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Nick Gill, Professor in Human Geography

Exeter researcher shortlisted for prominent ESRC prize

A University of Exeter geographer has been nominated for a prestigious national award that celebrates research that makes a difference to society. 

Nick Gill, Professor in Human Geography, is one of three academics nationwide to be nominated for the annual Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Prize, in the category of Outstanding Impact in Public Policy.

Dr Gill has been shortlisted for his pivotal work which contributed to a landmark ruling that halted ‘unfair’ fast-tracking of asylum claims, which were ruled unlawful by High Court Judges.

The research formed an integral part of the cases against the Detained Fast Track (DFT) rules, illustrating that detained asylum seekers did not have time to properly prepare their cases under the imposed time limits.

Documenting the experiences of asylum seekers subject to the DFT rules in depth, the research, combined with the legal arguments made against the DFT, demonstrated that the process was structurally unfair.

This caused judges to find that the appeals process as it operated was unlawful, and resulted in the government suspending the whole of the DFT process in 2015.

Speaking ahead of the award ceremony, which will be held at Central Hall, Westminster on Wednesday, June 22, Dr Gill said: “It is an incredible honour to be shortlisted for this award. It indicates just what a vital role it played in such a crucial hearing, and to be recognised in this way is extremely satisfying.

“The judgment indicated the important role that social scientific research can play in legal argument. Making the wrong decision on an asylum claim can have grave consequences, like forcibly returning someone to face torture or violence. The suspension of the DFT has strengthened the independence and impartiality of asylum determination procedures, and enhanced the integrity of the UK legal system.”

The prize, now in its fourth year, is an annual opportunity to recognise and reward ESRC-funded researchers. It celebrates outstanding ESRC research and success in interdisciplinary, collaborative working, partnerships, engagement and knowledge exchange activities that have led to significant impact.

The ESRC is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research.

ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government.

Date: 21 June 2016

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