Should I stay or should I go? Reasons for leaving Northern Ireland for study or work

Should I stay or should I go? Reasons for leaving Northern Ireland for study or work

Our previous report explored existing research about why young people choose to leave Northern Ireland and not return.   

Given the lack of up–to–date evidence about motivations for leaving, in this new research we gathered views from more than 300 students through a survey and in–depth interviews, together with 48 interviews with people at a later stage of life who have chosen to live and work outside Northern Ireland.


Our research found four key findings:


1. Students clearly said that poor community relations in Northern Ireland were a reason to leave and not return.  People who had chosen to live and work outside Northern Ireland after graduation agreed that this was a strong motivation to remain away.

2. Both groups reported that political instability and ineffective government in Northern Ireland were motivations to leave and not return.

3. Students said that a broader range of higher education courses, greater availability of places and a higher quality student experience elsewhere encouraged them to leave Northern Ireland.

4. Students were strongly motivated by the close connections between university courses outside Northern Ireland and high quality undergraduate placements, along with the greater range of graduate jobs, higher salaries and opportunities for progression available elsewhere.


Our project concluded with seven key policy recommendations:


1. The Executive should develop a comprehensive and ambitious strategy to address the loss of talented young people from Northern Ireland.

2. Together as a society Northern Ireland needs to acknowledge the impact of poor community relations on young people’s decisions to study and work elsewhere.

3. The Executive needs to demonstrate that government is working to move Northern Ireland forward.

4.  The Executive should complete a full review of the funding of Higher Education.

5. The Executive should work with universities and employers to enhance the range and quality of opportunities for undergraduate placements and graduate jobs in Northern Ireland.

6. Alternative routes to higher education must be considered as part of a strategy to retain and upskill young people in Northern Ireland.

7. The Executive should take action to address specific issues that create barriers to diaspora returning to Northern Ireland.

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