SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

Understanding Economic Migration: Theories, Patterns and Policies (MSc RID)

Module Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 2

In this module, students will survey the major theoretical approaches to understanding economic migration, the historical patterns of economic migration, and the role it has played in forming the modern world; contemporary patterns and drivers of economic migration, the relationship between economic migration and globalisation, the institutional and political dynamics that shape these flows; and the policy implications—and subsequent debates—that have arisen around them. The module is interdisciplinary in orientation and students will engage with a variety of literature, case studies, and qualitative and quantitative techniques for analysing the dynamics of economic migration.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, a student should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an in-depth appreciation of the social theories used to explain economic migration, explain their theoretical assumptions and methodological perspectives, and be able to assess, critique and contrast these theoretical frameworks and their predictive capacities;
  • Show a broad understanding of the different historical and contemporary patterns of economic migration through a variety of case studies in both the South and North; provide an informed assessment of the debates around the causes and implications of these patterns; demonstrate an understanding of the important role that economic migration has played in constituting the modern world;
  • Demonstrate an understanding that economic migration is an endogenous and constitutive element of globalisation, and explain the implications of this for both the patterning of economic migration and the nature of globalisation, as well as issues of development in both the South and the North;
  • Critically analyse the key policy debates around economic migration, the various multi-lateral initiatives aimed at ensuring the rights of economic migrants, the role and perspectives of different policy actors, and be able to offer an informed assessment of these policies as they apply to the contemporary world.


Teaching takes place through one three-hour seminar per week – there are no lectures.

Scope and syllabus

This module will be delivered alongside the parallel module, 'Understanding economic migration: Theories, Patterns and Policies', worth 22.5 CATS credits. Students will have the opportunity to attend all lectures and tutorials, but the examinable component will be approximately 75% of the 22.5 CATS credits syllabus. Material delivered in the lectures and tutorials which is NOT examinable will equate to two of the ten weeks of the module, and will be identified by the module convenor and communicated to students at the start the module.

Method of assessment

60% examination, 40% coursework. Each student will be expected to submit one essay of no more than 4000 words, worth 40%. Resubmission of coursework regulations apply.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules