20 Dec 2018

Our past ITI award winners - Elizabeth Morgan

Written by Catherine Park

We talk to Elizabeth Morgan, winner of the ITI Academic Research award in 2017, about what she has been doing since she completed her MA at the University of East Anglia.

After Elizabeth finished her MA, she had a discussion with her supervisor about the possibility of doing a doctorate. However, she was juggling a few commitments at the time, and did not want to start doctoral research while she was still a County Councillor at Norfolk County Council. Consequently, she embarked instead on a period of freelance translation work.

But the thought of a PhD kept ‘niggling’ her, and also came to the fore again because, if she was to apply for a CHASE (Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England) scholarship, her application had to be in by January 2017. Having made her submission, she was informed in April 2017 that she had been awarded the scholarship.

She started on her PhD in October 2017, soon after her time as a Councillor had come to an end.

Elizabeth feels fortunate to have received a CHASE doctoral scholarship because, in addition to funding, it provides support in other ways such as events for participating students. CHASE also encourages its doctoral students to undertake a placement, not as part of their specific research, but to further develop them professionally. From January 2019 Elizabeth will be doing a placement with the Bridge+, an NGO supporting migrants and minority communities in Norwich.

Elizabeth’s research to date has related to the availability of translation and interpreting services. Her MA dissertation was around policy regarding provision of these services within the public sector in Norwich.

Elizabeth Morgan at the award ceremony in 2017

Her PhD research will look at another aspect of this topic – this time, focusing on how the provision or non-provision of these services impacts on the extent to which migrants feel they ‘belong’ in the UK.

It will be unusual in that it will consider the views of migrants themselves. Previously, a major focus of research has been the impact of language barriers on access to formal services, from which the voice of migrants has been noticeably absent.

In describing the rationale for her research, she says: “The number and variety of languages spoken in the UK and the creative way in which language is used by migrants can be seen as illustrative of the superdiverse nature of society in the UK.

“With regard to language policy in the UK, however, this linguistic diversity is largely ignored and an ideology of monolingualism can be seen at play. One of the consequences of the monolingual mindset in the UK is that English language acquisition by migrants is viewed as the principal solution to the ‘problem’ of linguistic diversity, as well as that of integration, with the result that translation and interpreting services are seen to hinder or even undermine integration.

“In my research, I intend to examine the reality of lived experience in terms of how the provision or non-provision of language services affects migrants’ sense of belonging, with a focus on belonging as perceived by migrants themselves, rather than imposing normative concepts such as ‘community cohesion’ or ‘integration.”

Specifically, she will be interviewing migrants in the Norwich area, with the research running over about a three year period. She will also interview translators and interpreters, as well as representatives of third-sector organisations, to complement the perspective of the migrant participants.

In the future, Elizabeth plans to work either in academia or in policy research within an NGO.

About her ITI award win in 2017, she comments:  “I sometimes lack confidence in my own abilities. This was a real endorsement for me beyond the people I know and the UEA. It was part of what made me feel capable of doing a PhD.”