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No place like home: graduate attitudes toward place and mobility

July 2019

The North West of England needs to attract and retain highly skilled employees to fulfil its potential as the 'Northern Powerhouse'

This project explores both why so many graduates choose to stay in the region after university, as well as why some choose to leave. In so doing it challenges some common misconceptions about mobility and has implications for careers services.

Key findings:

  • For many, staying in the region was a positive choice influenced heavily by family and friends, as well as by an affinity to the region itself because of culture and countryside. Place is not just a physical location but has deep connections to people, culture and identity.
  • However, most participants would consider moving for the 'right job'. This challenges lazy assumptions that immobility might represent a default option or a lack of ambition.
  • Some planned to work away in the short term but ultimately wanted to 'settle down' back in the North West. Policy and careers initiatives could put a greater focus on raising the nature and profile of regional opportunities for those who want to stay and/or return, while also supporting options for short-term outward mobility.
  • Attractive international destinations also featured, often as a desired temporary relocation. In relation to this, two additional conceptual types were proposed in addition to Charlie Ball's typology, one of which is the 'explorer' who relocates temporarily and yet plans to return to the region to 'settle down'.
  • A further type is the 'tourist' who comes to the region just for study or temporary work and then returns to a home region or moves on to another destination, demonstrating a flexible attitude to mobility.
  • Narratives around the 'explorer' and 'tourist' highlight the need to consider mobility and migration as temporal, dynamic, fluid and highly personalised – suggesting that discussions about ‘place’ are important to address in individual guidance interactions.

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There's no place like home: an exploration of graduate attitudes toward place and mobility.

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Download PDF file There's no place like home: an exploration of graduate attitudes toward place and mobility.

About the report

This HECSU-funded report seeks to better understand the reasons that new graduates might stay in the North West of England. Qualitative interviews were conducted with, and a survey distributed among, graduates from five universities in the region.

The region is undergoing transformation through policy initiatives such as the Northern Powerhouse and Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and consequently there is a need to attract and retain a highly skilled workforce. Careers professionals can support individuals by better understanding their personal context and long-term plans.

Eileen Cunningham is a social policy lecturer and doctoral researcher at the University of Salford.

Fiona Christie is a senior research associate at the Decent Work and Productivity Research Centre, based in the Manchester Metropolitan University Business School.

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