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Does Ethnicity and Country of Birth Impact on Educational Opportunities and Attainment in the UK and Taiwan?

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  • Full or part time
    Dr C Lloyd
    Prof E Lin
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Years 1-2 in NTHU, Years 3-4 in UoL.

The project will seek to explore between and within country differences in the relationships between ethnicity and country of birth (of individuals and their parents) and educational opportunities and attainment.

Supervisory team
Building on previous work on Taiwan by Prof Lin, exploiting the spatial analysis expertise of Dr Lloyd and making use of expertise of Dr Catney (ethnicity, longitudinal analysis) and Professor Kulu (longitudinal analysis), the project will provide innovative analyses based on a combination of econometrics and spatial analysis approaches. It will also make use of detailed knowledge of the UK (UoL team) and Taiwan (NTHU) contexts.

Previous research
Tsay (2006) argues that individuals whose fathers were immigrants from China may achieve higher educational qualifications than do ‘native’ Taiwanese (after controlling for parental background and neighbourhood), and that differences between second-generation immigrants and native Taiwanese decline over time. Lin and Lu (2014) demonstrate that pupils with mothers who were born in outside of Taiwan tend to obtain markedly lower test scores than pupils whose mothers were born in Taiwan.

There are several studies of the degree of variation in educational attainment by ethnicity and immigration background in England and Wales. Research suggests that qualification rates are higher amongst Indian, Chinese and Black African groups than for the White British, while for other ethnic groups the rates are lower than for the White British (Lymperopoulou and Parameshwaran, 2014). In addition, while in 2011 over a third of people born outside of the UK had degree level qualifications, only a quarter born in the UK were of the same status (Lymperopoulou and Parameshwaran, 2014). Platt (2007) focuses on ethnicity, qualifications and social class mobility; this research considers the relationship between an individual’s class background and their subsequent social class position.

Contributions of this study
The characteristics of migration streams (e.g., socioeconomic status of immigrants, ethnic diversity, and language skills) to Taiwan and the UK are obviously very different and the experiences of immigrants with respect to access to education and the obstacles associated with obtaining qualifications differ by national context and within countries. The interplay between socio-economic status, ethnicity, immigration status or background, and within-country geography will also vary between countries. This study will expand our knowledge of the connections between country of birth, ethnicity and educational attainments in the UK and Taiwan. It will also contribute to the development of approaches to comparative analysis where national context and the nature and availability of data sources are very different. Furthermore, the project will contribute to methodological advancement by making use of expertise in alternative analytical frameworks which cast light on different aspects of the project theme including temporal change (longitudinal analysis) and geographical context (for example, spatial regression models).

Data sources
In Taiwan, available data sources include the Taiwan Assessment of Student Achievement data set and the Population Census (which includes questions on educational attainment and ‘indigenous status’). In the UK, ‘Understanding Society’ and the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study (ONS-LS) offer the capacity to explore longitudinal trends connected to, for example, ethnicity, country of birth, and qualification levels. In addition, standard area statistics allow for detailed spatial statistical analyses of qualifications by, for example, country of birth or year of arrival in the UK. The School Census (formally Pupil Level Annual School Census (PLASC)) provides another source of relevant information. The first stage of the project will entail detailed assessment of these sources with the objective of identifying comparable (combinations of) data sets.

This is a highly original project which will provide the first ever international comparative assessment of how far an individual’s country of birth, or the backgrounds of their parents, their socio-economic characteristics (or that of their parents) and the geographical context in which they live, impact on their educational attainment. The project will also have major policy implications, by identifying commonalities in impediments to educational attainment and by considering the ways in which national contexts, as well as personal characteristics, might differentially shape an individual’s educational opportunities.

The funding for this programme covers tuition fees and a contribution to living expenses of $10,000 New Taiwanese Dollars per month.


Lin, E. S. and Lu, Y.-L. (2014) The educational achievement of pupils with immigrant and native mothers: evidence from Taiwan. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, in press.

Lymperopoulou, K. and Parameshwaran, M. (2014) How are ethnic inequalities in education changing? University of Manchester and Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity.

Platt, L. (2007) Making education count: the effects of ethnicity and qualifications on intergenerational social class mobility. The Sociological Review, 55, 485-508.

Tsay, W.-J. (2006) The educational attainment of second-generation mainland Chinese immigrants in Taiwan. Journal of Population Economics, 19, 749-767.

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