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Recent Graduates of Universities in Northern Ireland now Working in 31 Countries

HESA has released data which shows that 375 of the 7,540 2015/16 graduates1 from universities and other higher education providers in Northern Ireland are working in 31 of the world’s 195 countries.

However, more than half (58.1%) of the graduates from Northern Ireland universities who are working outside of the UK have chosen to work in the Republic of Ireland – compared to 5.8% of UK2 graduates who are working abroad and who have chosen to work in Ireland.

Charts showing the country destinations of graduates from universities in Northern Ireland

Of the students who are working abroad after studying at Northern Ireland’s universities, 41.1% graduated in STEM3 subjects. This is considerably higher than the 34.3% of UK graduates from all UK universities who are working abroad and who graduated in science, technology, engineering, and maths.

HESA’s annual Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE4) survey revealed that the countries which attracted most leavers from Northern Ireland’s universities were:

Ireland 220
Spain 25
United States of America 25
Australia 15
Canada 15
Qatar 15
France 10
China 10
United Arab Emirates 5
Germany 5

The top ten countries for graduates from both the whole of the UK and Northern Ireland individually, include four EU states – France, Spain, Germany, and Ireland. These countries attracted 28.2% of those 2015/16 student leavers from the whole of the UK who are working abroad, but 69.3% from universities in Northern Ireland – because of the large number who are now working in Ireland.

The top ten destination countries for the whole of the UK have remained unchanged for three years. The Northern Ireland destinations vary from the whole of the UK by the inclusion of Qatar instead of Switzerland.

The 375 graduates from Northern Ireland’s universities are part of the total 281,750 2015/16 UK graduates5, of which 7,165 leavers were working abroad in 173 (89%) of the world’s nations, just six months after graduation.

The information also shows a slight downward trend over five years for the number of UK graduates working abroad soon after graduation. In 2011/12, 7,780 (2.7%) UK graduates were employed in 183 other countries, six months after leaving university – with the number peaking at 8,335 (2.7%) graduates, also in 183 countries, in 2013/14. Most recently, the 7,165 UK graduates working abroad, indicates a decrease in both the actual number, as well as the percentage (2.5%), of the UK graduate population who are employed in other countries.

“The data suggests that a consistent element of UK graduates embraces travel and working abroad,” said Denise Jones, Head of Information Services at HESA. “The DLHE survey can give higher education providers, policy-makers, industry, graduate employers, local government planners, and recruitment consultants unique and comprehensive insight into what students do following graduation.”

“Next year we will be able to identify any changes to graduate destinations that result from the continuing Brexit process. The DLHE survey includes country of destination, which can be linked to other HESA data on employment rates of graduates, level of qualifications, sex, subject or specialism, and ethnicity – all of which can be provided with expert insight.”

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For more information on the DLHE survey

All UK higher education providers have access to this data via the Heidi Plus business intelligence tool


HESA (the Higher Education Statistics Agency) is the recognised source of data on higher education in the UK. Its experts collect, analyse, and disseminate accurate and comprehensive statistical information on all aspects of UK higher education to support the strategic aims of its users and enhance the effectiveness of the sector as a whole. It is a charity and a company limited by guarantee. It operates as an independent organisation, working in close partnership with higher education providers, regulators, funders, government departments, policy makers, and other stakeholders.

This information is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

1 Student leavers who are UK domiciled2 full and part-time, undergraduate, first degree, post-graduate, and doctorate students from UK universities and other higher education providers who responded to the survey and had a known country of employment outside the UK. This survey had a response rate of 77.5% of UK domiciled leavers with a known destination.

2 For the purposes of analysis, this survey is of ‘UK domiciled’ students - those whose normal residence before starting their course was in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, or the Channel Islands.

3 STEM subjects are science, technology, engineering and maths. Click here for a full list of STEM subjects (1-A)

4 The Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey consists of all UK, European Union and non-EU domiciled leavers for whom destinations data is expected and sought from UK HE providers in 2015/16 six months after graduation.

5 2015/16 graduates with a known country of employment.


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