Data bite: how many UK graduates travel across the EU for work?

Figures from the latest graduate destinations survey show that more than two fifths of those working abroad find a job in another EU state

September 1, 2017
crossing the channel
Source: Alamy

Much of the focus on the higher education ramifications of Brexit has been on how it will affect the numbers of European Union students coming to the UK – many of whom often stay and find work after finishing their course.

But how many students from the UK move to the rest of the EU for work after graduating at British universities?

According to data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, other EU nations were an employment destination for 44 per cent of the 7,165 graduates who worked outside the UK after leaving university in 2015-16. Four EU states - France, Spain, Germany, and Ireland – accounted for 28 per cent of the total going overseas. 

The most popular non-EU country for graduates seeking work abroad after university was the US, where 665 went after finishing courses in 2015-16, followed by China (425), Australia (345) and the United Arab Emirates (245).

Overall, the data from Hesa’s Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey for 2015-16 shows a slight downward trend over the past five years for the number of UK graduates working abroad soon after graduation. 

After the 2011-12 academic year, 7,780 (2.7 per cent) of UK graduates found work abroad six months after leaving university and the number peaked at 8,335 (2.7 per cent) graduates for 2013-14. 

The 7,165 UK graduates working abroad following 2015-16 shows a fall in both the actual number as well as the percentage (2.5 per cent). Of the graduates who worked abroad six months after leaving university, 34 per cent had studied science, technology, engineering and maths [STEM] subjects.

“The data suggests that a consistent element of UK graduates embraces travel and working abroad,” said Denise Jones, head of information services at Hesa. “Next year we will be able to identify any changes to graduate destinations that result from the continuing Brexit process.” 

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