UK Data Service Data Impact Fellows: William Shankley

will shankley

We are delighted to announce William Shankley as one of our UK Data Service Data Impact Fellows. William is a Sociology PhD student at the Cathie Marsh Institute of Social Research at The University of Manchester, and explains why he chose to research migration patterns of Polish people in England and Wales and the factors that shape migration decision-making.

Prior to my PhD in sociology at the University of Manchester I worked in the international development sector on a number of projects that supported asylum seekers and irregular migrants living in Britain and overseas. The stories of these migrants shed light on the complexities of their migration experience and the multiple factors that were involved at different stages of their movement. The subsequent PhD opportunity enabled me to look at Polish migration from an academic perspective and to investigate the underlying factors that influenced and shaped migrants’ experiences.

My background considerably shaped the direction my PhD project and inspired me to gather and analyse multiple types of data that recognised Polish migrants’ experiences but also captured the larger patterns of Polish migration in Greater Manchester. The aim was not only to enhance empirical understanding of Polish migrants’ decision-making, but also to provide some tangible benefits to the people in question. Unfortunately, the sheer interest in new migration had led to heightened interest from academic and policy arenas and often to the detriment of the Polish community. Therefore it was essential to produce a piece of work that mutually benefitted the furthering of knowledge and the local Polish community and bridge the gap between academic and community work. I adopted a mixed methods approach that used different types of data. I used 2011 Census data to geographically map the patterns and the direction of Polish migration from outside and within England and Wales. I then collected qualitative data by interviewing forty Polish people living across Greater Manchester to unpick the underlying factors and themes of migrants’ experiences. I developed contacts with Polish interviewees by working closely with local charities and community groups that supported Polish migrants in the Greater Manchester area.

Eastern European migration, more specifically Polish migration, has captured the interest of people in multiple sectors and has become a hallmark of new diversity that has occurred in the UK since the expansion of the European Union in 2004. To engage with this resurgence of interest in ethnically white migrants from Poland, my research examines the role that ethnicity plays in Polish people’s migrant decision-making. The power and role of ethnicity in migrant decision making has been highlighted among the research on non-white migrants and ethnic minority people living in the UK. Yet so much of this research concentrates on non-white migrant groups that have been linked closely with Britain’s association with the Commonwealth. Few studies have engaged with the migration of migrants with white identities and how their experiences share similarities and differences to that of non-white migrants to Britain. Furthermore, there appears to be a split within existing migration research between those that focus on international migration and others that concentrate on residential mobility or internal migration. Arguably, the motivations that shape both types of migration can be intertwined and therefore, my research considers both types of migration simultaneously to look at what factors cause Poles to decide to relocate within the European Union and what motivations drive their movements within Britain.

As part of my Data Impact Fellowship I am planning to organise a workshop that discusses how the Polish communities’ future migration decisions may (or may not) have changed following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. The wider tentative political environment has placed migrants in a precarious position and local engagement would highlight specific local concerns and needs. The outcomes of the workshop could enable the local community to determine the types of support and programs they can develop to assist Poles and other EU migrants.

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