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Why Do People Migrate? Theories

Explore theories about migration in greater depth and learn how migration is a constant phenomenon throughout human history.

7,549 enrolled on this course

Why Do People Migrate? Theories
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Move beyond the headlines about migration

In this course, you will learn about different theoretical models that seek to explain why migration starts and why it continues. You will explore migration as a structural feature of our societies and examine individual’s choices to migrate. You will consider the role networks and institutions play in the movement of people. You will also hear from international experts about how migration theories can help us understand cases of labour migration in different world regions.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Migration is a fundamental phenomenon in human history. People move, since prehistoric times. Pilgrims, peddlers, merchants, colonisers– people moved escaping war and persecutions, but also in search of land, resources, opportunities, the dream of a better life. In the 19th century, migration started to be a mass phenomenon, also made easier by faster, safer, and cheaper transportation. Today, migration is an intrinsic feature of our globalising world. So why do people move? We will guide you through the complex world of migration– analysing the different types of migration, the main actors involved, the policies in place, the motivations behind the decision to move. With this course, we aim to address two main questions. What triggers migration? Which factors influence migrants’ decisions?

Skip to 1 minute and 28 seconds If you are interested in understanding this phenomenon and seeing how theories can explain real life cases, access anytime, anywhere, your MOOC. Watch the videos. Share ideas. Ask for feedback. Join our learning community. Enrol now.


  • Week 1

    Migration as a global phenomenon

    • Welcome to the course

      Welcome to our course on Why do people migrate? Facts. Meet your educators and get an overview of the topics that will be covered during these three weeks.

    • History of migration as a global phenomenon

      Here we consider the history of global migration and in particular the rise of mass international migration during the nineteenth century

    • Global migrations in the contemporary era

      Here we look at the key dimensions of migration in the contemporary era

    • Wrap up of week 1

      Here we summarise the main points covered in week 1

  • Week 2

    Explaining the start, the continuation and the completion of migration

    • Why does migration start?

      What are the theories than can help us explain why migration starts?

    • Why does migration continue?

      What are the theories than can help us explain why migration continues?

    • Return and migration cycles

      Migration is rarely just from one place to another, but often involves return and circular journeys

    • Wrap up of week 2

      Here we provide a wrap-up of the migration theories covered in week 2

  • Week 3

    Theories at work: migration case studies

    • African migrants and remittances

      Here we explore the key role played by remittances in both migration and economic development in sending countries

    • Care and domestic workers in Italy

      Here we consider the position of migrant care and domestic workers in Italy

    • Indians in the Gulf region

      Here we consider Indian migrant workers in the Gulf region

    • Assess your knowledge

      Assess what you have learnt about the different theories we use to explain migration

    • Wrap up of week 3

      We have the reached the end of our course. Let's review the theories we have covered over the last three weeks.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

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Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify the fundamental terminology used in theoretical debates on migration
  • Explore the main theoretical approaches
  • Explain the motivations for people to move and settle outside their home countries
  • Apply main theories to the interpretation of real case-studies

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone interested in learning about migration.

Who will you learn with?

Anna Triandafyllidou is Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

Nick Dines is research fellow at the European University Institute, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies.

Who developed the course?

European University Institute (EUI)

The European University Institute offers doctoral and post-doctoral training in the social sciences. It hosts the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies and the Historical Archives of the EU.

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  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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