The great British brain drain: an analysis of migration to and from Derby

This briefing offers a detailed look at the migration patterns of graduates and students to and from Derby

The economic performance of UK cities is increasingly dependent on the skills of their workforce. Cities across the UK face the challenge of both attracting and retaining high-skilled talent. The Great British Brain Drain investigates migration within the UK, specifically between cities. It finds that many university cities lose their graduates to London, with this movement especially strong for the highest performing graduates with 2.1 or 1st class degrees from Russell Group universities. Despite this, most university cities experience a ‘graduate gain’: they gain more graduates than they lose. This is because the majority of movements to and from cities consist of students moving to a new city for university, and then moving again for work, with over half of all graduates following this pattern.

This briefing is a complementary piece of analysis to the main report, in which we look in detail at the nature of migration and graduate mobility into and out of Derby. First, it looks at overall migration patterns into and out of Derby. Secondly, it looks specifically at the movements of students and new graduates. Finally, it looks at the new graduate labour market in the city.

Net flow migration to Derby, 2009-2015, all ages

Key Findings

Derby’s migration patterns are dominated by movements of university students and older graduates. There was a large net inflow of young people into the city for university, and the largest net outflow occurred as 31 to 45 year-old degree-educated residents left the city. That said, the majority of these leavers remained within a commutable distance to Derby.

Overall Derby gains graduates. The inflow of students to study in the city’s higher education institutions was followed by an outflow of new graduates. But these movements mask the underlying trend of Derby gaining graduates. While many people who had come to study left upon graduation, some remained, and this increased the number of degree holders working in the city.

Derby’s universities play different roles. The University of Derby has a stronger regional pull than the University of Nottingham campus in Derby. The latter attracted a significant share of international students and students from outside the East Midlands, in particular the Greater South East. The retentions rates of the two universities also varied. The University of Derby retained a smaller proportion of its graduates than the University of Nottingham, whose graduates are likely to stay after graduation due to the strong links with the local labour market. However, due to the size of the University of Nottingham, the number of retained graduates from this university represented only a small fraction of the total retained graduates.

Industries play different roles in attracting new graduates. Almost half of the new graduates’ labour force in Derby studied elsewhere and moved to the city for work. This was particularly the case for manufacturing, where 90 per cent moved into the city for work. In contrast, the majority of new graduates in publicly-funded services working in Derby studied in the city.

To increase the number of graduates working in Derby, be they from Derby’s universities or from elsewhere, the city should focus on improving job opportunities. This includes promoting the creation of KIBS jobs as well as building on Derby’s existing strengths in manufacturing.