Mobilities, Migrations and Boundaries

This specialisation is one of seven included in our Master in International and Development Studies. These specialisations are interconnected curricula that provide the possibility for you to tailor your individual path.

The Mobilities, Migrations, and Boundaries specialisation aims to provide a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of mobility, its centrality in our societies, the governance of mobility, and its centrality for modern-day governance.

How to apply

We are interested in not only transnational mobilities but also within countries, from rural to urban areas and within cities. Studying mobilities is important not only for its own sake but also for the perspectives, it gives us from the world.
Gopalan Balachandran
Head of the Mobilities, Migrations and Boundaries Specialisation

Programme details and objectives 

For millennia, individuals and communities have crisscrossed continents and oceans in search of a better life or in an effort to escape persecution. Millions of others were transported to be sold into slavery, or for other kinds of coerced employment. Voluntary, involuntary, enslaved, or coerced, human mobility has transformed our planet, formed and reformed societies, and created the world in which we live.

The governance of mobility lies at the very heart of contemporary governance. Immigration has become a major preoccupation in many countries, trapping societies in deepening cycles of political conflict, xenophobic distrust, discrimination, victimisation, and violence. However, migrants crossing national borders are only a small fraction of movements occurring within them.

Migrations into Europe and North America are also merely the tip of mobilities and shifts underway within Africa, Asia, or Latin America. Occurring alongside flows of goods, capital, values, and ideas, they evoke attitudes that justify raising the barriers to human and social mobility between and within states. While refugees continue to flee persecution, conflicts, or attempts at ethnic cleansing, there is growing displacement attributable to development and infrastructure projects, trade liberalisation, climate change and agrarian transformations.


This specialisation focuses on understanding human mobility in conjunction with the flow of goods, capital, ideas, values, and the stakes it holds for our world. Mobility can be a necessity, asset, or privilege. The specialisation will be developed to help us better understand:

  • What makes people move

  • How do individuals and communities experience mobility

  • How do spatial and social mobilities relate

  • How do they intersect with race, class, gender, indigeneity, ethnicity, and other markers of inequality and difference

  • How do states regulate borders, border zones, and movements across and within their territories

  • How are refugees and migrants governed

  • What is the role of international organisations, civil society, and non-state actors

  • How do policies for governing ‘foreigners’ impact on freedom, democracy, and citizenship

  • How can we understand the nation state in relation to diasporas

As these questions illustrate, studying mobility is important not only for its own sake but also for the unique perspective it provides on the world.

Opportunities and Career Options 

Geneva and the Graduate Institute offer an unequalled setting for pursuing this specialisation. The headquarters of the main international organisations connected with migration, refugees, and labour are based in Geneva in close proximity to the Institute. Geneva is also home to the International Committee of the Red Cross and scores of nongovernmental organisations in these and related fields. The Global Migration Centre at the Graduate Institute nurtures close ties with international and nongovernmental organisations in Geneva, and stands at the interface of academic research and policymaking in its areas of focus.

Core courses and elective seminars in the specialisation focus on theoretical skills. Workshops foster professional skills. Finally, Applied Research Projects (or Capstone Projects) will address real world problems in partnership with international and nongovernmental organisations to advance practical research and management skills.