The UK Citizenship Process: Exploring Immigrants' Experiences

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Sociology

Abstract

Over the last decade the UK government has adopted a number of measures related to immigrants' integration into British society. People applying for citizenship and/or permanent residence now have to go through a new process: they have to take and pass the 'Life in the UK' test (which is also a way of testing whether they have learned English), and to gain citizenship they must attend a public ceremony.

The government (under both main political parties) believes these requirements will reinforce 'social cohesion'. Many observers, however, see them as excessively burdensome; some academics describe them as oppressive (and even racist) and believe the real effect is to exacerbate immigrants' marginalization. But the research supporting these competing claims usually focuses on policy documents and other forms of public discourse, rather than directly on the immigrants themselves.

The research we propose here, then, will investigate immigrants' 'lived experience' of the citizenship process as it has evolved in recent years. We will interview people who are taking the preparation courses designed to help them pass the tests, and we will talk to them about their participation in the citizenship tests and ceremonies. In order to analyse the effects of the process on the longer-term, we will also undertake statistical analysis of existing survey data on these matters. The overall goal is to learn about immigrants' perceptions and experiences of this process, in particular to understand how it affects their sense of belonging, political participation and subjective well-being (happiness). We will carry out the research in Leicester and London (Barking and Dagenham, Newham, Brent). Choosing two of the most diverse places in the UK will allow us to interact with a wide range of people and to compare their experiences of the process on the basis of their social class, country of origin, religious/ethnic identity, education, etc.

Combining these different research methods will give us new data and new perspectives on an important policy area. We have extensive plans to share the findings with community representatives and policy makers. This research is needed in order to get a better sense of how immigrants themselves experience policies related to integration and citizenship. It is also timely in a context of intense debates on social cohesion and the promotion of 'Britishness'.

Planned Impact

We anticipate three areas of impact:
- increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy: by assessing the quality of services and policy, connecting the needs of policy-makers, service-providers and users involved in the citizenship process
- enhancing quality of life and wellbeing: by improving migrants' understanding of the citizenship process
- improving social cohesion: by increasing awareness of different groups (and the public at large) of consequences of the citizenship process

Project results will demonstrate individuals' and groups' needs in accessing the citizenship test, providers/organizers' understandings of learners' experiences, barriers to and examples of good practice in supporting learners, the long-term outcomes of this process and the extent to which intended objectives are achieved.

The following groups will benefit from and be interested in this work:

- Immigrant and refugee advocacy organisations and Immigrant groups:
The project will engage directly with migrants and organisations involved in the citizenship process including through community facilitators.
Problems organizations identified in discussions with the research team include: learning why people choose to take the test or not; what its impacts are and how different groups experience it; whether non-profit organisations should consider providing test preparation; and awareness of long-term impacts.
This engagement will ensure the policy relevance of the research by providing diagnosis of the needs and abilities of different migrant groups. It will also encourage reflexivity and challenge preconceptions of advocacy and service providers thereby feeding into longer term strategy and practice.

- Community colleges and other organizations that prepare individuals for citizenship tests, test centre officials, local government officials, UKBA, Home Office:
The project will contribute to an evidence base regarding the test-taking process that could prove influential in shaping how community colleges and other organizations prepare people to take the test. More broadly it will contribute to policy debates surrounding the value of the test and its role as a means of integration in the short and long-term, e.g. generating better understanding of different groups' experiences and perceptions of the tests and ceremonies; and assessing effectiveness of preparation and the test as a mechanism of inclusion.
At the end of project workshops we will discuss project results, provide participants with an opportunity to critically reflect on their everyday experience, facilitate the development of networks between different actors, provide an opportunity for users to comment on the practical implications of the research for their own work, identify further issues that research could investigate and develop collaborations for future policy-relevant research in partnership. These workshops will ensure impact beyond the life-span of the project among participants who will be drawn from the different groups listed above.

- Wider Public, Policy Actors:
The final non-specialist report and executive summary will enable us to engage with other groups beyond those participating directly in the project and after it is concluded. The report will present key findings and reflections from the academic and stakeholder workshops, and will outline the policy and practical implications of the research for individuals, groups and organisations involved in the 'citizenship process'.
A recent spate of articles on the citizenship test, focusing on its perceived difficulty and fairness suggests the research would be highly newsworthy and of interest to the wider public. Non-specialist publications through policy networks, think tanks (e.g. Institute for Public Policy Research) and media engagement through op-eds for general press in London and Leicester will enable us to reach policy actors and organisations, beyond the life span of the project
 
Description Our study examined how migrants experience the citizenship process. With the term 'citizenship test process', we refer to whole experience of acquiring citizenship: the tests themselves, the citizenship ceremonies, the preparation courses many immigrants take beforehand, as well as the consequences of the tests for those to whom it is addressed.
We considered how people experience thet and also whether its effects persist beyond the point of becoming a citizen.

We respond to three research questions.
Question 1: How do immigrants experience the citizenship process?
We have explored experiences at different stages in the process and how gender, nationality, language proficiency, education and other characteristics shape the 'journey to citizenship'. These findings are described in detail in our non-specialist final report. Generally, the ways migrants of different nationalities and social characteristics cope with and navigate the process lead us to question whether the desired outcomes of the citizenship test process are in fact achieved, or whether participants distance themselves from the figure of the "good citizen" that is defined by state authorities. The ability to navigate the process is unequal and is conditioned by social class, race, gender and education (among other characteristics). Many of the migrants we interviewed drew a line between their own experience around naturalization and that of other migrants. They want to demonstrate that they have 'deserved' citizenship. This attitude mirrors broader shifts toward 'earned citizenship' rather than citizenship as a set of rights.

Question 2: What are the consequences of the citizenship process on immigrants' sense of belonging and political participation?
In the interviews, migrants reflect upon how the test process relates to their interest in politics and sense of belonging. Some migrants point to the positive effects of the test on their political and social inclusion in the UK. Others argue that the test does not have anything to do with their interest in British politics or sense of belonging.
The quantitative analysis shows that, in general, having gone through the citizenship process is associated with lower political participation: those who become citizens report less interest in politics, relative to those who remain non-citizens (as of Wave 6 in the survey).
The opposite outcome is apparent for sense of Britishness/belonging: among those who become citizens, British identity is more salient/important, relative to those who remain non-citizens. Bringing these findings together, we argue that the ways migrants experience these dimensions (political participation and sense of belonging) depend largely on their personal background as well as on the features of their community in the UK rather than a result of undergoing the citizenship test process.

Questions 3: What are the consequences of the citizenship process on immigrants' subjective well-being (happiness)?
The core finding is that naturalization does not have an impact on the happiness of immigrants in the UK: becoming a citizen (or indeed remaining a non-citizen) leads to no net change. While this finding might be considered a "negative" one, we will submit publications about it, to avoid "publication bias".
Exploitation Route This project has generated considerable interest among different groups.
We have presented the work to academic colleagues across disciplines: political science, sociology, citizenship and migration studies, sociolinguistics. We continue to regularly be invited to present at national and international events. Publications are currently under review in high-profile journals and we anticipate that the published work will be widely cited.
Non-academic users include immigrant and refugee organisations, community colleges, members of the public, local and national politicians, policy makers.
Our non-specialist final project report and executive summary have been widely shared and were launched at two public events, in London and Leicester.
We have undertaken significant public engagement and dissemination activities which we will detail in our Pathways to Impact statement. Participants in these events have noted the ways in which project findings will inform their work supporting migrants, engaging with their constituents, promoting public awareness of what the naturalisation process involves and its effects on different migrants. In terms of impact on policy making, two submissions for the project were published as evidence by the Lords Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement. PI Bassel has been invited to give oral evidence to the Committee.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/sociology/research/uk-citizenship-process/final-report
 
Description This project has generated considerable interest among different groups. Non-academic users include immigrant and refugee organisations, community colleges, members of the public, local and national politicians, policy makers. Our non-specialist final project report and executive summary have been widely shared and were launched at two public events, in London and Leicester. We have undertaken significant public engagement and dissemination activities. Participants in these events have noted the ways in which project findings will inform their work supporting migrants, engaging with their constituents, promoting public awareness of what the naturalisation process involves and its effects on different migrants. This engagement and dissemination continues to the present, with PI Bassel scheduled to give further public talks throughout 2018. In terms of impact on policy making, two submissions for the project were published as evidence by the Lords Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement. PI Bassel gave oral evidence to the Committee in December 2017. This project was specifically referenced in the Select Committee's April 2018 final report 'The Ties that Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century' (please see p. 117 in particular). PI Bassel continues to serve as a member of the Greater London Authority Social Integration Team's 'Enhancing Citizenship Ceremonies for Public Engagement' steering group. The researchers also submitted evidence to the Integrated Communities Strategy Green paper consultation process in June 2018. Through all of these interventions we continue to provide analysis that informs policy making in this area. This impact has evolved over time, enabling us to contribute to national as well as city-level policy making.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Expert Testimony - House of Lords
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Expert testimony presented by Leah Bassel to House of Lords Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement (December 6 2017)
URL http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/4960d194-f1f1-471b-85fe-767cb81a5cfa
 
Description Greater London Authority - Steering Group Member
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Leah Bassel served as CItizenship Ceremony steering group member with the Greater London Authority Social Integration Team. November 2017-September 2018.
 
Title The Citizenship Process 
Description The research team has made the data available through the UK Data Service. The data has been prepared and formatted to secure anonymity and confidentiality. The transcripts of all interviews and focus groups are included in this database. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact N/A 
URL http://reshare.ukdataservice.ac.uk/852967/
 
Description Discover Society Article: The Casey Review on Opportunity and Integration: Reinventing the Wheel 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This article was published in December 2016 in Discover Society to respond to the Casey Review on Opportunity and Integration which had been released the previous week. It was tweeted (11,000 followers on Twitter) and supported and promoted by the Institute of Race Relations and The-Latest.com citizen journalism newspaper.

Subsequent impacts include speaking invitations to address the issues identified in this article (Asian Fire Service Association, West Yorkshire) and the link has been shared with a broad range of stakeholders to communicate findings relating to gender dimensions of our findings (requests for further information, plans made for future activity)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://discoversociety.org/2016/12/09/the-casey-review-on-opportunity-and-integration-re-inventing-t...
 
Description Final Project Public Lecture - London November 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public Lecture 'Citizenship in Unsettling Times' University of Leicester (November 2017), launching final project report. The lecture involved a keynote address by Leah Bassel followed by responses from national and local third sector organisations and academic colleagues: Don Flynn (former director of the Migrants' Rights Network), Dr Melanie Cook (King's College), Rockyaha Sylla (Freedom from Torture), Dr Helia Lopez Zarzosa (Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation), Paul Amuzie (Greater London Authority). Local politicians attended the event along with members of third sector organisations and the general public. Feedback forms were collected indicating the extent to which knowledge was gained and views changed. The event was recorded and uploaded to the project website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/sociology/research/uk-citizenship-process/public-events
 
Description Final project public lecture Leicester 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public Lecture 'Citizenship in Unsettling Times' University of Leicester (September 2017), launching final project report. The lecture involved a keynote address by Leah Bassel followed by responses from national and local third sector organisations and academic colleagues: Zrinka Bralo (CEO, Migrants Organise), Dr Nando Sigona (University of Birmingham), and Tahera Khan (Race Equality Centre); it was chaired by Surinder Sharma (DICE). Local and regional politicians attended the event along with members of third sector organisations and the general public. Feedback forms were collected indicating the extent to which knowledge was gained and views changed. The event was recorded and uploaded to the project website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/sociology/research/uk-citizenship-process/public-events
 
Description Ipek Demir article in Discover Society referencing our project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Ipek Demir, Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Leicester, wrote a widely disseminated article 'NEITHER ABOUT BRITISHNESS, NOR ABOUT CITIZENSHIP - THE LIFE IN THE UK TEST' for Discover Society (31 October 2017). This article references our project and links to the final report.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://discoversociety.org/2017/10/31/viewpoint-neither-about-britishness-nor-about-citizenship-the...
 
Description John Perry Open Democracy article about our project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In his article 'Is Britain about anything other than battles?' published in Open Democracy (15 November 2017), John Perry reflects on our project findings in discussing naturalisation and what it signifies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/john-perry/is-britain-about-anything-other-than-battles
 
Description Keynote Speaker 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Leah Bassel was Keynote Speaker 'The Casey Review on Opportunity and Integration: Reinventing the Wheel' at the Asian Fire Service Association Spring Conference, West Yorkshire. Over 100 practitioners (fire service, NHS) attended this event where I shared findings from the project relating to the Casey Review. Participants reported changes in perspectives and attitudes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Leah Bassel - BBC interview September 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Leah Bassel was interviewed by BBC radio Leicester presenter Martin Ballard about the project. This preceded the final project public lecture (September 2017).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05hgr52
 
Description Leah Bassel - Invited speaker Migrants Rights Network November 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Leah Bassel was Invited Speaker at Migrants' Rights Network Annual Summit 'Beyond the Good Immigrant'. Birmingham, UK. 23 November 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://migrantsrights.org.uk/blog/2017/10/31/mrn-annual-migration-summit-2017-beyond-good-immigrant...
 
Description Leah Bassel - keynote speaker Evelyn Oldfield December 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Leah Bassel gave a keynote address at the Annual General Meeting of the Evelyn Oldfield Unit on December 4, 2017. This talk shared project findings and enabled audience members to reflect on their own experiences as participants in the process, practitioners and advocates/policy makers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Leah Bassel - presentation to Social Cohesion team Greater London Authority 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Leah Bassel was Invited Speaker by Greater London Authority Social Integration Team. Presentation of research findings from 'The UK Citizenship Process' project. London, UK. 22 January 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Leah Bassel - public talk at University of Leicester event January 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Leah Bassel was Invited Speaker at event 'To Be at Home' co-organised by Leicester Cathedral and the Unit for Diversity Inclusion and Community Engagement, University of Leicester. Leicester, UK. 25 January 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Meeting with members of Greater London Authority Social Cohesion Team 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact In December 2016, Leah Bassel met with members of the Greater London Authority Social Cohesion team who had participated in the September 2016 stakeholder workshops. Through this discussion Leah provided further information on the findings from the project. Key areas were identified that are of specific interest to the Social Cohesion team, whereby project findings could directly inform policy making and which would be useful to highlight in the final, non-specialist report. Further events at which project findings could be shared were also identified (requests for further involvement, plans for future activity).

Following the meeting Leah shared further sources that had been identified as relevant to the work of the team. Specifically, Leah sent her Discover Society article which responds to the Casey Review of Opportunity and Integration by drawing on the findings relating to women's experiences of the naturalisation process.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation as invited speaker at Annual General Meeting of CARIS Haringey 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact On November 24 2016, Leah Bassel was invited to speak at the AGM of CARIS Haringey, one of the organisations involved in the project that works with homeless families. Leah presented key findings from the project to CARIS trustees, members, service users and members of the public.
Audience members reported surprise and interest in the findings from the project, particularly the difficulty of the test requirements and the length and complexity of the naturalisation process.
CARIS staff found the presentation to be quite effective in challenging preconceived notions about what is required to naturalise, and in providing information about the toll the process can take on different people (depending on nationality, gender, language proficiency).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation to Doctoral Research Training cohort - College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, University of Leicester 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact On November 28 2016, Leah Bassel presented the project to approximately 80 doctoral students as part of their Doctoral Research Training programme. Students were from a range of disciplines, across the social sciences and humanities. The presentation involved research findings and how to communicate them beyond academia and students reflected on their own experiences and knowledge of naturalisation (particularly in the popular press) and how research findings deepened their understanding and brought to light the difficulties of navigating what a process whose requirements are often changing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation to Doctoral Students at workshop: Migration in Interdisciplinary Perspective, University of Leicester 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact On January 18, 2017, Leah Bassel, Pierre Monforte and David Bartram presented the project to 25 doctoral students and academic colleagues as part of an interdisciplinary workshop led by the Leicester Migration Network. Through this presentation students and colleagues were able to reflect on the experiences of naturalisation drawing on the results of our - quantitative and qualitative - analysis. Students reported that these mixed methods findings challenged their understandings of naturalisation and also made them aware of the differences in the experiences of different groups of migrants.

Parts of the event were filmed and footage of the day will be linked to our project website once available.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www2.le.ac.uk/projects/migration-research-group/news-and-events/migration-in-interdisciplinar...
 
Description Presentation to Leicester College 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On January 25 2016, Leah Bassel and Pierre Monforte presented project findings at the staff meeting for teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) working with Leicester College, a key provider of English language learning support in Leicester. Many participants at this event worked directly with migrants engaged in the citizenship test process and reported that our findings both confirmed their own knowledge based on their professional practice and drew new issues to light e.g. the lack of clarity around requirements of the process ('good character') and the difference in pass rates by nationality.

In addition to the audience reporting change in views and opinions, we were asked to circulate further information from our study (i.e. our final, non-specialist report) and participants expressed interest in attending our end-of-project final public debate on June 9 2017.

We will also explore the possibility of incorporating findings from the project in the learner curriculum. for adult learners who are exploring citizenship as well as acquiring English language skills at the College. This could generate a significant impact from the study beyond the lifespan of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation to North London Labour Councillors and party members 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact On February 1 2017, Leah Bassel and Pierre Monforte presented research project findings to north London Labour councillors and Labour Party members. 20 people attended the event, at which lively debate and discussion took place over the intention of the citizenship test process, its consequences for different groups of migrants and the role of different agencies and groups in responding to its challenges (some of which were unknown to them before the presentation).

As a result of this presentation Bassel and Monforte have been invited to present project findings at the Evelyn Oldfield Unit, to migrants and refugees who are taking an accredited course to gain the skills and confidence to be able to research issues of refugee and migrant communities including education, training and employment, welfare and social concerns.

Further possible opportunities were identified e.g. presenting research findings to members of the Kurdish community in north London.

The powerpoint presentation was also circulated to all group members, including those who were not able to attend the session.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Presentations in Masters teaching, School of Media, Communication and Sociology, University of Leicester 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Findings and research design of the project have been presented by Leah Bassel and Pierre Monforte in three modules, to 20 Masters students enrolled in Sociology degrees in the School of Media, Communication and Sociology. Students related this material to their own experiences, when international students, and to their approaches to research design (all students, who were undertaking dissertation work). Students expressed surprise and new insight into naturalisation processes and their political dimensions, particularly in the context of Brexit.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description Project blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact We continue to maintain and host the blog on our project website which contains entries written by interview respondents, other individuals who have experienced the citizenship process, academics who are not part of the project team, and others working in the fields connected with UK citizenship issues. The blog provides a space in which to share opinions, experiences and knowledge of the citizenship process. It can be accessed here:
http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/sociology/research/uk-citizenship-process/project-blog
This blog is shared with project participants (who are invited to contribute anonymously) as well as through our research networks. It can enable further collaboration with interested colleagues, provide an avenue for possible new participants to contact us, create an anonymous space for our participants to further express their views if they wish, and generate further public awareness of our research. This blog can provide a public source of information on a variety of perspectives on the citizenship process in an easily accessible format. It therefore can promote public awareness of the issues raised by the process and its social and political impact.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016
URL http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/sociology/research/uk-citizenship-process/project-blog
 
Description Speaker at Seminar/Debate: Understanding Brexit: Race, Class and Citizenship, School of Media, Communication and Sociology, University of Leicester 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact On February 22 2017, Leah Bassel acted as panel discussant in the School of Media, Communication and Sociology seminar 'Understanding Brexit: Race, Class and Citizenship', held at the University of Leicester. Leah and keynote speaker Professor Gurminder Bhambra (University of Warwick) discussed the challenges of Brexit and the meaning of citizenship. Leah drew on project findings relating to focus groups conducted with EU citizens before and after the June 2016 Brexit referendum, as well as introducing gender as an important dimension to debates over citizenship in the context of Brexit drawing on results from the study. Over 60 people attended the event, including members of the public, and they engaged in debate from perspectives across the political spectrum. The event was covered in the Leicester Mercury (February 21 2017) and participants subsequently reported changes of views and opinions as a result of attending and participating.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www2.le.ac.uk/news/blog/2017-archive/february/race-class-and-citizenship-following-brexit-to-...
 
Description Stakeholder workshops - London and Leicester 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact 20 participants attended each stakeholder workshop:
- in London on September 17 2016, hosted at CARIS Haringey
- in Leicester on September 24 2017, hosted at The Race Equality Centre

Participants included:
- members of the research team
- representatives of local and city-level government bodies (e.g. Greater London Authority, Leicester City Council)
- politicians (e.g. local councillors)
- local and national third sector and advocacy organisations
- colleges providing language training and support to migrants undertaking the citizenship process
- migrant advocates
- migrants with direct experience of the citizenship process
- University of Leicester postgraduate students working in this field who assisted as notetakers and in drafting the workshop report

The workshops were designed to:
• Disseminate the findings of the study
• Understand workshop participants' views of the test, the process (including ceremony), and how it affects people;
• Consider how the project findings connect with knowledge and experiences of workshop participants, whether and how they think the research is relevant and needed;
• Identify appropriate next steps (including what should be done with the research, and what can be achieved). In particular, we sought feedback to shape our final, non-specialist report

The research team presented the background and objectives of the study, as well as the most significant research findings (please see powerpoint presentation available on project website). These different points were then discussed through general exchanges as well as through small group discussions.

The general response of the participant groups was that they were not surprised by the findings of the research. In fact most people validated the results and agreed that they were a good reflection of their experience.
Participants then considered the following issues:
• Many participants were surprised by some of the reasons why an applicant was denied the right to apply for citizenship (e.g. One potential applicant was denied to apply for citizenship due to failing to report a minor offense in the past).

• There was a further discussion on how ambiguous the rules of 'good character/behaviour' are. In this respect, it was argued that 'applicants should put everything down and let the officers decide', to reduce the rate of rejection.

• Participants in one workshop argued that the 'good character' requirement was problematic, in particular for refugees who have entered/are currently entering the country 'irregularly' thus breaching immigration laws. They suggested that this would have a negative effect on their citizenship application.

• In this discussion the question of the cost of the test was raised again. Participants agreed with the findings that the test was a costly experience and lack of resources often has a negative impact on the applicants' citizenship application. Withdrawal of preparatory classes was perceived as narrowing down possibilities to gain knowledge.

• Language: The second workshop strongly expressed concerns about language being an impediment in completing the test successfully.

Participants elaborated on these findings via a lively discussion by sharing their own stories and examples, in particular on the issues of language, cost and content of the test. They concluded that these are the key parameters that ought to be taken into consideration when designing the citizenship test since they can have direct implications for the success rates of applications.


Both workshops offered key insights into why this research is important and its impact.
• Participants agreed that the research may serve as a source of information, evidence and reference for the government by taking the findings to MPs. The research can serve as an evaluation of whether existing policy and practices need reviewing or changing - e.g. What constitutes 'Good character'? Is the citizenship process an elitist/unfair policy? For some the research can help to improve the process by informing it so that there can be a reduction in the number of failures. For others the study highlights the experiences of their clients, from different parts of the world, some of whom have a harder time in the process and there is a need for data relating to this to be published (e.g. pass rates by nationality).

• As a follow up to this need for data that was identified, after the workshops the research team circulated the Migration Observatory 2015 report on naturalisation to all workshop participants. This report includes information about statistics on refusal on grounds of 'good character', which had been a central topic of discussion in both workshops. It can be accessed here:
http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Briefing-Naturalisation.pdf

• Several participants also argued that research may be used to challenge the way the test is currently designed. Specifically, during the workshop it was proposed that: a) practical questions about life in the UK should be re-included in the test, as they help towards integration; b) the test lacks appropriate reference to colonisation and the "British Empire", thus failing to represent adequately British history

• Several participants noted the importance of hearing migrants' voices through the study. They noted that the research serves to 'give voice' to people going through the process. They found that the project effectively captures the views and experiences that migrants have been feeding back to their organisations for years. This was described as 'powerful' because it enables the people working in these organisations to go back to the migrants they are supporting and tell them that their views are not unique, but part of a broader trend: '[the project] captures the views of many migrants', showing that they are not the only ones having these thoughts.'

• However, some participants suggested that the findings of this study cannot change existing sentiments of the British public. Citizenship can no longer guarantee integration due to the negative effect of recent events such Brexit and terrorist acts.

A workshop summary was then circulated to all participants (including those who were invited but not able to attend, which comprised many groups and organisations that were involved in the study) and other stakeholders. We invited feedback particularly to shape the drafting of our final, non-specialist report. The powerpoint presentation was also made available on our project website.

Outcomes and impacts:
Following on from these workshops the project team has been invited to further present their work (requests about further participation or involvement, plans made for future related activity)
The team circulated key texts and information about the naturalisation process that were identified as useful to participants in the workshop (requests for further information)
Specific areas where research could directly contribute to participants' work were identified, to be discussed further (decision made or influenced, plans made for future related activity)
The research team reconsidered our own findings and views in light of recent developments in the post-Brexit referendum environment that have arisen since our fieldwork (own/colleagues reported change in views or opinions)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/sociology/research/uk-citizenship-process/our-publications
 
Description Undergraduate and Masters teaching drawing on the project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact This project has generated teaching material for sessions in co-I Monforte's Ethnicity and Society Undergraduate module, and PI Bassel has lectured to MA students on research methods and fieldwork using the project as a case study. These presentations sparked discussion both about the substance of the project and its methodology, prompting critical reflection about processes of inclusion in British society.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016
 
Description Visit and informal discussion with Islington Chinese Association, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact On March 9 2017, Leah Bassel visited the Islington Chinese Association to share project results and discuss further dissemination strategies. This discussion sparked a number of interesting questions about the project and some very useful dissemination strategies and next steps were identified so the research can reach members of the association and extend more broadly.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop Leader - Evelyn Oldfield Unit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Leah Bassel led a half-day workshop as part of the Research for Action and Influence course at the Evelyn Oldfield Unit on March 16 2017. This course trains refugee and migrant voluntary organisations in conducting community research and how to use their findings for campaigning or to inform their project delivery. Participants in the workshop expressed a change in their level of knowledge and their views about the naturalisation process. They discussed subsequent actions that would draw on this new knowledge.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017