We had slightly over 1,100 responses to our 2023 Free Movement reader survey. A big thank you to everyone who took the time to respond. We really appreciate it.
Every single response has been read and considered. As we did last time, we’ve tried to summarise as well as analyse what you all think about Free Movement. And we’ve set out at least some of what we intend to do with the results.
With that said, though, we are also conscious that this sort of survey tends to be a little bit self-selecting. It is people with strong opinions and, probably, regular users who are most likely to take the time to fill out a survey. We may have had 1,100 responses to the survey, but we get around 10,000 page views per day. We’re therefore looking very carefully at the survey responses (that’s why we conducted it!) but we’re also trying to be mindful that the survey probably isn’t fully representative of Free Movement readership.
The average rating was 4.7 which is a slight increase on the last time we did the survey. It is difficult to imagine we can improve on that but we will certainly try.
The vast majority of those who responded think that our content is either getting better or staying the same.
Only around 40% of those who completed the survey work in the legal profession in some capacity, including 12 judges and 11.5% are campaigners and/or charity workers. One third of respondents described themselves as either an interested member of the public or someone who has an immigration problem or a family member with an immigration problem. The rest of the numbers are made up from a mixed group including academics, researchers, students, parliamentarians and civil servants.
This is an important reminder of the breadth of people we write for here on Free Movement. Our general approach has always been to write about things we think will be useful to lawyers but to make it as accessible to everyone as possible on the basis that immigration law affects a wide range of people. We’ll stick to that, but, as previously, you’ll sometimes see material here that isn’t specifically aimed at you; please bear in mind we do have other readers as well.
When we forced people to choose just one area of main interest the most popular category remained refugee and asylum but on 32%. This was followed by family immigration (16.7%), EU citizen rights (14%) and business and/or student immigration (9.7%). Both sets of data are interesting in their own ways but I find the above chart the most useful, as many people are interested in more than one area and now we can see what all of those areas are.
Well over half of you think that there is enough coverage on Free Movement to keep you informed. Of those who do want more coverage, the main areas were family immigration and business and student immigration. Looking at our hub pages for each of these (family and business and students), I think that is fair enough.
We have do have some articles and online training commissioned and in the pipeline but we will also be advertising for new contributors in the near future and would be particularly interested to hear from those working in these areas. If you have anything specific that you would like covered then as always please do feel free to let us know.
We have over 1,000 regular monthly listeners and, dare I say it, even some fans. Both Colin and I have been recognised by our voices, which is a truly strange feeling. Our average rating from a bit under a third of those listeners is 4.4 out of 5. My favourite comment was “it is stupendous”.
There have been a couple of really practical suggestions that I have already implemented. One was that we make the monthly update quiz easier to find, so I now link directly to that in the post we put up with the podcast.
The other was to include timestamps so that people can skip directly to the sections that are most relevant to them. I am going to throw Colin under the bus here and point out that this was also suggested in the last reader survey but must have slipped off the radar at some point. If I ever forget please do drop me an email and I will get this sorted.
Some people suggested the podcast should be shorter. Some people suggested it should be longer. Our base assumption is that our average listener, like our average reader, is short on time. We try to respect that. We aim for less than 40 minutes and, for the monthly update, we’ll probably carry on with that. But… we’ll also think about reintroducing longer, more themed episodes.
Quite a few responses asked for podcasts to be more frequent and for the return of themed episodes with special guests. Someone pointed out that I used to be a special guest and so there is a vacancy now that I have officially joined Free Movement. I have just edited my first podcast and now I know how to do this, I am making the themed podcasts in-between the monthly updates a priority. Not least because I know how much I always enjoyed listening to them. I am currently giving some thought to what I would like to cover first but if anyone wants to get in touch with suggestions then by all means do so.
There were a couple of comments about sound quality and it was also suggested we could provide transcripts. The problem is that preparing for, recording and then editing the podcast is very time-consuming. We use decent mics and we edit and process the audio to improve quality but we’re certainly not proper sound technicians. There are services that can produce automated transcripts using voice-recognition software. These can be a bit pricey and we’re not sure that they’ll be much use with some of the weird words of immigration law, meaning they may well require quite a bit of manual input.
If a cost-effective way of improving sound quality and producing transcripts presents itself, we’d certainly be interested. We’re also considering expanding our staff further and/or buying in help in some other way, and this is one thing we will consider as part of that exercise.
The average rating for our training is 4.5. We are in the process of expanding our training provision and have recently launched our first live training courses for those interested in OISC level one. We are also working on making more of our courses available as ebooks.
A common request was for OISC level two training. That is something that we are working on and will be introduced imminently; hopefully in November if all goes well. We’ll then roll that out as a live course as well.
Another request was for judicial review training and we have a highly practical “Judicial review for immigration lawyers” course almost ready.
Many of you asked for training on the Illegal Migration Act. As a reminder, over 2,300 of you have watched the video we put out a week after the Bill was published and not that much has changed since then. We are working on putting an updated version of this into an online training course.
It is important to remember that much of the Act is not yet in force. A lot can and does change when laws are actually operationalised. Seeing what is in the published guidance will be key to understanding how things will work if and when more of the Act is brought into force.
The detention provisions are in force and we are working on incorporating those changes into our detention training. We will let you know once this is up. In the meantime, all of our resources on the Act can be found here.
More broadly, there are two things we plan to do to make our training more accessible and broaden the topics we cover.
One is to turn all or most of the courses into ebooks that members will be able to download. We’ve had several requests for this.
The other is that we’re planning to expand the amount of live online training we deliver in the new year. As well as live OISC level 1 and level 2 courses we plan to start running regular seminars on different topics, some for lawyers and some for the wider immigration sector. This will help us get information and analysis to as many people as possible on as many different topics as possible.
The Free Movement forum continues to be popular with some members. But the survey results are hardly an overwhelming vote of confidence:
And only 37% of respondents even said they knew we had a forum. Colin says it’s not as well-used as he would like and he has considered scrapping it. That’s not the plan for now, though. The whole website is currently being rebuilt (see further below) and part of that project includes new forum software, which will make it more visually appealing and improve notifications. If nothing else, that will hopefully at least make it a more pleasant place to hang out for those who do.
As part of the rebuild we’ll also look if we can make the forum more visible, in the sense of easier to access. It will have to remain members-only because otherwise it would end up being overwhelmed by requests for free advice, the answers to which we could not possibly police.
Opinions, we have them!
One reader expressed fairly robust criticism of our “lefty lawyer” approach and observed that the democratically elected government has a right and duty to protect our borders. Several other readers touched on the same issue, sometimes from an opposite perspective. One said that they “appreciate the thoughtful, informed and moderate approach”.
Immigration law is dry. Legal writing can often be arid. Seasoning it with a sprinkle of opinion helps to make things more readable. We think that is one of the reasons Free Movement has succeeded as it has and why it is so widely read.
We are upfront about the fact that we do have opinions on much of what happens with immigration and asylum. Like Ronseal, our name “Free Movement” kind of says it on the tin, so to speak. But we pride ourselves on the quality of our analysis; if we don’t like something, we’ll say so rather than pretending that it actually says something different.
We value all our readers. We try to be respectful of you all and of your time. We are aware that not all of you share our views. We try to be polite and explain our reasons where we are criticising decisions or policies. We hope that the quality of the articles is good enough so that people will read them and get something out of them regardless of whether or not they agree with our personal opinions.
Which is a long way of saying we’re not planning to change our current approach. But, as always, we’re open to publishing alternative perspectives; get in touch if you’re interested in writing for us, and watch out for our coming contributor recruitment exercise.
For the first time, we asked about how well we do at customer support. The answer seemed to be: pretty well. That is very much Faye’s doing. She’s been with Free Movement for many years now and most members will probably have had some contact with her sorting out one problem or another.
93.2% of respondents said that their issue had been satisfactorily resolved. Well done Faye! She has to work with some fairly messy, technical software but can usually get to the bottom of a problem in the end.
As ever, we are so grateful to everyone who took the time to respond and who provided such constructive feedback. In this article we’ve focussed a bit on the critical comments because that helps us see where we can change and improve. But we’ve been overwhelmed by some lovely feedback from a large number of readers and listeners, and that is hugely encouraging for us all.
We are extremely busy behind the scenes at the moment working on a number of changes and improvements. One of these is a revamp of the software behind the website, which will give us a lot more flexibility in future about how we present information. You can have a sneak preview of the first draft here if you are interested. But be warned we haven’t even been through it all ourselves properly yet, and it is hosted on a slow server.
The comment that I thought really encapsulates what we aim to achieve at Free Movement was “I am better at my job because you exist”. We will take on board all of your feedback and keep doing our best to support you all.