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:
- Optimising research and teaching for metro growth.
- Promoting graduate retention and utilization.
- 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.