Adviser on the Edge

Spatial perspectives on career guidance and development


Graduates should be matched to local jobs… just an urban issue?

I just read this article by Times Higher Education: “Graduates should be matched to local jobs says report”. This article refers to the UniverCities report, which looks at how universities can support city growth.  Part of the backdrop to the report is the issue of graduate migration after graduation – some graduates will return to their familial homes and others will be drawn to the bright lights of London, which potentially deprives their university towns and cities of the talent that has been fostered there.

The report makes recommendations under three main themes:

  1. Optimising research and teaching for metro growth.
  2. Promoting graduate retention and utilization.
  3. Enterprising students, graduates and faculty.

Now, these are ideas that interest me, because even though this report focuses on urban growth similar recommendations also appear in rural development literature. So, in the Orkney Population Change Study (2009), commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Orkney Islands Council, recommendations for a sustainable future included supporting ‘partnerships between education establishments and the productive sectors on the islands’ (p.9)  ‘a slight reduction in out-migration of younger age groups’ (p.7) and ‘supporting enterprise’ (p.8). Now these recommendations are not specifically about higher education or graduates, but the similarities with the recommendations in the report are striking.

The difference, I guess, is that for many rural areas historically there has been an export of talent to major cities, especially for higher education. So although for urban areas the migration of students back to their rural ‘home’ regions may be a loss, for the rural areas they move back to they are a positive gain. Indeed, in the Orkney Population Change Study although a ‘slight’ reduction in out-migration is noted as necessary, more critically a 40% increase in in-migrants who are aged 25-34 is identified as important (p.7) So, although as the UniverCities report proposes, retention of graduates might be valuable in urban development, it may be important to consider how this could impact on rural areas who are also seeking to attract young graduates back.


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Our Islands Our Future Campaign Video

I rather enjoyed watching this – all in the name of research you understand!

This is the video for the ‘Our Islands, Our Future’ campaign which is a campaign by Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles councils to promote greater independence at a local level for these island groups. In particular the campaign uses the debate about Scottish Independence to propose greater local  autonomy for these island groups, with a focus on gaining greater local power for the natural resources in these areas (mostly energy resources from oil and gas and renewable technologies).

I found the rhetorical positioning of the video particularly interesting, with a focus on how islands are ‘special places’ with a sense of ‘identity’ and ‘pride’. The practical ‘can do’ approach of islanders is implicitly contrasted to elsewhere and there is a repeated theme that greater autonomy for the islands would lead to greater productivity and impact on the local and national economy. As I was listening to this video I got a strong sense of difference and this reminded me of when I used to teach difference and diversity as part of a counselling skills course. What I taught then was that what is important is not that we are not treated ‘all equally’ but that our differences are recognised (and celebrated) – because by recognising differences (rather than ignoring them) we enable equality ‘where everyone can participate and has the opportunity to fulfil their potential’ (DoH, 2004). It struck me that on a much larger scale, the concepts of difference and diversity may be fitting concepts to explain the rhetorical positioning of this campaign.