We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.

How does the region you study in affect your graduate employment prospects?

Will the location of where you study affect which job you end up doing? Here we offer some advice on how graduates fare depending on where you live…

So you’re choosing somewhere to study (and comparing stats and information in our university profiles). You might already have narrowed it down to ones with the things you’re looking for – close to home, in a city, on a leafy campus. Will its location affect which job you end up doing?

You might not think it – but yes, it may well do. The stats suggest that at least 40% of graduates who study in a particular region end up staying there to work – and in some parts of the country it’s even higher.

About two thirds of graduates who study in the North West stay there after graduation – particularly in Manchester, for example – and nearly 80% of graduates studying in Scotland stay when they complete their studies.

Love where you live

When you’re choosing somewhere to study (and comparing stats and information in our university profiles). You might already have narrowed it down to ones with the things you’re looking for – close to home, in a city, on a leafy campus. 

There are lots of reasons why, but the simplest is that a lot of young people fall in love a little with the towns they go to university in – it’s where you live when you first leave home, make loads of new friends and where your social life is.

So it’s not a bad idea to bear that in mind when choosing courses and universities, because even if you’re not one of the ones who stay, a lot of people do. And, of course, the jobs market is not the same around the country.

Regional industries

London is the obvious exception. About one in five graduates are drawn to the bright lights of the capital, with some industries – fashion, central government, the media and finance - not really found anywhere else in the country. London has the most graduates and the highest wages, so naturally, London universities boast higher starting salary figures.

But London also has the most unemployed graduates as well, simply because so many go there to try to find work – and because some parts of the city see significant hardship. And there are some industries, such as many areas of engineering, which are hard to find in London.

Other examples of industries that are strong in particular regions include:

  • the oil and gas industry pays well, has interesting careers and hasn’t been hit badly by the recession - you might want to look at cities like Aberdeen or even go abroad
  • manufacturing and engineering - particularly vehicle manufacturing - in the Midlands, particularly Derby and Warwickshire, whilst Birmingham is the largest graduate jobs market outside London
  • utilities and chemicals manufacturing in the North East, with some civil and mechnical engineering in Newcastle
  • recruitment, law, financial services, the pharmaceutical industry and tourism and leisure in the North West, with Manchester having an especially strong jobs market
  • finance, some parts of IT and manufacturing in Yorkshire – Leeds is a good city for graduate job-seeking
  • in the East of England, Cambridge has a thriving jobs market for science, whilst Peterborough is good for marketing and Norwich for environmental sciences
  • in the South West, Bath is good for architecture and Bristol has a wide jobs market
  • in Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow have a wide range of jobs, and good financial service and law opportunities.

This isn’t a full list, but it does give you an idea that some parts of the country have different job opportunities than others. Health, education and social care are spread all over the country, and there are some job opportunities in these sectors in most parts of the UK.

Regional jobs markets can skew the stats

The recession has made some of the differences between regions starker, though.

The South East has fared much better than other parts of the country, with the North and Wales particularly hard-hit. So, if you compare two identical courses, one in, say, Southampton, and one in Newcastle, don’t worry too much if the Newcastle unemployment rate is a bit higher (do worry if they’re a lot higher, of course!).

They’re not working in the same jobs market – and you could even be seeing figures suggesting that some cities are such great places to live that graduates don’t mind not having a super job just after graduation, as long as they can be living somewhere they enjoy, with their friends. After all, nobody said you absolutely have to start a high-flying career as soon as you graduate.

You can find out what graduates on different types of courses went on to do six months after graduating on any course page on Which? University – including a handy commentary of what the stats might mean for you.

Which? University provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU), an independent research charity specialising in higher education and graduate employment. 


Search Which? University

Find further advice or search for information on a course or university