The share of graduates varied across English travel to work areas (TTWAs); 49.3% of young people had graduate level qualifications or higher in London, while this figure was 12.9% for Great Yarmouth.
Major Conurbation TTWAs had the highest share of graduates among their population in 2018 to 2019 (28.9%) and Rural TTWAs had the lowest share (23.0%).
The majority of TTWAs, 133 out of 149, observed a lower graduate share than the share of home residents from that TTWA achieving graduate level qualifications (graduate participation rate).
Major Conurbation TTWAs had the highest median graduate retention rate (68.1%), compared with Rural TTWAs, which had the lowest (41.2%); the retention rate of graduates and non-graduates was higher than 50% in the majority (84 out of 149) of TTWAs.
Graduate participation rates varied less than the graduate share; Tunbridge Wells had the highest graduate participation rate (46.5%) while Great Yarmouth had the lowest (18.5%).
This analysis was conducted on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Secure Research Service (SRS). This work contains statistical data from the ONS, which is Crown Copyright. The use of the ONS statistical data in this work does not imply the endorsement of the ONS in relation to the interpretation or analysis of the statistical data. This work uses research datasets which may not exactly reproduce National Statistics aggregates.Back to table of contents
The analysis in this section uses the location in which individuals took their Key Stage 4 (KS4) exams to estimate the graduate participation rate of home residents by travel to work area (TTWA).
Figure 4: The graduate participation rate was similar across different TTWA classifications
The percentage of individuals who achieved a degree by the TTWA in which they studied Key Stage 4 grouped by the TTWA classification in the tax year 2018 to 2019
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The median graduate participation rates of each group were close to the median for all TTWAs of 29.7%:
30.6% for Large Town or City TTWAs
30.5% for Rural TTWAs
28.5% for Major Conurbation TTWAs
27.0% for Small Town TTWAs
There was large variation in the graduate participation rate within each TTWA group. The largest variation was in the Small Town TTWA group, which included the TTWAs with the highest graduate participation rate (Tunbridge Wells, 46.5%) and the lowest (Great Yarmouth, 18.5%) in England.
There was less variation in the median graduate participation rate compared with the median graduate share across TTWAs. The range between the maximum and the minimum across TTWAs was smaller for the graduate participation rate (28 percentage points) than for the graduate share (36 percentage points).
TTWAs had a higher graduate participation rate where a high proportion of older residents had some form of higher education. Figure 5 plots data from Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) and the 2011 Census, which shows the positive relationship between the graduate participation rate for individuals in LEO in 2018 to 2019 and high education levels (Level 4 and above) for all residents aged 35 to 64 years in 2011.
Figure 5: TTWAs had a higher graduate participation rate where a high proportion of older residents had some form of higher education
The percentage of individuals in the LEO dataset who had achieved a degree in the TTWA they studied Key Stage 4 (KS4) in 2018 to 2019 by the share of individuals aged 34 to 64 years in 2012 who had achieved an NVQ level four and above in each TTWA
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This section includes analysis of the retention rate for all individuals as well as comparing the retention rate for graduates and non-graduates.
Figure 6: Major Conurbation TTWAs had the highest retention rate for graduates, non-graduates, and all individuals
The retention rate of individuals who studied Key Stage 4 (KS4) in a TTWA grouped by the TTWA classification in the tax year 2018 to 2019
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The median TTWA retention rate for all individuals (including graduates and non-graduates) was 70.1%. Out of all TTWA types, Major Conurbation TTWAs had the highest median retention rate (80.4%) while Rural TTWAs had the lowest (61.1%). In the majority of TTWAs (84 out of 149), the graduate and non-graduate retention rate was higher than 50%.
Major Conurbation TTWAs also had a high retention rate when considering graduates and non-graduates separately. All Major Conurbation TTWAs except Slough and Heathrow had graduate and non-graduate retention rates above the England median, while 30 out of 33 Rural TTWAs had a graduate and non-graduate retention rate below the England median.
London was the only TTWA to have a higher graduate retention rate than its non-graduate retention rate (84.2% compared with 83.7%). This contributed to the high graduate share in London.
Figure 7: London was the only TTWA to have a higher graduate retention rate than its non-graduate retention rate
The graduate retention rate plotted against the non-graduate retention rate in English TTWAs in the tax year 2018 to 2019
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The dotted line shows where the non-graduate and graduate retention rates are the same. A TTWA above the line has a higher non-graduate retention rate than graduate retention rate while the opposite is true for a TTWA below the line.Back to table of contents
The analysis in this section uses the location in which individuals currently live and the travel to work area (TTWA) in which they took their Key Stage 4 (KS4) qualification to estimate the proportion who moved into a TTWA.
Figure 8: There was large variation in the inward migration rate within each TTWA classification
Inward migration rate of all individuals into a TTWA in which they reside grouped by the TTWA classification, 2018 to 2019
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The median TTWA inwards migration rate for all individuals (including graduates and non-graduates) was 24.3%. The median inwards migration rate was larger in Rural TTWAs (26.5%) than for Major Conurbation TTWAs (19.1%).
There was large variation in the inward migration rate of all individuals within each TTWA classification. The largest variation was in the Large town or City TTWA group, which included the TTWA with the highest inward migration rate (Brighton, 56.6%) and the lowest (Middlesbrough and Stockton, 8.6%) in England.
The median graduate inward migration rate was similar across TTWA groups and was higher in Large town or City TTWAs (9.1%). Rural areas had the next highest graduate inward migration rate (7.7%) followed by Major Conurbation TTWAs (6.6%) and Small Town TTWAs (6.2%).
Figure 9: Few TTWAs had a positive net gain of graduates
Net gain of individuals as a percentage of individuals who studied KS4 in the TTWA for the tax year 2018 to 2019
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Only 14 out of 149 TTWAs saw a net gain of graduates, which is calculated by the inflow of new graduates minus the outflow of home graduates. Six of the fourteen were Major Conurbations, five were Large Towns or City TTWAs and the rest were Small Town TTWAs. All Rural TTWAs had a net loss of graduates. This was different for non-graduates, as 73 out of 149 TTWAs had a net gain of non-graduates.
Section 2: Exploring graduate shares in English TTWAs noted that 16 TTWAs observed a higher graduate share than the share of home residents from that TTWA achieving graduate level qualifications. The reason why this does not match the 14 TTWAs that saw a net gain of graduates is because the net migration of non-graduates also had an effect on the share of graduates through its effect on the total.
When considering the overall net migration rate, the inflow of new residents minus the outflow of residents, the median TTWA in each TTWA group lost individuals. The median Rural TTWA lost the most (negative 12.4%), followed by Small Town TTWAs (negative 8.1%), Large Town or City TTWAs (negative 3.2%) and Major Conurbations (negative 1.6%). Approximately 120 out of 149 TTWAs saw a net loss of all individuals, which means that the majority of TTWAs lost population from the cohorts followed in the data.Back to table of contents
Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) standard release
Dataset | Released 7 July 2021
Education data, including Early Years, school, Further Education, and Higher Education, linked to outcomes data including earnings and benefits. These data can only be accessed by accredited researchers following an approval process.
This analysis studies internal migration and excludes those who migrate both to and from England, as their education or employment records are not recorded.
Travel to work area (TTWA)
The current criteria for defining TTWAs is that, generally, at least 75% of an area's resident workforce work in the area and at least 75% of the people who work in the area also live in the area. The area must also have a working population of at least 3,500. However, for areas with a working population in excess of 25,000, self-containment rates as low as 66.7% are accepted.
Home TTWA is the TTWA in which a person studied Key Stage 4 (KS4). This is used interchangeably with the term "TTWA of where someone grew up". Although this is not 100% accurate, it is a reasonable proxy in the absence of data on a TTWA of where a person spent majority of childhood.
Current TTWA is the TTWA in which a person has a tax address in the tax year 2018 to 2019.
TTWA classification and taxonomy
To produce this classification, population data are combined with the Output Area (OA) version of the England and Wales Rural Urban Classification (RUC) to categorise each TTWA as follows:
Major Conurbation TTWA, in which the majority of the population of the TTWA are resident in one of the UK's conurbations as defined by the RUC
Large Town or City TTWA, in which a majority of the population of the TTWA live in an urban area (as defined by the OA version of the RUC), but not a conurbation and the TTWA includes at least one town or city of a population greater than 70,000
Small Town TTWA, in which a majority of the population of the TTWA live in an urban area, but not a conurbation and the TTWA does not have any towns or cities of a population greater than 70,000
Rural TTWA, in which a majority of the population of the TTWA live in a rural area as defined by the OA version of the RUC
More information about how this classification was produced together with a map is available in our Understanding towns in England and Wales: spatial analysis article.
Level 6 plus to graduate
A person in the sample who has achieved a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) level of 6, 7 or 8. This section lists each NVQ.
The following sets out non-graduate NVQs.
entry level award
entry level certificate (ELC)
entry level diploma
entry level English for speakers of other languages (ESOL)
entry level essential skills
entry level functional skills
Skills for Life
GCSE grades three, two, one or grades D, E, F, G
level one award
level one certificate
level one diploma
level one ESOL
level one essential skills
level one functional skills
level one NVQ
music grades one, two and three
CSE grade one
GCSE grades nine, eight, seven, six, five, four or grades A*, A, B, C
level two award
level two certificate
level two diploma
level two ESOL
level two essential skills
level two functional skills
level two national certificate
level two national diploma
level two NVQ
music grades four and five
level grade A, B or C
access to higher education diploma
international Baccalaureate diploma
level three award
level three certificate
level three diploma
level three ESOL
level three national certificate
level three national diploma
level three NVQ
music grades six, seven and eight
certificate of higher education (CertHE)
higher national certificate (HNC)
level four award
level four certificate
level four diploma
level four NVQ
diploma of higher education (DipHE)
higher national diploma (HND)
level five award
level five certificate
level five diploma
level five NVQ
The following sets out graduate NVQs.
degree with honours, for example, bachelor of the arts (BA) hons, bachelor of science (BSc) hons
level six award
level six certificate
level six diploma
level six NVQ
ordinary degree without honours
integrated master's degree, for example, master of engineering (MEng)
level seven award
level seven certificate
level seven diploma
level seven NVQ
master's degree, for example, master of arts (MA), master of science (MSc)
postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE)
doctorate, for example, doctor of philosophy (PhD or DPhil)
level eight award
level eight certificate
level eight diploma
This article was produced by analysts in HM Treasury (HMT) and forms part of a series of HMT and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) articles being published on the ONS website using the Longitudinal Educational Outcomes (LEO) data.
The LEO dataset collects administrative education data from early years through to higher education from the Department for Education (DfE) and the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) with employment, benefits and earnings data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
To be included in the LEO database with school-level education and outcomes data, individuals must have been in the English school education system for a least one school year. It does not include students who were home schooled or moved to England from abroad without entering the school education system for one year.
This analysis uses the version of LEO available to researchers in the Secure Research Service (SRS), also referred to as the "standard release". Further information about LEO is available from DfE or the SRS.
This analysis follows the ten cohorts who took their Key Stage 4 (KS4), also known as GCSE, exams in 2002 to 2012. It includes students from private and public schools. Location at the time they sat their KS4 exams is taken from the School Census and is supplemented with school address if they do not have a residential location from the School Census. Individuals where a location is not observed either through the School Census or through school address are dropped.
The Young Persons Matched Administrative Dataset (YPMAD), Index of Learner Records (ILR) and Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) dataset are used to measure attainment. Attainment is measured using the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) system. Individuals who attain an NVQ level six or higher are defined as being graduates.
Location in the 2018 to 2019 tax year is assigned using the tax record data. Individuals who do not have a location and those who live in a travel to work area (TTWA) that crosses the Scottish or Welsh borders are removed.
The education records are recorded in academic years, while the tax data is recorded in tax years. To convert between the academic year which someone achieves a qualification and the corresponding tax year this analysis follows the approach taken by Moira Nelson and Oliver Anderson in their report on Post-16 education and labour market activities, pathways, and outcomes.Back to table of contents
Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 19 September 2023, ONS website, article, Exploring educational attainment and internal migration, within English Travel to Work Areas : 2002 to 2019
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