Thames Valley in competition for London for future talent

Grant Thornton study reveals South East is worst performing region in the UK for keeping hold of its graduates.

The South East is suffering a ‘brain drain’ of graduates, with less than 1 in 6 planning to remain in the region, Vibrant Capital research by Grant Thornton has revealed. The new study has found four in ten students currently studying in the South East would like to move to London, while only 14% wish to stay after graduation.

As students return for the new academic year, the research – which surveyed 1,080 university students from across the country – showed a distinct regional divide when it comes to whether university students stay or leave the area after graduating, with some parts of the UK losing the vast majority of their student talent post-graduation.

The Vibrant Capital report also identified a notable disparity between the regions when it comes to whether young people choose to go to university close to home or further afield. Two thirds (66%) of South East students want to leave the region to go to university and of these, 37% want to go to London.

These findings sit in contrast however to results found in the Vibrant Economy report released earlier this year which ranks local authority areas across the UK. Of the 67 local authority areas which make up the South East region, two-thirds of them rank in the top 40% nationally for best places to live and work. This is reflected particularly in criteria such as ‘inclusion and equality’ – which assesses if everyone in an area is benefiting from economic growth – nine of the top ten performing UK areas are in the South East.

To better understand the decisions students make, the report asked them what businesses could do to encourage them to stay in the South East and how it could be more competitive. In response to this, students ranked financial support as a top priority with help to pay for housing, daily essentials or student loans among those considered most valuable.

The research also explored what matters most to students when it comes to choosing where they want to live and work post-graduation. Time spent travelling (43%), housing affordability (43%), career development (42%) and job availability (42%) all ranked highly. Softer benefits were also noted as worthy contributions for businesses looking to attract young talent. Leisure benefits like gym memberships or tickets to cultural events were all noted, whilst nearly a quarter of those surveyed said the ability to work flexibly would influence their decision of where to live and work.

Jim Rogers, Thames Valley and Southampton Practice Lead commented, “Knowing that students are choosing to study and live in London is important only if we use the knowledge to better understand how we can attract and retain talent. Businesses in the South East offer great financial or leisure benefits but we need to communicate this to students effectively.

“In our Vibrant Economy Index the region as a whole scores exceptionally well. Reading, for example, ranks in the top 20% nationally for its dynamism and opportunity which is how we assess an area’s entrepreneurialism, success in innovating and the skills of its population to drive future growth. We know that the area ticks a lot of the boxes in terms of meeting students’ top criteria – the jobs market and economy are both thriving here.

“Businesses and universities need to be proactive about fostering stronger links between each other and better consider how they can create an easy and attractive pathway from study into the workplace so that students and graduates remain a part of our local economy.”

Grant Thornton

Grant Thornton is one of the world's leading organisations of independent assurance, tax and advisory firms.

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