Graduates flock to London, ‘brain draining’ the rest of the UK.

London is attracting a disproportionate share of graduates, according to a new report. It says that top-ranking students are flocking to the capital for the job opportunities and career progression it offers.

Ahead of the Autumn Statement, the research warns that by contrast, most UK cities are struggling to attract the high-achieving graduates critical to driving economic growth.

The report, The Great British Brain Drain: where graduates move and why, published today by the think tank Centre for Cities, shows that a quarter of all new graduates (24 per cent) from UK universities in 2014 and 2015 were working in London within six months of finishing their degree.

Alexandra Jones, Chief Executive of the Centre for Cities says: “The Government will not achieve its vision of extending prosperity and growth across the country unless it takes steps to help more cities attract and retain the UK’s top talent. The priority for national and local leaders should be strengthening city-region economies, and increasing local demand and opportunities for graduates.”

The reports shows that London is far outperforming other cities in drawing talented graduates from leading UK universities. In 2014-15, the capital attracted more than a third (38 per cent) of new Russell Group graduates with first-class or upper-second class degrees who moved for a job (1) – around 13 times more than Manchester, the second most popular destination for this group.

This trend was even clearer for new Oxbridge graduates, with London gaining more than half (52 per cent) of those who moved for work after finishing university, compared to just 2% in Birmingham and Bristol respectively.

Other initiatives to improve links between local employers and graduates, and to communicate about existing graduate opportunities, will have most impact in the context of wider economic growth.The report makes recommendations on how national and local leaders can address the graduate brain drain. It says that there is little evidence that policies focused only on influencing where graduates move, such as graduate wage subsidises, are effective.

Cities should therefore focus primarily on strengthening their economies, by investing in transport, housing, innovation and enterprise. This will be more effective in generating more graduate jobs and opportunities for career progression, and making places more attractive for high-skilled workers.

Developing home-grown talent should also be a priority for cities, rather than concentrating mainly on attracting graduates from other places.

“In the Autumn Statement, the Government should focus on boosting economic growth in city-regions across the country by investing in large-scale housing and transport projects. It should also use the new economic and industrial strategy to reinforce and complement the devolution deals currently in place for city-regions like Greater Manchester, to give them greater scope to grow their economies, and to develop and attract talented workers,” says Jones.



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