A recent RSA think-tank study found that graduates should be given advice on jobs, housing and matches with local employment opportunities in a bid to stimulate local economies through local graduates. However, the study fails to account for the work already done by universities to provide local graduate opportunities, as well as national ones, and the nature of the English university system.
Jim O’Neill, chairman of the Royal Society of Arts City Growth Commission, in a foreword to the report, said that many graduates ‘either disappeared back overseas or down to London to employ the fruits of their enhanced minds elsewhere.’ With regards to the international students who ‘disappear back overseas,’ after spending at least three years away from your home country, surely it is reasonable to allow and expect them to want to move back there to start the next chapter of their lives?
London, additionally, is the UK’s capital. It’s the area in which one can earn the most money and in which many students have dreamed of working and living. This is no disrespect to any of the other wonderful cities within this country, it is merely occupational realism; trying to find a graduate who doesn’t want to earn as much money as possible within their chosen profession is like trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Trying to find a graduate who doesn’t want to earn as much money as possible within their chosen profession is like trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack
As well as disregarding why graduates might want to move away from home, the study also undermines the efforts already undertaken by universities to keep them local. It seems unfair on universities within the smaller English cities to suggest that they are not doing enough to encourage graduates to stay on locally when they are fighting against brain drain within areas with limited local opportunities. Situational factors therefore have to be considered here.
Of course, having only studied at UoN, I cannot ascertain what the majority of universities do in terms of university graduate employment, but the careers fairs held at our university have stalls promoting both national and local employment opportunities. This seems like a helpful angle, as it grants more options to those who have often spent considerable amounts of money to gain a university education.
The study suggested additional ideas such as ‘ReFreshers Week’, which would see universities campaign for students to stay in the area through job advice and help to find housing. It also suggested a ‘graduate clearing system’, which would take rejected graduate applications and send them to local firms with jobs available.
It seems unfair on universities within the smaller English cities to suggest that they are not doing enough to encourage graduates to stay on locally when they are fighting against brain drain within areas with limited local opportunities.
The ‘ReFreshers Week’ sounds rather like what most universities already do, through careers fair and information through Student Unions. However, the idea of a graduate clearing system is, in fact, refreshing, and could be a good solution to structural unemployment in the competitive market of graduate employment.
I can’t help but feel, however, that this all seems to miss the point. Universities already educate thousands of students up and down the country, encourage a huge variety of extra-curricular opportunities, provide careers advice and awareness of employment opportunities, and contribute, rather significantly, to their local economy. What’s more, and perhaps most importantly, universities broaden students’ horizons, and provide them with the best set of skills to and achieve everything they set out to do. If, in the end, this means that graduates stay local, then that’s doubly beneficial in terms of local economies.
If, however, in the large number of cases where staying local is not, in fact, the best option for a graduate, being given sufficient help by their university to move elsewhere is possibly the best thing they could have been given. In these cases, efforts should not be undermined.
Image: the Evening Standard
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