degree in Refugee History; a rapidly growing field of study, with a vast range of possible thesis topics.

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Course overview

  • 2024
  • 2025
  • Full-time
  • Part-time
  • Sep, 3 Years
  • Sep, 6 Years
  • Jan, 3 Years
  • Jan, 6 Years
  • Apr, 3 Years
  • Apr, 6 Years
  • Research
  • Research
  • Research
  • Research
  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • From £8,267 per year*
  • From £4,133 per year*
  • From £8,267 per year*
  • From £4,133 per year*
  • From £14,500 per year*
  • From £7,250 per year*
  • From £14,500 per year*
  • From £7,250 per year*
  • London
  • London
  • London
  • London
  • *See below for full fee information

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    About the course

    Course outline

    The PhD in Refugee History is an advanced research degree, awarded on the basis of a thesis and an oral viva voce examination. The primary purpose of the PhD is the preparation and presentation of a substantial piece of independent and original academic research, completed in three years if studying full-time and usually six years if studying part-time. There is also the possibility of early submission in cases where the student makes particularly rapid progress.

    Refugee History is a rapidly growing field of study in which there is an enormously wide range of possible thesis topics in the period between sixteenth century and the present day. These can range from the very broad and theoretical, on issues like the dynamics of global population movements, the role of war in bringing about the displacement of populations, or international responses to refugee ‘crises’, to the very local and personal, including cultural histories of diaspora communities or biographies of individuals who have experienced exile. Given sufficient evidence to illuminate it, almost any aspect of the history of refugees may potentially form an appropriate focus of study. The definition of the PhD subject is an iterative process, and it is usual for the candidate’s first thoughts on the topic to be modified in the course of the first year of study.

    A large proportion of our PhD students are engaged in full-time study, but there is also an option for part-time study where this fits better with a student’s other commitments. Part-time study can be ideal for those who are looking to gain a postgraduate qualification without leaving employment and wish to develop their careers while they continue earning, or for those who are home-based for whatever reason and wish to develop their skills. All students are expected to engage with the academic life of the University, to attend skills-training meetings where these are relevant, as well as research seminars and workshops.

    PhD students are expected to attend the Humanities Research Institute’s graduate Research Days in their area of research – usually one per Term – and are encouraged to attend other seminars that may be relevant to their research. These provide an opportunity for PhD students to share their work with their peers, and to engage with visiting experts in their field.

    The University of Buckingham PhD is intended to impart all the skills necessary for the student to work as an independent researcher and writer – skills that are valued by both academic and non-academic employers. But the PhD can be undertaken just as fulfillingly as an exercise in the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, and as a means of exploring areas of enquiry that are of particular interest to the student. A number of our most successful student researchers are those who take up doctoral study at the end of a successful career in a different field or profession.

    Study period

    The usual period of doctoral research is three years for the those who engage in full-time study, though the University’s Regulations also permit candidates who make particularly rapid progress to apply to the University Research Committee for permission to submit at the end of their second year of study. Part-time study is also available, with students completing the dissertation in five or six years.


    Every PhD student in School of Humanities is supported by two supervisors. Supervisors are experts in their field of study and support students throughout the PhD. Students will also benefit from the advice and support of other academic members of the Faculty who will be involved in progression through the various stages of the PhD, including Annual Review meetings with a senior professor (where progress is monitored and support offered towards the planning of the next period of study).

    Each student is allocated two supervisors. There is a First (or Principal) Supervisor, who is the student’s regular guide during his or her research, and with whom the student meets regularly throughout the year. There is also a Second Supervisor, whom the student may consult on a more limited basis where a ‘second opinion’ on a particular draft chapter may be helpful.

    Members of the academic staff who are available to undertake supervision in the field of the History of Migration and Refugees include

    Course director

    Dr Thomas C. Jones – Dr Jones is a leading historian of refugees and asylum in the United Kingdom. He has authored numerous articles on the subject and his forthcoming book on the history of asylum in Britain, Liberty’s Refuge, will be published by Harvard University Press. He is a founding member of AsilEuropeXIX, an international network dedicated to the historical study of refugees and also directs Buckingham’s MA in Migration History.


    Ophelia Field – Ophelia Field is an author and Director of Buckingham’s Biography Programme. Since the 1990s, she has worked with governments and advised on policymaking (especially EU harmonisation) and media narratives about asylum and integration. she has published on the history of immigration detention and alternatives to detention. She can supervise on recent refugee policy history or the history of related public perceptions, rhetoric and self-expression.

    Professor Tessa Murdoch – Professor Murdoch is a Professorial Research Fellow at Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute and Acting Chair of the Huguenot Museum. She has published widely on the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Huguenot diaspora and has curated exhibitions detailing that community’s material culture. She can supervise theses regarding religious and early modern refugees.

    Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice – Sir Geoffrey is one of Britain’s most distinguished human rights lawyers. He serves as an advisor for numerous international legal boards and has argued before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. His supervisory expertise includes the legal status of refugees and the international infrastructure that governs their rights.

    Seminars and research culture

    The University of Buckingham has a flourishing research culture and each year the Faculty and the Humanities Research Institute offer over one hundred seminars by visiting scholars in the field of History, any one of which is open to graduate students in History, irrespective of their own choice of specialism. The majority of seminars are offered in the University’s London bases, but a number are also offered in Buckingham.

    Many of the seminars are followed by a working dinner with the speaker (the cost of which, where relevant, is included in the fees). Prospective students should consult their intended supervisor for further information about these.

    More information

    Enquiries should be directed in the first instance to our Admissions Officer for Humanities degrees on or by telephone to +44 (0)1280 827514. It is also possible to speak with the Course Directors in your chosen area of research in advance of submitting your application: please contact the Admissions Officer to arrange this.

    View course modules


    Entry requirements

    Applicants are normally expected to have a first or upper second-class degree or significant relevant experience. Age is usually an irrelevancy and the University of Buckingham’s current doctoral students range in age from those in their twenties to those in their seventies. Academic ability is the only criterion regarded as relevant.

    Wherever possible, students are encouraged to begin their studies at the start of the academic year (in September), in order to be in step with their peers. Where this is not possible, however, entry points exist at the start of each academic term.

    Mature students

    Age is no barrier to learning and we welcome all applications from all suitably qualified students. The University is committed to lifelong learning, and students joining the PhD programme will encounter a wide variety of age-ranges among their peers.

    International students

    We are happy to consider all international applications and if you are an international student, you may find it useful to visit our international pages for details of entry requirements from your home country.

    The University is a UKVI Student Sponsor.

    English levels

    If English is not your first language, please check our postgraduate English language requirements.

    Selection process

    Candidates apply online, sending in their supporting documents, and will be assessed on this basis by the Tutor for Graduate Admissions and the Course Directors. For help in applying, please contact the Admissions Office on

    The Admissions Office can also arrange for you to discuss your research proposal informally with the Course Directors in advance of your submitting the formal application.

    Student Contract for prospective students

    When you are offered a place at the University you will be notified of the student contract between the University and students on our courses of study. When you accept an offer of a place on the course at the University, a legal contract is formed between you and the University on the basis of the student contract in your offer letter. Your offer letter and the student contract contain important information which you should read carefully before accepting an offer. Further details are available online: Read the Student Contract.

    Teaching and assessment

    PhD students undertake supervised but independent research, at the end of which they submit a thesis embodying the results of that research. The length of the dissertation should not be fewer than 70,000 words and no longer than 80,000 words of text (excluding the thesis-abstract, appendices, footnotes, tables, and bibliography).

    This thesis must demonstrate familiarity with, and an understanding of the subject, its principal sources and authorities. It should display critical discrimination and a sense of proportion in evaluating evidence and the judgements of others. A PhD thesis must embody an original contribution to the knowledge of the discipline either by the discovery of new knowledge or by the exercise of a new and independent critical approach.

    After your course

    The University’s Course Directors, students’ supervisors, and the Research Officer and Tutor for Graduate Students are available to discuss students’ post-graduation plans and how they may utilise most effectively the skills acquired during their studies.

    Course fees

    The fees for this course are:

    StartType1st YearTotal cost
    Month Year
    Full-time (2 Years)
    Month Year
    Full-time (2 Years)

    The University reserves the right to increase course fees annually in line with inflation linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI). If the University intends to increase your course fees it will notify you via email of this as soon as reasonably practicable.

    Course fees do not include additional costs such as books, equipment, writing up fees and other ancillary charges. Where applicable, these additional costs will be made clear.

    How to apply

    Apply direct

    Apply online from this page as:

    • The most flexible option.
    • You can apply until shortly before the course starts.
    • There are no application fees.

    You can apply directly through our website by clicking the ‘Apply now’ button below.