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Personal profile

Research interests

As Reader in International and Forced Migration, I have a longstanding interest in exploring the experiences of established minority ethnic groups as well as recent arrivals, and the responses of governments and other institutions to them. The latter includes individuals who might be categorized either as asylum-seekers and refugees or as economic migrants, identities which the individuals concerned might not use to describe themselves. My research has contributed to increasing understanding of inequalities in terms of access to (mental) health, social care and other services, and participation in the labour and housing markets, as well as the creative industries. Funders have included the European Commission, the Global Challenges Research Fund, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, government, quasi-governmental organisations and various charities.

Theoretically, I am interested in advancing understand of the ways in which the structural factors which impact on aspects of migrant and migrant identity intersect with other factors to complicate their experiences. Relatedly, I am keen to explore the multi-levelled factors which enable individuals to progress from marginalized positions in their neighbourhoods and workplaces, the boundaries of which are currently being blurred since the start of the pandemic.  In recent years, I have found the critical realist approaches advocated by Roy Bhaskar particularly useful in explaining persistent (and intersecting) patterns of discrimination and disadvantage as well as why it is possible for a small minority of individuals to overcome these (see the 2020 paper for Gender, Work and Organisation, if this is of interest to you).

I have also become increasingly interested in exploring the multi-dimensional nature of reflexivity and its crucial role in determining agency, particularly among individuals whose choices are restricted by a variety of materisal and other resources. One area in which I have recently investigated this is in the area of language acquisition, a key aspect of integration, and the focus of my doctoral studies, but an area which has received little attention in migration studies. These studies were carried out among both economic migrants (see my 2019 paper for Sociology) and refugees (under review).

Alongside these theoretical interests, I have become increasingly interested in developing methodological approaches which not only ensure collaboration with communities and the organisations which work with them, but also contribute to capacity-building and result in tangible outputs which can make a significant difference to the lives of research participants. One example of this has been made possible by working with a multi-disciplinary research team which investigated the use of smart phones in language acquisition and produced an app to assist refugees during the COVID-19 period. The app can also be used to protect refugees from racial harassment, police brutality and arbitrary detention.

Roles & Responsibilities

Policy Engagement

I have worked with a wide range of organization involved at different levels of migration governance, including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the EU-funded International Centre for Migration Policy Development and various government committees. From 2002 to 2007, I served as Commissioner with the Mental Welfare Commission and as chair of its Equality and Diversity Working Group. I am currently part of the Scottish Government’s COVID19 and Ethnicity Expert Advisory Group and its Labour Market Strategy Group. 


Following from a PhD in Applied Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh in 1995, I initially held several research related posts, the last of which was as Director of the Scottish Ethnic Minorities Research Unit in the School of Planning and Housing at Edinburgh College of Art (1995 – 2005). From 2002, I worked as Lecturer and then as Senior Lecturer at Heriot Watt University, and was appointed as Reader in 2012 at the same institution.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Devlopment Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

External positions

Member of ESRC Strategic Advisory Network

Member of Scottish Government Expert Advisory Group on Covid-19 and Ethnicity

Member of Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment

Member of the Scottish Government's Labour Market Strategy Group


  • H Social Sciences (General)


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