Adviser on the Edge

Spatial perspectives on career guidance and development


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“Moving home” or “moving for employment” – Trends in Graduate Migration

I have just been reading a short paper: ‘The complex migration pathways of UK graduates[1]. In this project an online survey was conducted of graduates from Southampton University (2001-7) capturing data about their movements and statuses over 5 years.

The main finding is that migration choices after University can be complex with: ‘approximately one quarter of respondents [being] highly mobile during the five year period after leaving university (they moved between 5-8 times)…’ (p.1)

However, what interested me particularly were the reasons behind the migration patterns… So where the most common reason for a graduate’s first move was ‘return to parents’ (32.7%), the most common reason for a graduate’s second move was ‘employment’ (32.3%). Further, with each subsequent move, greater proportions of migrants moved to London, or back to Southampton. To me, this is interesting because I wonder what impact the parents’ location may have on migration pathways. For some graduates, for example, the parental home may be in a very remote area some distance from University and / or from London, whereas other parents may actually live in the London area. So, what impact does this have on rural graduates? Is ‘going home’ more or less likely after graduation if it involves moving a long distance away? Once home do graduates feel the pressure to move back to an urban environment more acutely or once they’ve moved is it harder to move such a long distance back to an urban area? If anyone reading this blog has any thoughts about this I’d love to hear them!

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London – preferred destination for Southampton graduates… even if it takes them several moves to get there.

One further interesting point for me, is that in the research paper, hidden away towards the bottom of the list of reasons for the first move post-graduation is the phrase ‘urban-rural’ which accounts for 3 answers or 0.5% of the sample… while this is a very small number, this reason intrigues me…! There is simply not enough detail in the paper to be able to read between the lines about what this might represent though, so I may just have to remain intrigued!


[1] ESRC Centre for Population Change Briefing 9 October 2012 Sage, J; Evandrou, M; and Falkingham, J.


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What Use is a Degree?

I’ve just finished readingWhat use is a degree? Life-stories of University Graduates’ by Ward, Jones and Jenkins. This book collects eighteen different life stories of graduates from the Oxford Brookes Geography degree from six cohorts: 1979, 1982, 1985, 1988, 1991 and 1994. The stories in the book are concise, interesting and occasionally moving accounts of graduates about their experiences at University and after.

What interested me in this book was the importance given to the graduates’ stories as stories. So there was very little introduction to the stories (less than a page), and the methodology chapter was positioned at the end of the book. About half way through reading the book I flicked to the end to check what was coming – I couldn’t quite believe that there would be no comment or interpretation of the stories, but indeed there was none. I found this frustrating (as if the researchers were withholding something), but in a way what this did was to give absolute primacy to the words and the stories of the participants themselves and ultimately it probably meant that their stories stayed with me more.

The brevity and coherence of the stories was also striking and added to the impact they had. I was struck by this because I know that this is not how we present our experiences naturally in conversation – in my last piece of research the interview transcripts were lengthy, scattered, full of unformed thoughts. In this book the researchers had gone beyond just interview transcripts and had worked with the graduates to edit their stories ready for publication. This left me wondering about if and how the process of editing and re-writing their own words had impacted on the graduates and how they understood their experiences. I thought there was a missed opportunity in the book to explore how the process of the research had affected the participants.

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Image courtesy of jannoon028/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
How does constructing and editing our career story impact on us and our understanding of our journey?

In terms of the stories themselves I found them very affecting, which I guess is one of the characteristics of a good story – the impact on the reader. I was particularly moved by the young man who had been sent to prison shortly after graduating and yet had still managed to forge a good career. Snippets of the stories brought back acute memories of my own journey post-graduation, and I found this oddly reassuring (that I wasn’t the only person who experienced this). I wondered then how stories like this could be used in guidance settings. For me, I recognised some experiences from my past, and found the stories thought provoking, but how would reading stories like this influence the way I or other people thought about the future and would they impact on how we manage our career journeys? I wondered what kinds of exercises a guidance professional could use around the reading of stories to assist career development?

Overall I was left wondering what the impact of the book might be, beyond being an interesting read. In particular I wondered about how possible it is to draw themes from such a wide time span. The context of the 70s was quite different from the 90s and although this was anecdotally interesting, I thought I might have preferred an in-depth case study of one cohort. This may have limited the wide scope of the research and made it less transferrable between time settings but it might have been easier in terms of data collection (generating more interest in the student cohort) and would have made the final text much more intertextual (with participants talking about each other). This may have allowed more in-depth analysis and comparison between different individuals and their approach to learning and career routes. I found this particularly interesting as a ‘saturation sample’ of one or two cohorts of Orcadian students is what I am intending to look at in my PhD.