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Press release

  • 7 May 2008

Why University of Sussex students stay loyal

The attractions of the seaside city of Brighton and Hove have long played their part in winning over talented students keen to study at the University of Sussex.

Now a new study - The Brighton Factor: graduating into the local labour market - from the independent Institute of Employment Studies (IES), based at the University of Sussex, shows that the initial attraction to both university and city can develop into something longer-lasting.

However, the challenge for the city of Brighton and Hove, says the study, is to capitalise on this rich resource of highly-skilled potential citizens by providing affordable housing and the right sort of graduate job opportunities.

According to the findings, based on a survey of more than 600 final-year students at Sussex, the quality of life in the city is important to students, particularly those originally from outside the South East. The findings, by IES and the University's Career Development & Employment Centre (CDEC), also show that the University of Sussex is able to pull in students from outside the local area and generate "considerable" loyalty to the University among its graduates.

This ability was attributed to the quality teaching experience, the attractions of a campus located in the Downs and access to the vibrant lifestyle of Brighton and Hove. The majority of final-year students felt they had made the right choice in coming to the University and would recommend Sussex as a good place to study (85 and 80 per cent respectively), while 46 per cent would consider returning for further study.

The city, too, generates a positive feel, with 71 per cent of finishing students planning to stay on to live and/or work in the South East or London after finishing, and 36 per cent wanting to stay on in the city itself. The pull of the city is particularly strong for younger students and those from technical subjects (such as maths, informatics, engineering, physics and astronomy) and arts and humanities subjects - vital to the city's economy.

Those planning to stay on are not just locals - the city, with its friendly atmosphere, proximity to London and the sea, its green spaces and good social facilities, appears to continue to hold an appeal to those who were drawn to the University from further afield.

However, the lack of affordable housing and graduate-level job opportunities were identified as critical factors in deciding whether or not to stay on in Brighton. Only 38 per cent of those surveyed thought they could find a job in or near the city that would match their level of qualification, with non-local students most pessimistic in this regard.

London is therefore a significant draw for prospective graduates, with 24 per cent planning to work in London. Graduates wishing to remain in Brighton, therefore, are likely to be commuters.

Prospective graduates also indicated that the city could do better on public healthcare, public transport and tackling road congestion.

Welcoming the report, Linda Buckham, Director of CDEC at the University of Sussex said: 'This research is the first part of a longer study to understand more about Sussex graduates, the importance of high-level skills and the contribution graduates play in the local and regional economy.'

Notes for editors

Summary facts

Key factors for students when choosing a university are:

  • suitable course (97 per cent)
  • teaching quality (86 per cent)
  • quality of city life (71 per cent)
  • first impressions of the university (67 per cent)
  • research reputation (64 per cent)

The top five factors that make a city attractive after graduation:

  • friendly atmosphere (91 per cent)
  • availability of affordable housing (85 per cent)
  • good restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs (82 per cent)
  • good public transport (81 per cent)
  • good standard of healthcare (77 per cent)

What really matters:

  • genuine graduate level opportunities and jobs are a 'must have'  (78 per cent)
  • decent pay (72 per cent)
  • and low unemployment in the area (60 per cent).

The study

The study was undertaken by the University of Sussex Career Development and Employment Centre (CDEC) and the independent Institute for Employment Studies (IES). It involved a postal and parallel online survey of 648 final-year students from undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the University of Sussex. The survey covered UK, wider EU and international students, and finalists were surveyed in May and June 2007. The questionnaire explored aspirations and expectations - essentially what finalists want to do when they graduate (and in the longer term), where they want to be, and how they plan to get there.

The survey and the report of the findings represent the first stage in a larger study that will explore graduate flows and will map and measure early career experiences of graduates who stay on in, and those who leave, Brighton and Hove. It builds on the work of the Institute around graduate migration at a regional level by providing a rich picture of movement at a city level. The next stages of the work will look at whether expectations are met, whether those wishing to stay local find their way into graduate level jobs and how the city can make the best use of these highly skilled graduates that want to stay.


For further press information about this study and similar work within IES, please contact Emma Pollard, Marc Cowling and Linda Barber on 01273 686751. Or contact Bridget Millmore, CDEC, University of Sussex 01273 678429.

The Brighton Factor: graduating into the local labour market, Pollard E, Barber L, Millmore B, Hunt W, Cowling M. IES Report 450, April 2008

Available online at:

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune or Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888 or email


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