Influencing Policy Frameworks on Integration and Diversity

Submitting Institution

University of Oxford

Unit of Assessment

Anthropology and Development Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Demography, Sociology

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Summary of the impact

Oxford research, based at the ESRC-funded Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), on `superdiversity' and transnationalism has directly influenced the formulation and framing of UK and European policy on migration and integration. Through constant interaction with policymakers and practitioners, engaged research at COMPAS has enabled the concept of `superdiversity', first theorised by Vertovec, to be widely utilised in the consequent formulation of new policies for migrant integration and local governance at both central and local levels. In particular, this research has influenced central government policy on integration and cohesion, and on anti-discrimination law, and local government practice. These policies now reflect new diversities of faith, gender, disability, age and sexual orientation, alongside difference in terms of ethnicity.

Underpinning research

Key researchers

  1. Professor Steven Vertovec (COMPAS, Director 2003-2007)
  2. Professor Michael Keith (COMPAS, Director, 2008-present)
  3. Dr Sarah Spencer (COMPAS, Senior Research Fellow, 2003-present)
  4. Dr Ben Gidley (COMPAS, Senior Researcher 2010-present)
  5. Dr Hiranthi Jayaweera (COMPAS, Senior Researcher, 2007-present)
  6. Dr Hannah Jones (ESRC Case Studentship, based at Goldsmiths College, supervised by Keith 2006-2011)

In the 1990s and early 2000s the dominant policy framing of `race relations' and associated local and central government institutions were increasingly challenged by emergent understanding of transnational links of second- and third-generation migrant minorities and the growing numbers of new migrations to Britain in those decades. Theorisation of these new demographic realities was at the core of Vertovec's research on transnationalism and `superdiversity' and Keith's work on multicultural urban change.

Vertovec's research highlighted the pluralisation of everyday diversities of migration status, ethnicity and religious affiliation. His theorisation of `superdiversity' introduced a new conceptual vocabulary to make sense of these changes. [Section 3: R1,R2] The research argued that, in contrast to models of `race relations' between a limited number of clearly defined ethnic minorities, Britain was characterised by multiple forms of migrant identity, association, and belonging, that developed dense, highly localised networks as well as transnational links. [R1] These new forms of group identity were structured by differences of locality, legal status, class, and religious faith.

Prior to his arrival at COMPAS, Keith's work addressed, at first hand, policy dilemmas of migrant integration. After his arrival at COMPAS, in 2008, Keith's published research argued that the city was increasingly a privileged site of both regimes of citizenship and registers of affective belonging. [R3,R4] Faith-based social movements in London and new religious identifications reflected `new' faith-based transnational geopolitical identifications more than `old' ethnic identities and needed to be understood in terms of their `glocalised' links between globalised networks and local associations. [R3,R4]

Spencer led COMPAS's involvement in a European research consortium considering the role of local government in migrant integration (the Cities for Local Integration Policies for Migrants (CLIP) consortium). Spencer's research has highlighted how dilemmas confronting local governments create problems that must be addressed at the level of municipalities, even when nation-states fail to acknowledge the empirical realities of the consequences of growth in migrant numbers. [R5]

Gidley and Jayaweera examined the developing practices of municipal responses to `superdiversity' and considered the implications of `superdiversity' to faith. The research recognised the growing significance of religious faith in diasporic migrant associations and transnational links in processes of integration. [R6,R7] Their research also established that diasporic religious faith restructures the cartographies of migrant association; policies of migrant integration need to be redesigned in the light of these emergent patterns. [R5,R6,R7] The pluralisation of migrant identities and circumstances privileges localised responses of receiving communities over a `one- size-fits-all' national policy. Flexible structures of local governance are often best placed to understand both the complexity of global networks, and the local processes structuring the outcomes of migration as well as the responses to receiving societies. [R4]. In work commissioned by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation to influence changing policy priorities on faith-based identification, Jayaweera's work also considered the implications of `superdiversity' for Islamic association and the salience of religious faith to migrant integration processes. [R7] while Spencer (with Fredman) explored the implications of diversity for reform of equality law. [R8]

References to the research

(*included in REF2)

[R1] Vertovec, S. 2004. `Migrant Transnationalism and Modes of Transformation' International Migration Review 38(3): 970-1001.


[R2] Vertovec, S. 2007. `Super-diversity and its Implications' Ethnic and Racial Studies 29(6): 1024-54.


[R3]* Keith, M. et al. 2009. `Islam and the New Political Landscape: Faith Communities, Political Participation and Social Change' (with L. Back, A. Khan, & J. Solomos) Theory, Culture and Society 26(4) 1-23.


[R4] Keith, M. 2013. `Scale Jumping and Time Travelling? Urban Exclusion, Integration, Riots and Racism' in D. Loch (ed.) Migrants in the Political Sphere of European Societies: Between Normative Values, Political Participation and Social Rights. Palgrave Macmillan (Europe in Transition: The NYU European Studies Series).

[R5] Spencer, S. 2008. Equality and Diversity in Jobs and Services: City Policies for Migrants in Europe. Eurofound (

[R6]* Gidley, B. & K. Kahn-Harris 2010. Turbulent Times: The British Jewish Community Today. London: Continuum.


[R7]* Jayaweera, H. & T. Choudhury 2008. Immigration, Faith and Cohesion: Evidence from Local Areas with Significant Muslim Populations. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

[R8] Spencer, S. & S. Fredman 2006. `Beyond Discrimination: Enforceable Duties on Public Bodies to Promote Equality Outcomes' European Human Rights Law Review (6): 598-606.

Research Grants: COMPAS has received £8M of core funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (2003-13). It is estimated that the strand of research referred to in this case study (on diversity and integration), has been supported by approx. £3M of external funding drawn from a number of sources including: the European Integration Fund, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and the ESRC.

Details of the impact

The team's research had considerable impact on UK migration policy, thanks to COMPAS's core aim to engage with policymakers and contribute to government policy development in this arena. In particular, COMPAS's early research had a direct influence on the thinking of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion (set up in response to the London bombings in July 2005 and where Keith was principal academic member), whose recommendations were largely adopted by the Brown government in its 2008 reform of UK integration policy. Against this backdrop, since 2008, COMPAS's research in this area has had a significant impact in three key areas:

4.1) `Superdiversity': Contributing a new framework for UK migration policy

Vertovec's research on `superdiversity' [R1,R2] is cited explicitly by the Commission on Integration and Cohesion and informed the government response to the report. [Section 5: C1] Both Ruth Kelly and Hazel Blears (successive Secretaries of State at the Department of Communities and Local Government) stressed the importance of the report's analytical frame-work in establishing the Migration Impact Forum and the Migration Advisory Committee. [C2]

The `superdiversity' framework became a key component of the drafting of new guidelines for the management of diversity at local governance level, in establishing new funding streams of central government support directed at the integration of new migrants, and in the recognition of new diversities that incorporated both older models of `race relations' and new associational forms, such as diasporic religious faith and transnational connection. For example, the new principles of integration linked to this research [R3,R4] were adopted by the Housing Corporation (the principal funder of social housing subsidy in the UK 1964-2008) when drafting revised principles of integration and cohesion for new-build housing estates. [C3] The Housing Corporation implemented new policies because patterns of `superdiversity' undermined their previous support for ethnic-specific social housing provision and cited the work of the Commission as spurring this change, and therefore, by association, the research of Vertovec. [C3]

4.2) Changing integration policy at local and city level in the UK and Europe

As mentioned, the Commission on Integration and Cohesion drew heavily on the research of Vertovec [R1,R2], but also relied on the research of Keith [R3,R4] (as principal academic on the Commission) when drafting the principles of a new model of integration and cohesion. [C1] Keith has continued to advise central and local government on cohesion and integration policy. For example, the London Borough of Hackney formulated their cohesion and integration policy in response to Keith's post-2008 research and supervision of an ESRC CASE studentship held by Hannah Jones (2007-11) jointly at Goldsmiths and the London Borough of Hackney. Drawing on the rethinking of `race relations' and focusing on the need to address new diversities in London, Keith's research [R4] was used along with the work of Jones to restructure policies on integration of one of London's most diverse boroughs. [C4] This is reflected in the adopted policy of the council. Keith supported the CASE studentship research of Jones which was used to draft council policy and gave evidence to the relevant council committees that passed the final policy. [C5]

The work COMPAS has done with a local government focus has also been recognised at the European level. For example, recommendations made by Spencer as part of the CLIP project (on equality and diversity in municipal staffing and service provision), [C7] were instrumental to Eurocities when they were benchmarking good practice for its network of 170 cities across 35 countries in Europe. [C6] Moreover, in competitive peer-reviewed funding calls COMPAS has been awarded over £900,000 in grants from the European Integration Fund programme for projects that specifically translate research knowledge into policy practice on local leadership and migration, understanding migrant integration outcomes at the neighbourhood level, and on the impact of restrictions and entitlements on the integration of migrants. [C8] Several senior European policy officials have offered personal testimony to confirm the impact of this work on European thinking and practice in relation to migration integration (e.g. the EU's Deputy Director of Integration). [C9]

4.3) Recognising the importance of religious faith in formulating integration and antidiscrimination policy

Spencer's work with Fredman [R8] was explicitly cited by government as informing the revised definition of equality that would underpin the Equality Bill,[C10] enacted in 2010 and implemented by the 2010 Coalition government, thereby impacting directly on the formulation of anti-discrimination law in the UK. This research focus was complemented by Gidley's [R6] work on the Jewish community in contemporary Britain and work on Islamic politics and political participation by Keith [R3] and by Jayaweera,[R7] which fed directly into the consideration of migrant rights and equalities in processes of integration, as evidenced by the research providing the principal focus for the 2013 All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism's symposium on `Integration, Disadvantage and Extremism'. [C11]


COMPAS has investigated, described, and disseminated research on the major changes in UK migration dynamics over the last decade. It has also revealed the policy options, trade-offs, and consequences of these new patterns through work that engaged directly with policymakers in both central and local government. In articulating the importance of new and multiple diversities that have arisen from these migration trends, the research has been significant in the national policy rethinking of `race relations' institutions and multicultural policy (4.1 above). In signalling the importance and implications of local differences in diversity (4.2 above) for service delivery, research has had impact on local government and urban policy-making. Finally, in highlighting the significance of religious faith in patterns of social identity formation (4.3 above), research has influenced the manner in which religious faith and broader dimensions of diversity nuance the understanding of equalities policies and also the manner in which policies are put into practice.

Sources to corroborate the impact

[C1] `Our Shared Future': Final report of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion [see pp. 34 and reference 18] referencing Vertovec's research.

[C2] `Managing the Impacts of Migration: A Cross Government Approach', Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), 2008 [see pps. 37-9] — citing adoption of Commission recommendations.

[C3] `Shared Places: Community Cohesion Strategy', Housing Corporation, 2007 [see pps. 2,3,4 and 9] - references Commission on Integration and Cohesion, confirming the significance of `superdiversity' when making changes to British Social Housing Policy. Testimony can also be provided by Steve Douglas (Chief Executive Officer, Housing Corporation, 2006-2009).

[C4] `London Borough of Hackney, Cross Cutting Review on Cohesion: Terms of Reference' - explaining establishment of review of local authority community cohesion policy based on work of Jones and Keith.

[C5] `London Borough of Hackney Corporate Equality and Cohesion Policy' - - explaining adoption of Community Cohesion review recommendations.

[C6] Letter from former EUROCITIES Policy Advisor Social Affairs confidential letter confirming the significance of Spencer's CLIP research.

[C7] `Equality and diversity in jobs and services for migrants in European cities: Good practice guide' CLIP network and European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions report EF/08/72/EN - showing the uptake of Spencer's work in terms of local authority guidance.

[C8] Policy interventions commissioned through the European Integration Fund to recommend changes to European migrant integration policy in relation to leadership and migration -, understanding migrant integration outcomes at the neighbourhood level - and the Impact of Restrictions and Entitlements on the Integration of Migrants - Each of these reports details the knowledge-transfer process associated with the take-up of COMPAS research.

[C9] Testimony from Deputy Director of Integration, European Commission - explaining the influence of COMPAS policy research on European Commission thinking and practice.

[C10] `Discrimination Law Review: A Framework for Fairness: Proposals for a Single Equality Bill for Great Britain' A consultation paper, DCLG, 2007, [pp. 87, 5.29] - documenting influence of Spencer's work.

[C11] All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism symposium on `Integration, Disadvantage and Extremism', 8 May 2013, House of Commons held jointly with Pears Institute - documenting Gidley's work.