For the most part, when we think about social mobility, our concerns are with those on the lower rungs of society’s ladder; people “for whom life is a struggle and who work all hours to keep their heads above water” as Prime Minster Theresa May put it in her most recent speech on the matter. One of the issues often considered is how likely are those from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter into higher education. This is often viewed as the direct route to the top jobs in the UK where a degree is almost always a pre-requisite now. The hope is that, if society is meritocratic, rewarding those for effort and achievement rather than family background, if we get more disadvantaged kids into higher education then this will equalise their chances of reaching the top jobs. Unfortunately, in the UK, this does not seem to be the case. Recent research by ourselves, and colleagues from Cambridge, Bath and Warwick university has revealed that higher education is not the leveller we might hope it to be, and that socio-economic differences persist throughout higher education and into the graduate labour market, even comparing those with similar educational attainment.
Every few weeks, a new report emerges raising concerns about the graduate labour market in Britain.
Only recently in the UK, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) came out with a plea for a halt to the expansion drive in higher education. Earlier in the summer, an Institute for Fiscal Studies report, while noting that the graduate earnings premium had been steady (or increasing, even) for many years, warned that the future might not be so bright.
Indeed, there seems to be growing concern that, maybe, higher education has expanded to the limit over the past 20 years and can take no more. So, should governments be worried about the underemployment of graduates – that is, graduates doing supposedly non-graduate jobs?
Our short answer to this question is: “Yes, but…” Let us explain why.
By Elisabetta Marinelli (Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Seville, Spain), Fernandez-Zubieta Ana (Institute for Advanced Social Studies-Spanish National Research Council (IESA-CSIC) and Elena-Perez Susana (Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Seville, Spain)
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of their institution of employment.
The mobility of researchers, particularly internationally, has been encouraged at the policy level to promote enriching experiences, build networks and facilitate the processes of knowledge and technology generation and dissemination. We estimate the impact of international research mobility on the careers of established university researchers working in five European countries—France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. We find that stayers and researchers who return to the country of their PhD, are the most likely to achieve tenure, and repeat-migrants – who have left the country of their PhD and moved countries again since – are the least likely.