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

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

Briefing published on 12 October 2017 by Gabriele Piazza


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 Coventry. First, it looks at overall migration patterns into and out of Coventry. 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 of people between Coventry and UK cities

Key Findings

Coventry’s migration patterns are dominated by the movements of university students and young graduates. There was a large net inflow of 16 to 21 year olds into the city for university and a large net outflow occurred as 22 to 30 year-old degree-educated residents left the city.

The city attracts a large number of international students. More than a third of the students in Coventry came from outside the UK. This is the highest proportion among UK Cities and reflects the attractiveness of Coventry as a place to study.

Coventry’s universities play different roles. Coventry University has a stronger regional pull than the University of Warwick. The latter attracted a larger share of students from outside the West Midlands. The two universities also had different retention rates: Coventry University retained a higher share of its graduates than the University of Warwick.

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

Industries play different roles in attracting new graduates. Almost two fifths of the new graduate labour force in Coventry studied elsewhere and moved to the city for work. This was particularly the case for manufacturing, where 63 per cent of the graduates employed studied elsewhere. In contrast, the majority of new graduates in publicly-funded services working in Coventry studied in the city.

To increase the size of the graduate labour force in the city, be they from Coventry’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 Coventry’s existing strengths in manufacturing.



17-10-10 The great British brain drain Coventry analysis PDF (3 MB)

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