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

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

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:


Photo by Good Free Photos on Unsplash

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

While you’re here, we’ve got something to ask you: will you join us?

We’re working every day to bring the right people together and generate the ideas to make Wales a world-leading force.

We’re independent of government and political parties. We provide a much-needed space for open, transparent debate about the ideas that can make Wales better.

To continue to do this, we need people like you to join us.

Join us today and you’ll be supporting vital work that’s making our country better than ever.

Find out more