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Migration and Displacement Research Portfolio

Official Development Assistance (ODA) update

Please refer to ODA review for the latest information on ODA.

Migration and displacement are related to some of the most significant demographic, social, economic and political changes past and present. While migration contributes to the development of culture, identity, society and heritage, it can also be indicative of disruption, inequality and persecution, particularly when it is undertaken unsafely or through force. Migration and displacement challenges are a long-standing focus of public debate, and are currently prioritised in national, regional and global policy agendas across the world.

Arts and humanities research forms an essential part of the interdisciplinary approach that is required to fully understand migration and displacement.

  • It teaches us about the historical and cultural contexts of migration, displacement and diasporas
  • It addresses policy-making and public discourse and aims to inform and influence both
  • It sheds light on the experiences of migrants, refugees and displaced persons and reveals how these can be both reflected and influenced by the arts
  • It explores how the experiences of migrants, refugees and displaced persons can intersect with and influence the experiences of the communities that receive them

Since 2005, AHRC has funded a wealth of migration research through targeted, strategic calls and through responsive mode funding schemes. One of AHRC’s first ever strategic programmes (2005-2010) focused on Diasporas, Migration and Identities, with a number of subsequent AHRC programmes such as Translating Cultures, Connected Communities and the Open World Research Initiative having further supported research on migration-related themes. We also regularly work in partnership with other UKRI Research Councils and a variety of external organisations to support collaborative and interdisciplinary projects. The substantive portfolio of research we have funded and continue to fund:

  • spans all AHRC’s disciplines including languages, literature, law, history, design, and performing arts and culture;
  • crosscuts a variety of other thematic areas of study, ranging from education, health and wellbeing - to sustainability, cities and the environment;
  • takes place in, and involves partners from, developed and developing countries across the world;
  • contributes towards many of AHRC’s research and innovation priorities, e.g.: global engagement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); interdisciplinarity for contemporary challenges; understanding cultural value; public policy and public engagement; and equality, diversity and inclusion.

A tranche of AHRC’s migration and forced displacement portfolio has been conducted within the context of international development research, supported through funding streams such as the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund. Frequently intersecting with other thematic areas of focus within this space (e.g. conflict, education and the environment), AHRC have made investments and developed programmes in several spheres – including conflict-induced and protracted displacement, diasporas and heritage, gender and inequalities, and protection and humanitarianism. We too work closely with other UKRI Research Councils, for example with ESRC in supporting the marked cross-disciplinary UKRI GCRF South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub (MIDEQ) (2019-2024). Equitably partnering with stakeholders throughout the globe, all such work aims to address the challenges faced by developing countries and help contribute towards the achievement of the UN SDGs.  

Key Activities

Refugees: Forced to Flee at Imperial War Museum

Refugees: Forced to Flee is a major new exhibition at IWM London from 24 September 2020 – 24 May 2021, featuring research projects supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

As a part of Refugees, a wider season of exhibitions, artistic commissions and immersive events taking place across Imperial War Museums’ sites in 2020 and 2021, Refugees: Forced to Flee is uniquely rooted in cutting-edge research funded by AHRC and ESRC. The research explores the decisions and consequences faced by those whose worlds have been turned upside down by war over the past 100 years. Putting personal experiences at the centre of the exhibition, Refugees: Forced to Flee explores why people flee their homes and take certain items with them; how they make their journeys and find safety; and the challenges that can be experienced when re-settling.

“The impressive research which underpins Refugees: Forced to Flee is engaged and compassionate, but it is also rigorous and methodologically innovative. It draws on history, and looks at those who flee and those who receive them, at journeys, languages, and environments. It recognises that the experience of displacement can never be forgotten, it is life-changing, and affects the future as well as the present. Such research is the necessary foundation on which good public policy can draw, policy which addresses causes, consequences and mitigations at local, national and global levels.”

Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Executive Chair

Visit the IWM website for more details and to stay up-to-date with the exhibition’s run: https://www.iwm.org.uk/events/refugees-forced-to-flee

To learn more about the AHRC and ESRC supported research being featured within Refugees: Forced to Flee, this accompanying booklet delves deeper into the projects themselves.

Migration Leadership Team

In 2017, AHRC and ESRC launched the London International Development Centre Migration Leadership Team (LIDC-MLT). Led by Prof Laura Hammond at SOAS University of London, the team aimed to develop a shared and participatory global strategy for identifying and supporting migration research. The LIDC-MLT convened a series of Global Migration Conversations in locations including Beirut, Brussels, Delhi, Glasgow, London, Medellín, Nairobi and New York, to assess the scope, achievements and challenges of the existing portfolio of global migration research; to identify strategic opportunities and priorities for further research; and to highlight best practice in the area of impact. Each conversation brought together and provided networking opportunities for researchers, policymakers, practitioners, artists, migrants’ associations and arts organisations.

The LIDC-MLT launched its Strategic Agenda in May 2020, making clear recommendations to the research community about future agenda-setting and work priorities for the next five years of migration-related research across the social sciences and the arts and humanities. To access the Strategic Agenda and other reports and podcasts, visit the LIDC-MLT webpage.

Explore our portfolio

The Migration Research Support Tool is another key output from the LIDC-MLT. This web-based data visualisation tool maps UKRI-funded migration research across the globe. It allows users to see the scope, achievements and challenges of the UKRI migration funding landscape. It is intended to assist researchers, policymakers, funders, and practitioners to survey the existing research portfolio, guide proposals for future research, and encourage the development of strategic partnerships and collaborations across research fields, methodologies and geographies. Just filter by AHRC to discover the variety of our investments in this area.

Laura Hammond

Professor Laura Hammond

SOAS University of London, Department of Development Studies

Laura Hammond is the UKRI GCRF Challenge Leader for Security Protracted Conflict, Refugee Crises and Forced Displacement, responsible for the building and success of this GCRF portfolio and its overall research excellence and real-world impact. She also headed the aforementioned London International Development Centre Migration Leadership Team (LIDC-MLT).

Chart displaying the spread and reach of AHRC's Migration Portfolio across UKRI's top-level Primary Subject Classifications


Responsive Mode

Targeted and strategic calls are not the extent of AHRC’s support for migration-related research. We are always keen to see proposals come through via our Responsive Mode schemes: Research Grants, Fellowships, Networking, and Follow-on Funding. These are all open schemes which operate without formal deadlines whereby applications can be submitted at any time. Please refer to AHRC’s Research Funding Guide for more information.


Jessica Clark
Senior Investment Manager
International Development & Area Studies

Dominic Persinger
Investment Manager
International Development & Area Studies