Research Programme

The patterns, processes and impacts of post-student migration

Maria Evandrou, Jane Falkingham, Jo Sage

Project summary


This project seeks to fill a ‘data gap’ which has, to date, dampened efforts to understand the patterns and processes of post-student migration in the UK. This absence of data has stemmed from the complex sequencing of migration events during the transition from studenthood to financial and residential independence and the economic focus of pre-existing data sources.

The research has seen robust retrospective quantitative data collected, enabling event history analysis of the factors influencing post-student migration, as well as collecting data on the reasons why post-students migrate.  It is examining the significance of living arrangements, social networks, cultural and locational factors (in addition to employment-led factors), and exploring the impacts of post-student returns to the parental home on mid-life family exchange frameworks. There is a particular focus on how return migration may constrain the resources of the mid-life ‘sandwich generation’, resulting in trade-offs and opportunity costs.


Using an online survey of university alumni, data on the migration histories of students who graduated from the University of Southampton between 2001-2007 has been collected. The survey was run between March-May 2012. An invitation to take part in the survey was sent to 13,700 alumni. From this, 971 respondents submitted robust migration histories. To understand more about the complexities of the patterns and processes of migration during the post-student period, an innovative calendar tool was developed to record details about respondents’ lives across the five-year period after they left university. Information has also been collected about respondents who returned to live with their parents.

The study design has been piloted in Southampton, with a view to rolling it out across other Higher Education Institutions in the UK, with support from the ESRC and other UK research councils, enabling analyses of post-student migrants from different institutional and geographic contexts.


Analysis is currently in progress, and preliminary analyses have largely been descriptive. Preliminary findings suggest that the patterns and processes of graduate migration in the UK are complex, with approximately one quarter of respondents being highly mobile during the five year period after leaving university (they moved between 5-8 times), including long and short-distance moves with varied living arrangements, housing types and tenure. In addition, parental support is critical for smoothing the pathway from university to independence; half of respondents reported a return to the parental home during the five year period after university. These demands on the resources of parents may impact on other groups who are also reliant on support from mid-life adults – namely older people requiring informal care from their adult children.

Event history techniques will be used next to analyse the migration, employment and partnership trajectories of respondents.


Project activities

Date Activity Description
26 April 2012 Presentation at the '2nd Geographies of Education Conference' held at Loughborough University. The paper ‘The complex processes of post-student migration and returning to the parental home’ written by Jo Sage, Jane Falkingham and Maria Evandrou was presented at this event.
2-3 July 2012 Presentation at the 'Innovative Perspectives on Population Mobility Conference' held at St Andrews University. The paper ‘The complex processes of post-student migration and returning to the parental home’ written by Jo Sage, Jane Falkingham and Maria Evandrou was presented at this event.



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