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.

In autumn 2016, the Centre for Cities published The Great British Brain Drain1 that looked at the migration between the UK, specifically between cities, with a focus on the movements of new graduates.

The report found that:

  • Movers tend to be more skilled than the population overall: degree holders represented 32 per cent of the population but 38 per cent of all the people that moved.
  • Younger degree holders tend to move larger distances with London attracting the largest share of these young graduates. In contrast, older degree holders don’t tend to move as far and tend to remain within a commutable distance of the city they leave.
  • 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.
  • 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 graduate mobility into and out of Preston. Firstly, it looks at overall migration patterns to and from Preston. Secondly, it looks specifically at the movements of students and new graduates. Finally, it looks at the new graduate labour market in the city.

Centre for Cities uses the Primary Urban Area (PUA) definition of cities. For Preston this comprises of Chorley, Preston and South Ribble. For more information visit: https://www.centreforcities.org/puas/.


  • 1 Swinney P and Williams M (2016), The Great British Brain Drain: where graduates move and why, London: Centre for Cities.