About the project

This study will be the first UK-wide study of EU-born young people's (aged 16-26) experiences of education, work and training in the context of the UK withdrawal from the EU. The number of young people from Europe growing up in UK has risen sharply over past 15 years, particularly since the accession of 10 East-Central European states to the EU. These young people have spent their formative years experiencing multiple transitions and border-crossings related to moving home, learning English, changing education systems, finding work in a precarious and austere economic climate and forming key relationships in the context of divisive political rhetoric surrounding immigration. How do this sizeable cohort of young people navigate these transitions in different parts of the UK, as they develop plans for the future and pathways to citizenship? Existing inequalities in education and employment, combined with new challenges fuelled by Brexit, are shaping the choices of EU nationals about whether to remain or leave the UK (Lulle et al., 2016; King & Williams, 2017), with a dramatic decline in the level of EU immigration since the Brexit referendum in 2016 (ONS, 2019). Given the positive fiscal impact of EU migration to the UK and the reliance on this labour supply in key sectors of the economy (Wadsworth, 2018), there is an urgent need to better understand young people's education and employment trajectories and how employers are planning for and responding to potential changes in workforce demographics after Brexit.

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers will combine expertise in migration and population studies, education and social policy to design and produce a series of significant research outcomes. First, the study will review the evidence on educational and employment pathways and challenges for EU-born young people through a systematic analysis of existing data sets and targeted, sustained engagement with practitioners and policy makers to identify key policy and practice challenges.

Second, the study will produce new longitudinal data over a 3-year period on the changing aspirations, experiences and outcomes of EU-born young people in education, training and employment to highlight how their plans evolve and what barriers they face and sometimes overcome.

Third, the study will use a participatory research approach to explore young people's perceptions and experiences of settlement and citizenship in all four nations of the UK, in the context of Brexit. Involving young people as co-researchers, the study will explore their aspirations for the future; sense of belonging and citizenship in the UK; perspectives on potential constitutional change in the UK and the EU; and engagements with social movements and digital activism.

The research offers original data on how EU-born young people living in diverse geographical locations adapt to the multiple transitions of growing up as a migrant in the context of regional political transformation. We will consider how these dynamics actively shape pathways to citizenship and a sense of belonging in the UK, or particular parts of it. The proposed study fills a gap in research by employing an intersectional approach to analysing EU-born young people's experience of Brexit alongside key youth transitions, with potential to inform UK-wide and devolved policy and practice tackling the challenge of youth marginalisation and migrant integration. In depth longitudinal data on young people's educational aspirations, work experiences and citizenship practices will provide insight into how 'integrated' EU-born migrant youth feel in different nations of the UK, connected to various representations of 'nation' that circulate in policy, political and public discourses. Importantly, the study will also address the relative absence of migrant youth voices in public debate and provide policy makers and the public with a more rigorous understand of the everyday lives of young migrants.