Stay, leave or return? Patterns of Welsh graduate mobility

Gillian Bristow, Madeleine Pill, Rhys Davies, Stephen Drinkwater


This paper presents the initial findings of a study into Welsh graduate mobility within the UK, which has a highly uneven geography of graduate labour.  After surveying recent debates, the paper explores the extent to which Wales retains its graduate labour by examining the scale of graduate mobility and its nature in terms of qualifications.  It does this by augmenting the data produced by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) with detailed analysis of Labour Force Survey (LFS) data to consider the location of successive ‘young’ graduate cohorts since the 1992 expansion of Higher Education.  The research finds that Wales is a net exporter of graduates and that those who migrate have higher educational attainment.  However, the notion of a clear, unequivocal brain drain has to be qualified. Wales manages to retain high numbers of graduates relative to many English regions.  The paper highlights that inter-regional flows of graduates are sensitive to the path dependencies of mobile graduates themselves as well as the structures of regional economies. This has implications for both Higher Education and regional development policies.