A report published by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce think tank has advised universities to direct their graduates towards staying in the area where they went to university after graduation in order to contribute to the local economy.
The think tank argued that because of the amount of public funds they receive, universities have a duty to ensure that the public sees a return on this investment.
The report states: “As in other aspects of public spending, there has been increased pressure in recent years to account for value-for-money and return on investment.”
It is also pointed out that contributing to “metro growth” is a way for universities to provide a return on the investment made by the allocation of public funds to them.
The report says: “As recipients of significant public investment, accountability demands that this spending must be assessed for its economic growth benefits.
“Many of the benefits of individual higher education institutions are visible in the economy at a national scale, but because universities are place-based, local impacts are felt acutely; public investment in universities is inherently also a tool of spatial economic development.”
Jim O’Neill, Chairman of the Royal Society of Arts City Growth Commission, echoed these findings in his foreword to the report, in which he commented that there seems to be a significant correlation between the retention rates of graduates in the cities where they studied and the financial prosperity of these cities, with Bristol being one of the most successful.
He said: “There are some cities that have high retention rates, one of the most striking is Bristol, which also just happens to be one of the few metros outside of London that has a gross value added (GVA) above the national average.”
However, overall, the retention rates across the UK are “relatively low”, with many graduates “disappearing back overseas or down to London to employ the fruits of their enhanced minds elsewhere”.
The report ends with a number of recommendations for universities to help them guide their students and graduates towards opportunities in the local area.
Among them are Refreshers’ Weeks designed to “support graduates in making the transition from studying to working in the local area by offering advice, matching them to employment and volunteering opportunities, and helping them find housing.”
The report also proposes graduate Clearing systems designed to connect “graduates who have not found a place in corporate schemes” to firms “looking to recruit”.
Partnerships are encouraged between universities and local employers to offer “golden handcuffs” to students who would commit to staying in the local areas for three to five years after graduation” too.
The report commends existing partnerships that link universities to the local economies through employability and work experience initiatives, as well as facilitating student entrepreneurship.
The University of York offers support for its student entrepreneurs through a number of courses offered as part of the York Award.
These include the York Enterprise Scheme and the ‘Generating innovative business ideas’ course, among others.
It also aims to connect York students to local businesses through the Student Internship Bureau, which “works with local businesses to set up project-based, paid work experience for University of York students with employers looking to utilise their skills, knowledge and enthusiasm”.
A spokesperson from the University of York told Nouse: “We promote employment opportunities in the local area as well as in the UK as a whole and internationally. Our aim is to ensure that York graduates receive the best possible support in pursuing their chosen career, wherever that may be. In reality, a fair proportion of our students choose to stay in the York and Yorkshire area and make a very positive contribution to the regional economy.”