Transforming the Collection, Presentation, and Use of Data in the UK Migration Policy Debate


The Migration Observatory has transformed public and policy debate on migration and changed the practices of government departments, media, and third-sector organizations regarding migration data.


As one journalist put it, “…Observatory work also has allowed journalists to write about new aspects of the migration issue where they previously lacked access to data or analysis.
The impact has occurred in two main ways: (1) direct impact on public debates; and (2) changes in the practices of those participating in, or reporting on, those debates. The direct impact has included evidence for arguments against new restrictions on student immigration, and related arguments in favour of changing the way student immigration statistics are tracked. It has also included shaping deliberations on the potential for developing new measures of remittances by the Office of National Statistics. Changes in practice have involved the dissemination of research and data through the vehicle of the Migration Observatory. The Observatory has enabled journalists, civil servants, parliamentarians, and NGOs to use a more accurate and impartial evidence base in debates on migration issues, and to inform the public about such issues.

This impact extends beyond reporting on migration. Civil society organizations have also benefited from the Migration Observatory, which offers impartial evidence that they can use to support their arguments. The Observatory is widely trusted because it is rooted in Oxford University research, particularly that undertaken by Dr Martin Ruhs prior to 2011. As a direct result of his research, he became Specialist Advisor to the House of Lords Inquiry into the economic impacts of migration to Britain (2008) and member of the Migration Advisory Committee, the politically neutral body that advises the government on migration data and policy (2007-present). These roles have helped his research and the Migration Observatory to gain credibility.