Alexander Betts (political scientist)

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Alexander Betts
Alexander Betts .jpg
Born (1980-01-17) January 17, 1980 (age 41)
Bristol, U.K.
NationalityUnited Kingdom
InstitutionUniversity of Oxford
FieldPolitical Science, International Development
Alma materUniversity of Oxford

Alexander Milton Stedman Betts (born 17 January 1980) is the Leopold Muller Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs,[1] William Golding Senior Fellow in Politics at Brasenose College,[2] and Associate Head (Graduate and Research Training) of the Social Sciences Division at the University of Oxford. He was formerly director of the Refugee Studies Centre between 2014 and 2017.[3]

Academic career[edit]

Betts completed his undergraduate degree at Durham University.[4] He then completed a MSc at Bristol University, followed by an MPhil and DPhil from the University of Oxford.[4]

He is a British academic, whose research focuses mainly on the politics and economics of refugee assistance.[5] He has also written on migration and humanitarianism.

His books include Protection by Persuasion: International Cooperation in the Refugee Regime (Cornell University Press, 2009),[6] Refugees in International Relations (Oxford University Press, 2010),[7] Global Migration Governance (Oxford University Press, 2011),[8] Survival Migration: Failed Governance and the Crisis of Displacement (Cornell University Press, 2013),[9] Mobilising the Diaspora: How Refugees Challenge Authoritarianism (Cambridge University Press, 2016),[10] Refugee Economies: Forced Displacement and Development (Oxford University Press, 2016),[11] and The Global Governed? Refugees as Providers of Protection and Assistance (Cambridge University Press, 2020).[12]

In 2017, he co-authored Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System[13] with Paul Collier, which was recognised by The Economist as one of the best books of 2017,[14] and was final shortlisted for the Estoril Global Issues Distinguished Book Prize.[15]

His ideas have had a notable impact on refugee policy. He is perhaps best known for his research reframing refugees as economic contributors.[16][17] Together with Paul Collier, he has argued for a new approach to refugee assistance based on development rather than just humanitarianism. They developed an idea to employ Syrian refugees in already existing Special Economic Zones in Jordan, first published in a piece in Foreign Affairs.[18][19] The proposal adopted as a pilot project by Jordan, the UK, the EU, and the World Bank, which became known as the 'Jordan Compact’.[20] The pilot was described by News Deeply as “one of the most important economic experiments in the world today”.[18]

Since 2017, he has led the Refugee Economies Programme at the University of Oxford, which is funded by the IKEA Foundation, which supports the socio-economic inclusion of refugees through a longitudinal study following the economic lives of 15,000 refugees and host community members in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda.[21]


He was named in Foreign Policy magazine's top 100 global thinkers in 2016,[22] as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader in 2016,[23] in Thinkers 50's radar list of emerging business influencers in 2017,[24] as a Bloomberg Businessweek 'gamechanger' in 2017,[25] and as a European Young Leader by Friends of Europe in 2020.[26]

He has received fellowships and grants from the British Academy, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), among others. He is Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS).


He was a prolific public commentator during the European migrant crisis. His writing has been published in The Guardian,[27] The New York Times,[28] and Foreign Affairs.[29] He has appeared on CNN,[30] the BBC,[31] and Al Jazeera.[32]

He has given TED talks on refugees[33] and Brexit[34] with combined views in excess of 3.5 million. His TED talk on refugees was named by the curator of TED Chris Anderson as one of the top 10 TED talks of 2016.[35]

He has served as an advisor to a range of governments (including the Government of Colombia on the Venezuelan refugee crisis), businesses, and international organisations (including UNHCR, IOM, and UNICEF). He serves on DFID's migration contact group, IOM's academic advisory board, and UNDP's advisory group on migration and displacement. He was also a Councillor on the Canadian-funded World Refugee Council.[36]


Selected talks[edit]

  • 'Refugees as a Resource' at Skoll World Forum, October 2016 [10]
  • 'Our Refugee System is Failing. Here's How We Can Fix It.' at TED Conference, March 2016 [11]
  • 'It's Not About Migration, It's About Economic Transformation', TEDx Oxford, April 2019 [12]
  • 'Why Brexit Happened and What to Do Next?' at TED Conference, July 2016 [13]
  • 'What If We Helped Refugees to Help Themselves', TEDx Vienna, November 2015 [14]
  • 'Making Sense of Brexit' at Business of Fashion, December 2016 [15]

Other achievements[edit]

He is former European debating champion.[37] He has run the London Marathon in 2:38.24 and has a personal best half marathon time of 1:11.51[38]


  1. ^ "Alexander Betts — Refugee Studies Centre".
  2. ^ "Professor Alexander Betts". Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  3. ^ "Welcome — Refugee Studies Centre".
  4. ^ a b "Professor Alexander Betts". Brasenose College, Oxford. Retrieved 25 February 2020.
  5. ^ "alexander betts - Google Scholar".
  6. ^ "Protection by Persuasion: International Cooperation in the Refugee Regime". 2009-10-08. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  7. ^ "Refugees in International Relations - Alexander Betts and Gil Loescher - Oxford University Press". 2010-11-04. Retrieved 2020-02-20.
  8. ^ "Global Migration Governance - Alexander Betts - Oxford University Press". 2011-01-06. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  9. ^ "Survival Migration, Failed Governance and the Crisis of Displacement". Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  10. ^ "Mobilising the Diaspora - Will Jones; Cambridge University Press". Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  11. ^ "Refugee Economies - Alexander Betts, Louise Bloom, Josiah Kaplan, Naohiko Omata - Oxford University Press".
  12. ^ "The Global Governed? Refugees as Providers of Protection and Assistance - Kate Pincock and Evan Easton-Calabria". 2020-03-20. Retrieved 2020-02-20.
  13. ^ "Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System". 2017-03-20. Retrieved 2020-02-20.
  14. ^ "Economist Books of the Year 2017".
  15. ^ "Estoril Distinguished Book Prize 2019".
  16. ^ Lott-Lavigna, Ruby. "Give refugees basic human freedoms and everyone will be better off".
  17. ^ "4 Innovations That Could Turn Refugees From Burdens Into Assets—And Save Lives - Fast Company". 3 March 2016.
  18. ^ a b "Jordan Experiment Spurs Jobs For Refugees".
  19. ^ Salam, Reihan (16 November 2015). "Resettling Syrian Refugees: An Alternative" – via Slate.
  20. ^ Kingsley, Patrick (3 February 2016). "Syrian refugees in Jordan: 'If they cut the coupons, we will probably die'" – via The Guardian.
  21. ^ "Refugee Economies Programme". Retrieved 2020-02-20.
  22. ^ "Global Thinkers 2016".
  23. ^ "Young Global Leaders class of 2016".
  24. ^ "Thinkers50 Radar List 2017".
  25. ^ "'The Economist Who Wants to Put Refugees to Work".
  26. ^ "European Young Leaders 2020". Retrieved 2020-02-20.
  27. ^ Alexander Betts. "Human migration will be a defining issue of this century. How best to cope? | Alexander Betts | Opinion". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  28. ^ Betts, Alexander (24 September 2015). "Let Refugees Fly to Europe" – via
  29. ^ Alden, Edward (2016-02-02). "Islam and the Crisis of Liberal Values in Europe". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  30. ^ "Amanpour, CNN International, 31 August 2015, Alexander Betts discussing the EU refugee crisis". YouTube. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  31. ^ "BBC News, 19 August 2015, Alexander Betts discusses the increasing numbers seeking asylum in Europe". YouTube. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  32. ^ "Al Jazeera's Inside Story: Professor Alexander Betts interviewed on the global refugee crisis". YouTube. 2015-08-31. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  33. ^ "Our refugee system is failing. Here's how we can fix it".
  34. ^ "Why Brexit happened -- and what to do next".
  35. ^ "Curator's Picks: Top 10 TED Talks of 2016".
  36. ^ "World Refugee Council". Retrieved 2020-02-20.
  37. ^ "Winners & Runner-Ups Grand Final - EUDC Council".
  38. ^ "Athlete Profile".