Retaining and Regaining talent.

University qualifications are important for driving economic growth, but Northern Ireland continues to lose huge numbers of young people to elsewhere in the UK for study and work. This has hurt the economy for decades and will become an even bigger issue as employment trends change.

The ‘brain drain’ has been a feature of Northern Ireland’s economy for decades. Students leave in large numbers for study elsewhere in the UK, and most do not return.  To be ready for global changes in the job market, Northern Ireland needs to retain and regain more of this talent.

Our latest project, ‘Retaining and regaining talent in Northern Ireland’ highlights that the Northern Ireland Executive needs a clear strategy to recognise the importance of developing and retaining graduate talent,  as part of a wider plan for investing in skills.

Around 17,500 students from Northern Ireland are enrolled in courses in England, Scotland or Wales. That is equivalent to an entire university’s worth of young people – and is around two thirds of the 25,000 total of students currently studying at either Queen’s University or Ulster University.

Historically, around two thirds of those who move away do not return to Northern Ireland when they graduate – so over 11,000 of those young people from Northern Ireland currently at universities in Great Britain can be expected to stay away.

Despite the high levels of outflowing students and low levels of incoming students, there is limited research to understand educational migration and an absence of policy response from the Northern Ireland Executive. The next stage of our project will explore the evidence gap to contribute local data about the motivating factors associated with educational migration. 

At this stage of the research we are interested in hearing from students who have left Northern Ireland for study in Great Britain and elsewhere.  We want to understand their experience and views of educational migration. 

Interested students can take the brief 3–4 minute survey below:



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