It’s time for students to come together and stop the Welsh “Brain Drain”

Theo Davies-Lewis and Owain James share news of a new student-led initiative to encourage graduates to return to Wales

Wales is facing a “Brain Drain” crisis.

 

That isn’t a word to throw around loosely these days, but this pressing issue that faces Wales is one that will jeopardise our country’s future development – as attested to by our economists, educationalists, and politicians.

 

Only last year it was revealed that 23,807 graduates came to Wales between 2013 and 2016, but 44,335 left the country. This means that Wales lost a staggering 20,528 graduates in just three years.

 

This fact is all the more alarming if we consider the Welsh Government’s generous investment in our youth. For example, the Welsh Government has been contributing to Welsh students’ maintenance and costly university fees.

 

A significant number of students leave Wales for higher education; this means, of course, that the Welsh Government’s money has been sent on a large scale to universities outside of Wales. As many of these students do not return to Wales after graduating, much of this substantial investment is not realised in Wales. What is sown in Wales is reaped elsewhere.

 

At this point, we hold our hands up: we are case studies of the types of students who have benefited from this scheme, but what we desperately want to see is Wales as a melting pot of opportunities for careers across different sectors.

 

Of course, it’s not hard to think of why some current students and graduates would not want to come back to Wales. We as a nation are talked down a lot, in economic and political terms, and even when it comes to our language. All one has to do is see the attacks on the Welsh language from UK journalists to see evidence for this, and it must certainly contribute to the unfair image of Wales as the UK’s backward-looking backwater.

 

So, now more than ever, we need our current students and best graduates back in Wales. We need to change the perceptions of our country. We need people to contribute to our public life, our education system, and our financial services.

 

That’s why we’ve launched our solution, led by students, to the “Brain Drain”.

 

The Darogan Network is for students and graduates from the best universities in the UK to learn more about the opportunities that there are back home. We provide an online platform where students can join our members’ area and will be able to connect with other students, as well as businesses, organisations, and individual leaders, who want to utilise their skills and experiences. You can still see our work if you’re not a student, and support us along the way.

 

After all, we see ourselves as a broad church of ideas for establishing the future development of Wales.

 

But the core of all of this is our young people. We have felt compelled to take action and encourage students to join us, and that’s why we have written to all Welsh societies in every Russell Group university, in order to tell people about the work we are doing to facilitate a forum for the stimulation of networking, ideas, and connections.

 

We want businesses and organisations to sign up and become partners; this will mean that they can connect with the brightest students and new graduates from Wales who are now spread all over the UK.

 

Already we have gathered the support of notable figures such as Dame Hilary Boulding, the former Principal of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and now President of Trinity College (Oxford), who is our Honorary President. This demonstrates the ambition we have to connect students and graduates with some of the most successful people Wales has produced.

 

Today, this initiative is timelier than ever. There appears to be inaction over the issue of how we get students back to our own country to contribute. A Welsh diaspora around the world has already been identified, but our graduates should feel that they can not only fulfil their potential in their home country if they want to, but also know that their contribution is needed.

 

And while “Darogan” is a bit of ancient term to bring back in the twenty-first century, it is just as appropriate now as it was in a mythological context. As many readers will know, it refers to the ‘Mab Darogan’ (The Son of Destiny) in ancient Welsh mythology, when the old Welsh bards prophesied that this messianic figure would return one day, after a long period of slumber, perhaps, or a journey to a foreign land, in order to redeem the nation. But now, in the twenty-first century, we need more than just one figure to return to Wales: we need thousands.

 

To find out more about the Darogan network, visit the website today: www.darogancymru.com

 

Photo by Good Free Photos on Unsplash

All articles published on Click on Wales are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.

Theo Davies-Lewis and Owain James are the co-chairs of Darogan and Welsh students studying at Oxford

3 thoughts on “It’s time for students to come together and stop the Welsh “Brain Drain”

  1. Really? An organisation that aims to bring graduates back to Wales has Dame Hilary Boulding as honorary president. Without a hint of irony you tell us that she is:-
    “The former Principal of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and now President of Trinity College (Oxford)….. This demonstrates the ambition we have to connect students and graduates with some of the most successful people Wales has produced.”
    And so the best example that you can provide is someone who has left Cardiff for Oxford?
    I don’t pretend to be an expert but from reading the BBC piece that you link to it seems that we are in much the same position with regard to graduate loss as the two areas of the UK that most closely mirror our socio-economic profile, the North East and North Yorkshire and Humberside. In other words; people follow job opportunities from less prosperous to more prosperous regions.
    I’m a bit baffled by this apparent non-sequitur:-
    “We as a nation are talked down a lot, in economic and political terms, and even when it comes to our language. All one has to do is see the attacks on the Welsh language from UK journalists to see evidence for this, and it must certainly contribute to the unfair image of Wales as the UK’s backward-looking backwater.”

    I can only imagine that you are referencing the research that the Welsh statistician, Hywel Jones, did after the 2001 census that showed that, amongst young people, non Welsh speakers and people with family links to England were the most likely to migrate from Wales.

    http://www.lse.ac.uk/socialPolicy/Researchcentresandgroups/BSPS/pdfs/2007_posters_Jones.pdf

    If so, yes you have a point. Welsh language ability is increasingly key to employment and advancement in Wales and the converse is true; any Welsh born graduate without Welsh fluency is better seeking their fortune elsewhere. Since only 11% of Welsh adults are fluent in Welsh I imagine that we lose a serious number of graduates who are put off by the ever increasing demand for Welsh fluency.

  2. “This means that Wales lost a staggering 20,528 graduates in just three years.”

    Is there any break down on the subjects they studied? Not all courses are taught in Wales, for example veterinary medicine is only taught in England and Scotland.

    I studied at university in Wales, a degree (B.Eng) and then an M.Sc. I left Wales for one simple reason, I couldn’t get a job in Wales., that was in the 90s. I was lucky to get an engineering job in England and luckier that my job involved travel. Like most people who travel I found out two things about myself: 1) I liked travelling to new sites and I didn’t want a 5 day a week, 9-5 job in some office. 2) Living for weeks in a dingy B&B, and boy starting out some of them were absolutely dire, was okay if the money was good and you were on the make with the expenses, which everyone was.

    Since then I have travelled for work around the UK and overseas, with a few projects in Wales. Aberthaw Power Station, Port Talbot steel works and Milford Haven (the Dragon LNG project). On my travels I have meet scores of Welshmen, and a few women, in the same position as me. Contractors who move freely from one project to the next project, working outside Wales but with homes and their family in Wales and no desire to settle down in a permanent job, in Wales or anywhere. I have also meet a lot who have decided to live overseas.

    Would I work in Wales again? Yes, if the money was right. Would I take up a permanent job, in Wales, England or anywhere else? Again for the right money. Although hand on heart I would probably leave after a few years.

    Not everyone who leaves Wales for work reasons lives outside Wales. Not everyone who leaves Wales wants to come back to work permanently in Wales. To keep students in Wales we need the jobs and we need those jobs to pay enough to keep them and the opportunity for them to progress their careers.

  3. In a small country like ours the Best and the Brightest are unlikely to be adequately professionally challenged or rewarded. They are as capable as any on a global stage and will understandably want to take their part on it.

    The author is correct in pointing out the correlation between numbers of graduates (proper subjects mind !) within the population and the generation of wealth in the economy. Simply put we need more graduates of any hue with entrepreneurial qualities coming here – whether returning diaspora or incomers. The danger is that creating an environment of Welsh elitism will deter the latter group.

    Our country has so much to offer these millennial graduates who increasingly seek experience above material reward. We have beautiful countryside, affordable housing, reasonable travel infrastructure,warm hearts and functioning communities. With their energy great things might be possible. We should be marketing these regional attributes as an alternative lifestyle to post graduates in their late twenties who, right now, are realising they face the prospect a life of drudgery servicing a mortgage on a dog box house in Basingstoke yet harbour a desire to settle down and bring up their own children somewhere nice.

    Pitch Wales to this group in the way that New Zealand successfully markets itself. Don’t sink back into the mire of petty nationalism and drive them further away.

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