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Interview with former director Professor Stephen Castles about the creation of IMI

The International Migration Institute (IMI) was established in response to a call for a new migration focussed research institute at the University of Oxford. This call came from what is now the Oxford Martin School, a unique, interdisciplinary research initiative addressing key global future challenges.

At the time, Steven Vertovec was director of  the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), and Stephen Castles was director of the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC), both at the University of Oxford. The then head of the Social Sciences Division, Nigel Thrift, asked them to ‘write’ a new institute that would complement the research of both COMPAS and RSC.

The vision that the two developed was one with global scope and a macro perspective. IMI, they decided, would look at the big picture of movements and dynamics, and would have a particular focus on those areas under-represented in the field of migration studies, such as the African continent.

Since 2006, when the institute was formally set up at the Oxford Department of International Development, it has attracted further funding for a variety of projects, which means that it has grown rapidly both in terms of the number of staff and the scope of its research.

Stephen Castles was director of IMI until August 2009, when Robin Cohen took over as director from September 2009 until September 2011. Joint directorship was then assumed by Oliver Bakewell and Hein de Haas. In August 2015 Hein de Haas left IMI, and Oliver Bakewell took up position as its sole director.