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Understanding a global crisis with an MA in Refugee Protection

We talk to two scholarship recipients about what the programme means to them and the opportunities and experiences that have opened up to them.

Written by Lucy Jordan |

Refugees walking across open land in Idomeni, Greece at sunset
An immense 79 million people are currently displaced from their homes, 25 million of which are refugees.

It is becoming increasingly urgent to further our understanding of the current challenges faced by refugee communities around the world. An immense 79 million people are currently displaced from their homes, 25 million of which are refugees. This complex challenge requires in depth skills and knowledge to fully, understand, explore and address what is a global crisis.

The MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies provides solid legal, practical and theoretical understanding of refugee protection and forced migration and has become one of the largest and longest running distance and online programmes on forced migration anywhere in the world. Many of the students on this programme are actively working in the refugee field while they study. The part-time and distance-learning structure enables them to combine their studies with work and other commitments.

The Refugee Law Initiative, School of Advanced Study, University of London has for the last three years partnered with the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, to offer a number of full scholarships for the MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration studies. These are offered to talented and motivated individuals from specific Commonwealth countries to gain the knowledge and skills required for sustainable development.

Asiimwe Lydia had been involved in refugee work for ten years when she applied for the MA, wishing to expand her knowledge base.

Asiimwe continued working full time, alongside studying. She found the programme challenging but exciting, “Support staff, including tutors, always came in handy whenever I encountered any difficulties during the course of my studies."

One vivid example about the support I received was when I had challenges with an essay at the start of the programme and one of the support staff went out of his way and gave me a phone call to guide me on how to write a good essay. It was very helpful and greatly improved my essay writing skills!

She found that the most rewarding part of her studies was the wealth of knowledge that she got through the different module readings and interaction with fellow students, especially during the discussion forums, “This made every effort put in worth it!”

On the reality of working full-time whilst studying for an MA, Asiimwe said, “The successful completion of the studies will require one to adjust their priorities and make a few sacrifices here and there so as to get ample time to read and get the most out of the programme. But the assurance is that every one of these sacrifices and adjustments is so much worth it!”

Asiimwe says: “The wealth of knowledge acquired from the different modules of this programme has enabled me to understand refugees and forced migrants as a whole better so am able to participate in their protection and advocate for their rights from an informed view point.”

Asiimwe completed the MA in 2021 and is currently a social worker, based in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Uganda.  With the writing and critical thinking skills acquired, she plans to write more articles on refugee and forced migration issues that will inform advocacy on their management and protection.

Landry Sugira was working at a higher education institution in a refugee camp in Rwanda when he decided to apply for the MA. Landry’s role was to help Congolese refugees at the Kiziba Refugee Camp with access to higher education opportunities.

“The University of London’s distance and flexible learning programme allowed me to study from where I was and fit my studies around other life commitments. It was clear that I would get a solid understanding of refugee law, refugee policies, as well as a critical understanding of other important topics in forced migration without having to leave my country or my job.”

While I wanted to continue my studies, I still had people who depended on me, including some of my siblings that I was supporting with school fees in high school…the programme’s flexibility helped a lot because I would find a few hours that work for me after work each day to read and complete assignments. It allowed me to set my own schedule and follow it.

Landry also felt that he benefitted from the diversity of the programme. “It was very good to be able to hear from people with experience in the field coming from all parts of the world.”

On the challenges of balancing his studies with his other commitments, Landry said: “I think that it is always important to start something with the end in mind. While you may feel tired and may want to give up, if you understand well what the results are going to be, it will keep you motivated and give you strength to keep going.”

Landry says that the MA has already started opening up new opportunities for him, and that he can’t wait to use the skills and knowledge from the programme to achieve even more.

"I work with the Global Education Movement (GEM), a Southern New Hampshire University's initiative to provide higher education opportunities and employment pathways to refugees and host communities … which is a great opportunity received because of my MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies.”

Find out more about the MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies.