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Perception of Place: Its Role in the Attraction and Retention of Graduates and their Human Capital to Greater Manchester

Brophy, S. R (2020) Perception of Place: Its Role in the Attraction and Retention of Graduates and their Human Capital to Greater Manchester. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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The understanding of graduate migration is limited mainly to international or interregional flows in the UK, and not much is known about the patterns and drivers of graduate migration at the local level. This thesis uses Greater Manchester in the North West of England as the site for a mixed-methods study that investigates graduate migration in a city context. The research design combines the econometric modelling of microdata provided by the Higher Education Statistical Authority (HESA) with the analysis of primary survey and interview data, whilst also offering a new conceptualisation of Richard Florida’s theory of place quality. This thesis represents the first study to use HESA data to model graduate migration on a local level using binomial and multinomial logistic regression. The findings demonstrate that patterns of graduate retention in Greater Manchester reflect existing hierarchies and inequalities related to geography, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and employment. This thesis also offers a new conceptualisation of Florida’s place quality theory by relating locational choice to social structures and subjectivities. The survey and interview findings contribute additional evidence that graduate decision making is more complex than Human Capital Theory would suggest, and decisions about where to live and work after leaving university are linked to place attachment, identity, constraints, and subjectivities. Finally, it is argued that the study of graduate migration suffers from being under-conceptualised and under-theorised, and this thesis will bring greater clarity to the issue by making linkages between higher education, human capital, migration, and local economic development. After having brought greater conceptual clarity, this thesis offers a new analytic process to model graduate retention within cities. This thesis will argue that how we measure graduate retention has important policy implications, and policymakers should consider a mix of metrics when developing graduate retention targets for cities.

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