Graduates should be matched to local jobs, says report

Universities should encourage graduates to stay in the city where they studied by helping them to find jobs and housing, a report recommends.

October 15, 2014

In return, employers could offer bonuses to support graduate recruits’ student loan repayments, according to the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce’s (RSA) City Growth Commission.

It argues that universities’ public funding means that they have a responsibility to “power” metropolitan growth and to align themselves more closely with local economic priorities, warning that strong labour market flows among higher education leavers currently “present a challenge to matching supply and demand for graduate labour”.

London attracts large numbers of course finishers, while other cities offer more varied prospects and some struggle to retain graduates.

The commission’s report, UniverCities, suggests that local authorities and agencies should partner with higher education institutions to run “refreshers’ weeks” in the run-up to graduation to match students with jobs and help them find accommodation.

It also proposes that cities should launch centralised “graduate clearing” programmes which would pool graduates still looking for work and connect them with local companies that have vacancies.

These businesses could place recruits under “golden handcuffs” deals under which they would receive a bonus after several years’ service to be put towards student loan repayments, the report recommends.

Jim O’Neill, the chairman of the commission, argued that the proposals could help to improve the UK’s economic prospects, since 72 of its universities were based within the 15 largest cities.

“Relatively low numbers of graduates stay in the cities where they graduate, with many either disappearing back overseas or down to London to employ the fruits of their enhanced minds elsewhere,” he said.

“Surely it would be sensible to consider pursuing a number of initiatives to either help or encourage graduates to stay in the metro areas where they graduate, as a key ingredient to helping these cities prosper.”

Other proposals include the establishment of investment funds for higher education by councils and local enterprise partnerships, to fund research in universities that could help the area’s economy, and to address identified graduate skill shortages.

The commission says universities could do more to encourage entrepreneurship among their graduates by partnering with business networks, allowing sandwich years and placements on all courses, and by using their own funds to invest in spin-off enterprises.

There should be more flexibility on graduate entrepreneur visas for the UK’s largest cities, the report adds, suggesting that students could be made eligible for five years after they finish their course, rather than one, providing that their business would be active in the same urban area. This model should be rolled out across the UK if it proves successful, the commission suggests.

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Reader's comments (1)

I agree with many of the points made here and would like to point out the work that Liverpool University does encouraging graduates to stay in the Liverpool City Region. Since mid-2010 The University of Liverpool's "Graduate to Merseyside" initiative has placed over 550 graduates in full time paid roles in organisations throughout the region. Specifically aimed at supporting Merseyside SMEs it has played a significant role in graduate retention in the Liverpool City Region. Supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) it supports graduates from the City's Universities as well as those returning to the region. Key to this service continuing and growing is the ongoing support it receives from the Liverpool City Region LEP, the local authorities, FSB, Chambers of Commerce and other business support agencies. The Liverpool City Region is a vibrant economy and bridging the demand from businesses as well as supporting our graduates to stay in the area a key to further strengthening the City region’s economy. Happy to discuss further -

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