Brain Drain: Why are graduates leaving the North?
By Charlotte Malton, Consultant

In the past decade, 75,500 highly qualified British residents have moved from the North of England to the South, taking their skills with them.

The “Northern Powerhouse” project has received large investments, but money only goes so far. With a steady stream of skill leaving, we might end up with a well-equipped Powerhouse but no-one to drive it.

How can the North keep these skilled graduates? Or attract them in the first place?

  1. Job Quality

Graduates state this is the most important factor affecting where they relocate, yet are nearly 3 times more likely to say that availability of suitable grad jobs is better in the South than the North.

Misguided perception or genuine reality? Either way, enhancing job image in the North will be a key factor to bringing graduates in.


  1. Social Factors

2 in 5 graduates say they live where they do – North or South – to be close to friends and family.

While this is difficult to influence, encouraging graduates to stay in the North after university might have a snowball effect among friends – if one or two stay, others may follow.


  1. Housing Cost

The North performs well here. More than half of graduates say this is an important factor in deciding where to live, and 25-35 year-old graduates are 9 times more likely to say that affordability of housing is better in the North than the South.

To preserve this attraction, new housing developments and regeneration projects must continue to be affordable.


  1. London’s Appeal

Graduates report an “aura” about London; its perceived identity is frequently viewed as a draw.

“People know about London. They know about Shoreditch or Clapham but they don’t know, to the same degree, about Northern cities and the identities that they have.”  (London, 25-35)

Promoting Northern cities’ identity, arts and cultural scene might help to replicate this effect for Northern cities.


  1. Knowledge is Power

3 in 10 graduates say they don’t know what the Northern Powerhouse is, and 2 in 5 adults in the North of England say they have never heard of it.

The components of the Powerhouse project – jobs, housing, infrastructure – might be appealing, but their benefits must be communicated individually to reach the public, rather than being rolled into the “Northern Powerhouse” package.