The Institute for Employment Studies and the University of Sussex continue their work to explore aspirations, expectations and real experiences of graduates in the local labour market and beyond. This second report gathers evidence to see whether the pull of Brighton and Hove continues to influence graduates’ decisions about where to live and work, and to understand whether staying on in the city is a good thing for graduates and indeed a good thing for the city. The report is presented as three research papers each using a different research approach, a different research specialist, and a different set of data. But all three papers examine graduate retention.

Brighton and Hove does well in retaining its graduate talent …

Graduates add value to cities – they attract companies, raise incomes, and drive economic growth. The city of Brighton and Hove performs well on key measures found to be positively associated with attracting and retaining graduates. It has a large graduate population, a high level of public service provision, an enterprise culture, and a perceived vibrant arts and cultural scene. It is viewed as a desirable place to live for students and graduates alike, with its friendly atmosphere, good social facilities, shops and boutiques, and green spaces. Over one-third of the University’s graduates want to stay on after graduating and our results show that most are able to do so. Brighton and Hove has a head start on many UK cities.

… but could do better?

However, the cost of living is relatively high, there are concerns about a lack of affordable housing, and there is an enduring perception that it is difficult for graduates to satisfy their career goals locally in the long term. The appeal of the city therefore has a lifespan, and over time graduates become increasingly prepared to move away to find appropriate career opportunities – looking further afield for work or returning home.

Those graduates that do stay on in the city have a strong desire to do so, and are prepared to make career sacrifices, at least in the short-term, to continue to take advantage of all the city has to offer. Although the data suggests that these graduates are not significantly disadvantaged in employment terms, that work experience can lead to more permanent roles, and initial underemployment tends to iron itself out as graduates move from stop-gap jobs into career jobs.
This study indicates that, whilst Brighton and Hove has all the requirements for being a wealthy, economically dynamic city, its full potential has not yet been realised – it needs to work harder to challenge graduate perceptions, understand and support graduates’ initial experiences in the labour market, and make full use of the graduate talent willing and able to live and work in the city.

The study

The report brings together three papers to present a picture of the impact of the Brighton Factor on student and graduate location decisions, and graduate experiences. The first paper involves a statistical analysis of a survey of finalists from the University of Sussex and secondary data on graduate destinations and labour market actions six months after leaving the University. Actual destination data is matched to data on aspirations for over 300 graduates to see whether expectations were met and to contrast the experiences of those who stayed on in the city with those who moved away. The second paper presents findings from in-depth interviews with 18 graduates who planned to stay on in the city. It explores the ways these individuals navigated the move from study into local employment and developed their careers in the two years since leaving the University.  The third paper presents findings from an econometric analysis of a range of national data to explore graduate flows at a city level for 100 cities across the UK.