Nearly half (46%) of graduates stay in the same area during and after university, and 25 percent study elsewhere before returning to their home region to work – reveals the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU) in Graduate Market Trends published February 4 2015.

The study1 examines how successful regions are at retaining their graduates six months after they left university, which is essential to improving local economies. The study finds that areas closer to London will find retention much harder than those further away.

Four graduate migration patterns have been identified2:

  • Regional Loyals – 46 percent of employed graduates studied and worked in their home region.  Loyals made up a particularly large proportion of employed graduates in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, North East and North West respectively.
  • Regional Returners – 25 percent of employed graduates moved away from their home region to study, but returned to work. They made up a particularly large proportion of employed graduates in the East, South East and West Midlands respectively.
  • Regional Stayers – 12 percent of employed graduates left their home region to study and work. They made up a particularly large proportion of employed graduates in Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands, South West and North East respectively.
  • Regional Incomers – 18 percent of employed graduates were working in a region where they neither studied nor were domiciled. They made up a particularly large proportion of employed graduates in London, the East of England and the South East.

London has a very atypical labour market. 14,200 graduates working in London after six months were Incomers who had neither lived nor studied there. The majority (85%) were working in professional level jobs, demonstrating its dominance as a graduate employer. This impacts the proportion of Loyals – London has the smallest in the UK (29%). Scotland has the highest proportion (84%) with graduates who lived and studied there dominating the Scottish graduate jobs market.

Large, populous, and with a strong economy and close proximity to London, the South East attracts a lot of students and graduates, but only 43 percent of graduates who studied in the region stay for work, with London a big draw.

Outside London, the North West retains more domiciled graduates and more students who studied locally than any other English region.

The East Midlands has the lowest retention of students in the UK (39%). This is partly because of the success of the region’s universities in attracting students from other parts of the country and partly because of its central location.

The East of England’s geography, demographics and institutions means that it is the only region that has more Returners (41%) than Loyals (31%). It also has the smallest proportion of Stayers in England and the largest proportion of Incomers outside London.

Charlie Ball, head of higher education intelligence at Prospects and its parent charity HECSU said: “Graduation migration patterns are complex. The research demonstrates the differences between different forms of retention, the challenges in thinking of graduate retention, and what that might actually mean. It highlights two clear approaches for universities and local authorities looking to secure graduate talent – targeting graduates originally domiciled in their region and those who went to university there. A skilled and educated workforce is a boon to any region looking for economic growth and the regional agenda for graduate employment is becoming increasingly important.”

The latest edition of GMT features a summary of the ‘Loyals, Stayers, Returners and Incomers: Graduate migration patterns’ report.  GMT along with a full copy of the report can be downloaded at

1 The data used in the ‘Loyals, Stayers, Returners and Incomers: Graduate migration patterns’ study comes from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)’s Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey from 2012/13, which surveyed graduates leaving university in 2013, and examined what they were doing six months after graduation.

2 Breakdown of graduates by migration category






Tom Phelan is an assistant editor at HRreview. Prior to this position, Tom was a staff writer at ITProPortal, where he travelled the globe in pursuit of the latest tech developments. He also writes for a variety of music blogs.