UNSW professor receives highest honour from Oxford’s RSC

13 May 2024
Professor Jane McAdam

The Honorary Associate appointment recognises Professor Jane McAdam AO for her significant contribution to Oxford’s prestigious Refugee Studies Centre.

Scientia Professor Jane McAdam AO, a world-leading expert on displacement in the context of climate change and disasters, has been appointed as an Honorary Associate of the prestigious Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) at the University of Oxford. 

The Honorary Associate appointment is the RSC’s highest honour and recognises Professor McAdam’s significant contribution to its activities and mission.

Prof. McAdam is one of the world’s foremost scholars in international refugee law, and pioneered scholarship on climate mobility and the law. She leads UNSW’s Evacuations Research Hub, funded through an Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellowship, and is the Director of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law.

The RSC is a multidisciplinary centre within the Oxford Department of International Development. It takes a holistic approach to understanding the causes and effects of forced migration and works to forge connections between scholarship, policy and practice to help improve the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Prof. McAdam said her connection with the RSC began during her time as a doctoral student at Oxford and has continued throughout her career.

“I have great affection for the RSC and regard it as a second intellectual home. I am deeply honoured to be acknowledged in this way,” she said.

Her work with the RSC has spanned the breadth of its work. Since 2008, she has been a Research Associate there and has undertaken research collaborations with current and former RSC colleagues from a range of disciplines, presented at seminars and conferences, co-hosted events, and examined masters and doctoral theses.

“The RSC has considerably shaped my own thinking and approach, not least its aspiration to bridge the divide between scholarship, policy and practice,” she said.

“One of its greatest strengths is the kaleidoscopic lens it brings to the complex phenomenon of displacement. The RSC model was a great inspiration to me when I had the wonderful opportunity to establish the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law in late 2013.”

The Director of the RSC Associate Professor Tom Scott-Smith said Prof. McAdam has a distinguished record of world-leading research and has made a significant contribution to the RSC’s work.

The associateship is a mark of distinction for eminent scholars and practitioners in refugee studies with a longstanding relationship with the Centre here at Oxford, and particularly those who have made a great contribution to our mission,” he said. 

"In Jane’s case, she has such a long and distinguished record of world-leading research, which we draw on extensively in our teaching at Oxford, as well as her many contributions to our events, seminars and M.Sc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies over the years."

Prof. McAdam is one of just four Honorary Associates at the RSC. The others are Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Jan Egeland, the Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council; and Professor Guy S Goodwin-Gill, Emeritus Professor at All Souls College and Emeritus Professor of International Refugee Law, Oxford and Honorary Professor at UNSW Law & Justice.

Pioneering work in international refugee law

Prof. McAdam has published widely on international refugee law and forced migration. She pioneered international law research on climate change, disasters and mobility, creating a new area of scholarship within forced migration legal studies. Her legal analysis of refugee law and climate-related displacement has been adopted by courts, governments and UN bodies and influenced policy frameworks around the world. In Australia, her research on complementary protection – the protection of people who are not technically ‘refugees’, but who face serious human rights violations if removed – was instrumental in major law reform.

She is a Fellow of both the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and the Australian Academy of Law. Prof. McAdam has held visiting appointments at Oxford and Harvard, and was previously a non-resident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at The Brookings Institution in Washington DC.

Her past honours have included the Calouste Gulbenkian Prize for Human Rights for her work on refugees and forced migration; being named a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum; winning the ‘global’ category of the Australian Financial Review/Westpac’s 100 Women of Influence awards in 2015; and in 2017, being one of four finalists for the NSW Premier’s Award for Woman of the Year.

She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) ‘for distinguished service to international refugee law, particularly to climate change and the displacement of people’ in 2021. In 2022, she received the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Law Award.