Postgraduate Course

MA Refugee Care

MA Refugee Care


The details
Refugee Care
October 2024
1 year
Distance Learning

This is an online version of our MA Refugee Care, designed specifically for interactive, online delivery. This course is taught through distance learning meaning the entire year, or two years, of the course is taught online with no face-to-face, in-person teaching. Where possible, flexibility will be exercised to accommodate different time zones, for example with 1-2-1 sessions being held at a time best suited to you. You will graduate with the same qualification as our campus based MA.

Interested in the course but want to study on campus? Read about our campus based course instead.

The Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies is offering scholarships to assist postgraduate students taking the full-time on-campus or online MA Refugee Care course within the Department. The scholarship, which is open to all successful applicants to either of these two courses, covers all the university fees. To find out more, click here.

Founded in 2004, this unique course brings together people from diverse walks of life and parts of the globe to explore how we can therapeutically care for refugee people more effectively. Whereas other institutions and courses focus on the study of refugee people, our course focuses on the caring of them, on how we can intervene therapeutically to support this segment of our society.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, there was demand to offer this course online and we approved an online option of the MA Refugee Care course, which is identical in content (number of teaching modules, their structure and themes), and equal in value and experience. This option enables students anywhere in the world to take this course without reducing its quality, whilst they continue to live in their own localities and retaining with their existing employment.

Through lively seminar discussion we unpack the experiences of involuntarily dislocated people as multi-dimensional and complex, and explore psychosocial perspectives and different types of intervention and activism. We discuss how we become more therapeutic in our work with them as a distinct skill, different from offering psychotherapy. Through our course, you gain practical expertise in challenging negative and limiting stereotypes of asylum seekers and refugee people as being merely traumatised individuals, passive recipients of help. You also gain new insight into effective humanitarian work with these individuals, families and communities. The course provides you with the tools to discern the suffering, pain and distress of these people, whilst also appreciating their retained strengths (Resilience) as well as their new strengths that they acquired from being exposed to adversity (Adversity-Activated Development). This programme is closely associated with the Centre for Trauma Asylum and Refugees.

Our course teaching staff are made up from the multidisciplinary practitioner expertise of the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, guest speakers who are world experts in the field, activists, academics and practitioners. You will learn our unique, innovative and proven approach enabling you to work directly with involuntarily dislocated people, combining theory and practice. We offer valuable opportunities to gain first-hand experience through supportive work placements, which are individually tailored to your needs and further professional development.

Students often come with a wealth of professional or other experience in fields such as education, nursing, social work, human rights, law, politics, philosophy, psychology, therapy, medicine, art, literature and media studies. We also welcome people coming to Refugee Care anew, with an interest in working directly with refugee people, asylum seekers or other involuntarily dislocated groups of people, or conducting conceptual or empirical research in this area. Students may successfully combine study on our course with part-time work with charity sector organisations.

The focus of this course is on the human experience and lived realities, and on how to intervene therapeutically to improve them, with topics studied including:

  • Psychosocial perspectives to human rights interventions
  • Complexities of victimisation in Severe Forms of Collective Adversity
  • Psychosocial meanings of home and the implications of loss of home
  • Systemic and dynamic complexities of the refugee experience
  • Contingencies of identifying needs and therapeutic responses to them
  • Theory and scope of the psycho-social approach to refugee care
  • Psychodynamic and systemic approaches to refugee care
  • Theories of trauma, PTSD, resilience and adversity-activated development
  • Wider parameters within which the refugee condition is located and constructed
  • Organisational dimensions
  • Conceptualising research in this field


The Placement is an integral part of the MA Refugee course, putting theory to practice. Staff will help you find an appropriate placement that best matches your interests and career goals using our extensive connections and the Essex graduate network. For the online option of this course, placements are arranged either online or with a local relevant organisation that you have access to.


We have welcomed many Chevening recipients on this course over the years, as well as students from refugee situations and backgrounds. A range of scholarships and bursaries are available to students studying this course, including our Refugee Bursary amongst others.

The Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies is offering scholarships to assist postgraduate students taking the full-time on-campus or online MA Refugee Care course within the Department. The scholarship, which is open to all successful applicants to either of these two courses, covers all the university fees. For further information and details on how to apply please visit the Essex Futures Refugee Care Scholarship webpage.

Why we're great.
  • This is the only course in the world to focus on the therapeutic care of asylum seekers, refugee people and other involuntarily dislocated people, as opposed to merely studying them as social or political phenomena.
  • A yearly visit to an Asylum Tribunal gives you unique access to real-world complexities, with the opportunity to talk to judges, lawyers and Home Office staff about concrete cases and their work, in general.
  • We have now introduced several scholarships to cover all university fees, through the Essex Futures Refugee Care Scholarships scheme, for those successful applicants who are experiencing particularly difficult financial constraints.

Our expert staff

The course team, directed by the founder Professor Renos Papadopoulos, a pioneer in this field, who has been working as a consultant to the UN and other International and Non-Governmental Organisations in many parts of the world for many years, is further enhanced by other world experts from a variety of relevant fields. One of the strengths of this course is that the staff team consists of academic-practitioners, actively engaged in academic, research and field work within this area.

The course is located in the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies and associated with the Department of Sociology and Criminology.

Being part of a leading university in the study of social sciences means you are surrounded by strong departments that fully support and enhance our work. This allows you to gain the opportunity to work with and be taught by top world-class scholars and top professionals in their fields.

Specialist facilities

The course is closely associated with the internationally renowned Centre for Trauma Asylum and Refugees (CTAR) that is involved in training, research and intervention projects in many parts of the world. The course also has strong links with the prestigious Human Rights Centre, as well as with the Transitional Justice Network the Armed Conflict and Crisis Hub, and the Centre for Migration Studies.

A unique feature of the course is the annual visit to an Asylum Tribunal where students attend hearings and have the opportunity of interacting with the judges and other related specialists about the specific cases observed as well as about their work and wider asylum issues.

Our Albert Sloman Library is well stocked with books, journals, electronic resources and major archives relevant to our work and, in addition, we have our own library of specialist books and journals. Moreover, it offers a wide range of study and research resources as well as individual tutorials. Through this Library you will be able to access in its premises and online everything that you need for successfully completing this course.

Your future

The field of refugee work is not only topical but is expanding and developing rapidly, creating new employment initiatives and opportunities. This course is unique in equipping students to work directly in this field.

Accordingly, our graduates make an impact by applying the innovative approach that our course offers in a variety of contexts and disciplines. Many of our graduates go on to play a leading role in many spheres e.g. education, social and community work, human rights, emergency and humanitarian aid, national, international and non-governmental organisations.

"Having worked for many years with refugees in different contexts, I wasn’t expecting to be exposed to so many new ideas and perspectives. The MA Refugee Care is an amazing course which has allowed me to exchange views with people from all over the world. I would recommend it to anyone who is intending to work with refugees."

Arij Bou Reslan, MA Refugee Care

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

A 2:2 degree or international equivalent, in any discipline.

With your online application you must submit a personal statement; this should detail the reasons for wanting to study the course, including any relevant experience (work or voluntary) that may support your application.

Successful completion of the course is subject to a satisfactory Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Check (carried out by your placement provider).

This course requires an interview

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please contact our Graduate Admissions team at to request the entry requirements for this country.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, we require IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5 in all components.

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Additional Notes

The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.


Course structure

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The following modules are based on the current course structure and may change in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.

We understand that deciding where and what to study is a very important decision for you. We'll make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities as described on our website and in line with your contract with us. However, if we need to make material changes, for example due to significant disruption, we'll let our applicants and students know as soon as possible.

Components and modules explained


Components are the blocks of study that make up your course. A component may have a set module which you must study, or a number of modules from which you can choose.

Each component has a status and carries a certain number of credits towards your qualification.

Status What this means
You must take the set module for this component and you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component but you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
You must take the set module for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Compulsory with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.

The modules that are available for you to choose for each component will depend on several factors, including which modules you have chosen for other components, which modules you have completed in previous years of your course, and which term the module is taught in.


Modules are the individual units of study for your course. Each module has its own set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria and also carries a certain number of credits.

In most cases you will study one module per component, but in some cases you may need to study more than one module. For example, a 30-credit component may comprise of either one 30-credit module, or two 15-credit modules, depending on the options available.

Modules may be taught at different times of the year and by a different department or school to the one your course is primarily based in. You can find this information from the module code. For example, the module code HR100-4-FY means:

HR 100  4  FY

The department or school the module will be taught by.

In this example, the module would be taught by the Department of History.

The module number. 

The UK academic level of the module.

A standard undergraduate course will comprise of level 4, 5 and 6 modules - increasing as you progress through the course.

A standard postgraduate taught course will comprise of level 7 modules.

A postgraduate research degree is a level 8 qualification.

The term the module will be taught in.

  • AU: Autumn term
  • SP: Spring term
  • SU: Summer term
  • FY: Full year 
  • AP: Autumn and Spring terms
  • PS: Spring and Summer terms
  • AS: Autumn and Summer terms


Dissertation - MA Refugee Care

What interests you? Do you want to deepen your knowledge, build relevant research skills, develop your future professional direction and make a real contribution to the field of Refugee Care? Your dissertation lets you study a topic of your choosing, in depth, with supervision and guidance from our world-leading experts.

View Dissertation - MA Refugee Care on our Module Directory


Contexts of Refugee Experience

What are the relevant contexts of refugee experiences? How can academic disciplines help us understand refugee experiences in a deeper way? How can we grasp the multidimensional aspects of the refugee phenomena? Study the multidisciplinary nature of Refugee Care from a unique combination of both academic and professional perspectives.

View Contexts of Refugee Experience on our Module Directory


Therapeutic Care for Refugees

This module is based in the oldest and longest running course in this field in the UK and aims to assist those working with asylum seeking people/refugees to enhance their understanding and skills in the context of their own work experience. Drawing on a range of different therapeutic approaches (mainly and broadly systemic and psychodynamic) this module endeavours to create a facilitative space within which to examine the complexities of therapeutic engagement with involuntarily dislocated people from various contexts, by reflecting on multiple levels of perspectives, from the bodily, personal and interpersonal contexts to the family, community, wider cultural and political levels.

View Therapeutic Care for Refugees on our Module Directory


Placements in Refugee Care

This module provides you with an opportunity to relate and integrate theory and practice in the context of everyday working realities. This happens physically or virtually in your own country/ in the UK.

View Placements in Refugee Care on our Module Directory


Psychoanalysis of Groups and Organisations

What is the unconscious? And how does it influence the behaviour of groups? Explore how a psychoanalytic approach can illuminate the dynamics of groups and organisations. Understand the classic theories of Freud and Bion, then develop perspectives on how psychoanalytic ideas explain individual and group behaviour.

View Psychoanalysis of Groups and Organisations on our Module Directory


Psychosocial Perspectives on Human Rights

What psychological complexities are involved when working with people whose human rights have been violated? How do you, as a worker, interact with people? In what way do wider contexts impact on these interactions? Explore the psychosocial parameters of human rights violations. Engage with issues, debates and literature on psychosocial perspectives of human rights.

View Psychosocial Perspectives on Human Rights on our Module Directory


  • This online course is taught through distance learning, meaning all classes and meetings will be virtual. Contact time is condensed into two days, mainly over the first two academic terms (i.e. from October to mid-March, i.e. over 20 weeks); on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, at times best suited to the majority of students' time zones. Whilst full-time students attend the course on both days, part-time students attend modules on Tuesdays in year 1, and on Wednesdays in year 2.
  • Teaching takes place in relatively small seminars and fora, with a focus on group discussion
  • You also have a personal tutor who advises you about your work on an individual basis


  • For most modules, assessment is by coursework only, typically an essay of between 3,000-5,000 words


  • You develop a dissertation of 12,000 words, in which you define and research into an area of special interest to you
  • We provide you with advice and guidance on researching and writing your dissertation
  • Your dissertation is submitted mid-September in your final year of study

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee


International fee


What's next

Open Days

We hold Open Days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.


You can apply for this postgraduate course online. Before you apply, please check our information about necessary documents that we'll ask you to provide as part of your application.

We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

For information on our deadline to apply for this course, please see our ‘how to apply' information.

View from Square 2 outside the Rab Butler Building looking towards Square 3

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.

Find out more

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications. The University would inform and engage with you if your course was to be discontinued, and would provide you with options, where appropriate, in line with our Compensation and Refund Policy.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

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