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In the run-up to the 2015 election, Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva of Oxford University’s Migration Observatory worked with the BBC and the Financial Times to give voters a more complete picture of migration in the UK so they could make more informed decisions in the voting booth.

Migration in the democratic process local responses to migration data Secretlondon123/Flickr/polling station CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Migration in the UK is contested political ground, and was especially so during the 2015 elections.  Yet for some time the UK migration data was outdated and incomplete, preventing a full understanding of the scale and nature of migration in UK local areas and perhaps misleading voters into make ill-informed choices.  In the run-up to the 2015 election, Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva of Oxford University’s Migration Observatory worked with the BBC and the Financial Times in hopes of changing that.

Dr Vargas-Silva undertook a major new assessment of the migrant population in the UK by local area using existing surveys and census data.  He then posted an updated set of charts and maps to the Migration Observatory’s website, which attracted more than 20,000 hits during the first two days of release.  To further disseminate the findings, he worked with the BBC’s Inside Out regional current affairs programme to develop programming for their show.  The story was considered important enough to lead the BBC’s national news programming for the entire day prior to the story’s airing.  The story also appeared on the front page of the Financial Times, and was subsequently picked up by numerous other media outlets.

Dr Vargas-Silva also held a briefing in Westminster entitled ‘What does the 2015 election mean for migration to the UK?’. The briefing was attended by more than 50 people, including several members of parliament.

The collaboration between Dr Vargas-Silva and the BBC and Financial Times no doubt strengthened ties between academia and the media.  It also gave voters a more complete picture of migration in the UK so they could make more informed decisions in the voting booth.

Watch the BBC report on Dr Vargas-Silva's work here.

This project was funded by Oxford's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.

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