Adviser on the Edge

careers in island communities: research, theory and practice

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Wanted: Men and / or Engineers….

 Image courtesy of stockimages at

Wanted: men and engineers. Preferably both! Can you help? Image courtesy of stockimages at

I have been doing some initial analysis on the responses to the survey for my PhD. So far I have responses from 71 final year undergraduates from Orkney and Shetland, which I reckon is about half of the total number of eligible students. So that’s not too bad…! Thank you to everyone who has taken part so far…

What I did notice, however, is that only 11 men have taken part in the survey, compared to 60 women. Now, I know more women go to university than men, but this difference is quite marked – the proportion of women to men going to university from Shetland is about 2:1 but my survey responses are about 6:1….

The other thing I noticed is that I have no responses from people studying engineering. This is quite surprising given that engineering is one of the more popular subjects of study of students from the Northern Isles. It is perhaps the case that the two areas are interrelated – with more men typically studying engineering than women.

So, what am I getting at? Well, It would be great if even more final year undergraduates from Orkney and Shetland could fill in my survey, but I particularly need responses from men and from engineers…. Can anyone help….??

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Orkney and Shetland Student Survey is live! Can you help….?

Well, this is exciting. The first stage of my PhD project – a survey of final year undergraduates from Orkney and Shetland has just gone live!

help wanted

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So, if you lived in Orkney or Shetland before going on to study for a degree, and you are due to graduate in 2015 please do take part! The survey is available online at:

Alternatively you can download the Final Research Information Sheet and Survey.

Please do help if you can, and help me to spread the word about the project too…! The more people take part the better the results of the research will be. Through my research I hope I will be able to find out more about what it is like for Orkney and Shetland students who go on to higher education, and help to inform careers and education services for future students from the islands.

In the coming weeks I will be promoting and circulating the survey as much as I can – so if  you have any ideas about what I can do to get the word out do let me know… Thank you!

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The PhD Adventure…

Hooray! I’m now enrolled for my PhD – which is an exciting and daunting prospect! The provisional title for my work is “the impact of rural upbringing on graduates’ narratives of career development and migration choices”.

What I want to find out from my research is how growing up in a rural and remote place impacts on  choices about where to go to university and what to do after university.  I will be taking a case study approach and interviewing a selection of graduates from from one particular rural and remote location: Orkney (which for those of you who don’t know is a group of islands off the North coast of Scotland).

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This is my masters thesis… I think the PhD will be a bit longer!

In writing my proposal I have been heavily influenced by Ball and Higgins’ recent study into graduate migration and employment outcomes in the West of England (Ball and Higgins, 2010). In this research Ball and Higgins found that different kinds of migrant experienced quite different employment outcomes with ‘incomers’ showing some of the best employment outcomes and ‘returners’ some of the worst. During their study they identified that the migration choices of graduates may be based on a range of social, economic and personal reasons, but they concluded that further research was needed to understand the motivations of different kinds of graduate for their migration choices.

North Cornwall

I hope that my research will add to the literature on graduate migration, but in particular I would like to understand more about graduate migration from rural areas. My interest in graduate migration in rural areas comes from my experience as a careers adviser for the University of the Highlands and Islands – because we serve some of the most rural communities in the UK. It also stems from my personal experience of growing up in a rural community (North Cornwall), leaving for university, and then returning on graduation.

Some research of rural populations in Canada has suggested that success in school environments involves young people  ‘learning to leave’ rural areas for urban university environments (Corbett, 2007). In addition, research in Australia has suggested that rural students who go to university have to find a way of adjusting themselves to their urban environments, which often involves reframing their rural background (Holt, 2010).

So, it seems to me that understanding the ‘urban-rural’ dynamic may be important when considering the migration choices of graduates who have grown up in a rural area. And this is what I would like to look at in more detail during my PhD. Ultimately I hope to discover something about how growing up in a rural location may influence career and migration decisions, and potentially I will be looking for ways that the results of my research may be able to inform the careers education, information and guidance that I deliver as part of my job.

So, how’s that sound? I’d be really interested in any comments you might have about my plans!