CRS Seminar: Refugee resettlement in the UK: language learning, intergroup contact, and well-being

February 7, 2018 @ 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
626 Kaneff Tower
4700 Keele St
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3
Michele Millard

Guest Speakers:

Linda Tip, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Brighton (UK)

Linda Morrice, Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Sussex (UK)

Learning the language of the country of resettlement is not only at the heart of refugee integration strategies, but in the highly charged political climate of immigration, English language has become a focal point for debates about migrants ‘failing to integrate’. This talk will draw on ESRC funded research with 280 refugees who were resettled to the UK prior to 2010. The research confirms English language proficiency as pivotal to tangible markers of integration, such as employment, health and access to education, and overall sense of well-being. However, it also shows that resettled refugees are a hyper-diverse group and that age, gender and inequalities of education experienced in the country of origin are reproduced in the transition to highly literate and literacy dependent contexts like the UK.

Out of 280 refugee participants, 180 were followed over the course of two years, allowing for longitudinal analyses which gave us insight in the temporal order of relationships between language, intergroup contact, and well-being. Cross-lagged path modelling confirmed that improving majority language proficiency might be the key to better well-being of refugees, with intergroup contact being the mediator between language and well-being. That is, earlier English language competence was positively associated with later intergroup contact; the reverse associations (from earlier contact to later language competence) were not reliable. In turn, intergroup contact at earlier time points was associated with increased well-being at later time points (but not the reverse). 

The findings highlight how conflicting policy goals, and the failure of policy to recognise the specific challenges facing refugees, undermine attempts to learn the language, and serve to perpetuate social disadvantage and marginalisation. In addition, the results show that policies assuming that once in employment, there is no longer a need to learn the language, are likely to be misplaced. Consequently, the promise of resettlement and the accompanying rights of participation are not fulfilled, and public fears over migrants’ abilities to speak English and demonstrate willingness to integrate will remain.


Linda Morrice is a Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Sussex (UK). Her research interests sit at the intersection of education (informal and formal) with refugee and migration studies. She has a particular interest in everyday pedagogies and inter-cultural dimensions of learning, identities and social practices such as citizenship and cultural values.

Linda Tip is a Social Psychologist who explores issues surrounding integration and well-being of refugees and other minority groups from a multidisciplinary and policy-focused perspective. This includes investigating relationships between people of different ethnic or religious backgrounds, and the link between these relationships and well-being. She is currently a Research Fellow at the University of Sussex (UK), but will be a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Brighton (UK) as of March 2017.

Both Lindas work together on a UK Research Council funded project – Optimising refugee resettlement in the UK: a comparative analysis (2014-2018).  The project is longitudinal and combines quantitative and qualitative methods to explore the experiences and outcomes for refugees who were resettled to the UK prior to 2010. The research is multidisciplinary with Mike Collyer (Geography) and Rupert Brown (Psychology). See: