The Great British Brain Drain: movement of students and graduates to and from Glasgow

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

Briefing published on 7 February 2019 by Rebecca McDonald


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 investigated migration within the UK, specifically between cities. It found 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 presentation, which is a complementary piece of analysis to The Great British Brain Drain report, looks in detail at the nature of student and graduate mobility into and out of Glasgow. First, it looks at the movement of university students in and out of the city. Secondly, it looks at the migration of graduates as they choose where to start work, and the new graduate labour market this creates in Glasgow.

Take a look at the analysis in SlideShare presentation form:

Key findings

Glasgow’s universities have a strong local student base. A third of the city’s university students in 2014/15 grew up in Glasgow, and three-quarters of students were Scottish. Only 7 per cent of students came from the rest of the UK. But the composition of students varied by institution, with Glasgow School of Art having the most diverse population.

On graduation, almost half of Glasgow’s students chose to stay and work in the city. This was the 4th highest retention rate of all UK cities and a similar size to Birmingham and Aberdeen. Of the graduates which chose to leave and work elsewhere, 11 per cent went to Edinburgh and 8 per cent to London.

Overall the city gained a significant number of graduates. More graduates were gained by the city through the process of university education than were lost to other cities. Two-thirds of the resulting new graduate cohort had studied in the city, while the other third studied elsewhere, but chose to move to Glasgow for work.

This analysis covers the Glasgow-based campuses of the following six universities: The Glasgow School of Art, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, University of the West of Scotland, Glasgow Caledonian University, University of Glasgow and University of Strathclyde.


We would like to thank the University of Glasgow for their support, which made this analysis possible.



19-02-07 The Great British Brain Drain - Graduate Gain and Loss in Glasgow PDF (3 MB)

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