Researcher in Focus: Dr Will Shankley

Posted on: 16 November 2021 by Nick Jones in 2021 Posts

Will Shankley
Dr Will Shankley

Our featured researcher of the month is Dr Will Shankley, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Law whose work focuses on migration, asylum, race, and modern slavery.

Will’s research interests examine the intersections between ethnicity and migration. His published work explores the complexities of modern slavery and labour exploitation and belonging strategies among migrants during fraught times. His interest in migration and ethnicity stems from his experience as an indigenous Ecuadorian adoptee living in Britain and as an ethnic minority working in higher education.

Will is from an indigenous Quechua-speaking community in Riobamba (located on the foothills of the Andes) in Ecuador, and a British family subsequently adopted him. He grew up in London and South-East England. His adoption and the subsequent opportunities (e.g., studying a PhD) against an ethnic backdrop in Britain frame his research approach and interest in migration, ethnicity and childhood research and give voice to those on the margins, empower others, and examine vulnerable communities.

Will is currently a postdoctoral researcher on the ESRC project: Lives on Hold Our Stories Told (LOHST) project led by Professor Helen Stalford (School of Law and Social Justice, UoL). The LOHST project is a peer-research project that works closely with young unaccompanied asylum seekers (16-25) as co-researchers. It examines the impact of Covid-19 on delays for unaccompanied asylum seekers' legal protection cases, access to welfare and health services, and mental health and wellbeing.

Will joined the Liverpool Law School in 2021 after working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Manchester. He completed his PhD at the same university and worked on several projects with the Cathie Marsh Institute (CMI) and the Centre of Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE).

Will is a multidisciplinary researcher who initially studied Psychology, Research Methods and Statistics before completing a second master's degree in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response, with a project that focused on the legal complexity of children born by forced maternity practices living in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The project consolidated his interest in displaced and vulnerable communities and steered him into working in the international development sector. He subsequently worked for several NGOs engaged in migrant and refugee public and mental health and vulnerable populations in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. The complexities of working with these communities in an overseas context inspired him to return to the UK to pursue a PhD in sociology. Will wrote his PhD on the internal migration patterns and residential decision-making of Polish migrants living in England, drawing on the 2011 census, interview, and ethnographic data.

Will's multidisciplinary training shaped his methodological expertise, and he is an expert in quantitative and qualitative methods and software, including STATA, SPSS, ArcGIS, Qgis, and NVIVO. His expertise resulted in Will using Race Disparity Audit and policy data to co-author his first book entitled "State of the Nation." Will co-wrote the book with experts in race and ethnicity to examine ethnic inequalities across ten domains (f.e., higher education, creative industries, and housing and labour markets).

Will's expertise in quantitative data analysis and social survey datasets further resulted in him working as a CO-I on an ESRC project entitled " Together and Apart: The Dynamics of Ethnic Diversity, Segregation and Social Cohesion among Young People and Adults." The project examined whether community-level variables associated with the ethnic structure (ethnic diversity and segregation) and deprivation affected minorities harassment likelihood and mental health outcomes.

Will is especially interested in connecting with researchers interested in modern slavery, ethnic inequalities, racialization, and asylum. He is keen to ensure his academic research has a real-world impact.

Get in touch with Will at

Keywords: Researcher in Focus.