Scotland trailing London in battle to retain graduates - Grant Thornton

Scotland trailing London in battle to retain graduates - Grant Thornton

A new study by global accountancy firm Grant Thornton has revealed the scale of the student talent retention challenge currently facing Scotland.

The research – which surveyed 1,080 university students throughout the UK – has highlighted a distinct regional divide when it comes to whether university students stay or leave the area after graduating.

London tops the league table with nearly seven in 10 (69 per cent) students heading to the city to study deciding to remain and work post-graduation.

And while Scotland was the next best performing area of the UK, the figure is substantially lower, with only 32 per cent of students questioned stating that they plan to stay after they graduate.

Britain’s worst performing region was the East of England, with only 12 per cent of students planning to continue living in the area.

The figure raises questions over whether more action is required to retain graduates, but there are some positives from the research. 97 per cent of students questioned in Scotland say they chose to go to university because it’s close to home – the highest figure in the UK.

The research also explored what matters most to students when it comes to choosing where they want to live and work post-graduation.

It wasn’t career opportunities or higher pay, but having a good work-life balance that was considered the biggest motivator (48 per cent of respondents) – mirroring the trend that’s already being seen across the Millennial and Generation Z workforce. This was followed closely by being somewhere with family and friends nearby (47 per cent).

Time spent travelling (43 per cent), housing affordability (43 per cent), career development (42 per cent) and job availability (42 per cent) also ranked highly, while housing availability (7 per cent), being able to start or grow a business (8 per cent) and living in a diverse place (13 per cent) or one with a sense of community (14 per cent) were rated as the least important factors.

The survey forms part of Grant Thornton UK’s Vibrant Capital report – exploring the challenges and opportunities facing London as a global icon, business hub and home to millions of people.

Keely Woodley, Partner at Grant Thornton UK, said: “Our Vibrant Capital research highlights that, while London has its own unique issues, it continues to attract students from across the UK. The challenge facing Scotland is to ensure that it can keep hold of its best and brightest young talent. The survey shows that students want more from their future home than just career and pay.

“There are steps that businesses can take to encourage students to commit themselves to Scotland help improve the overall vibrancy and economic stability of the country. As we continue to see skills shortages across many sectors and the impacts of Brexit on the talent pool become more apparent, this will become an increasingly business critical issue and companies need to be thinking about this now to alleviate potential problems in the future.

“There’s also a clear role for Scottish higher education institutions to play in tackling this problem. Universities need to be proactive in fostering stronger links with local businesses and creating a viable and attractive pathway for departing students to enter the local economy.”

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