5: Island Higher Education and Youth Migration: Retention, Attraction or Rotation?

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Existing policy discourses in the north of Scotland focus on expanding higher education provision in the region in order to support both individuals (and their aspirations) and the regional economy. However, drawing on data from a research project with students from the islands of Orkney and Shetland, the chapter argues that there are significant limitations in the capacity of on-island higher education provision in the small islands in the region to meet the needs of all islanders and all areas of the economy. Rather, this chapter suggests that higher education planning in small islands needs to acknowledge intersecting local, regional, national and global dynamics in provision of higher education, and move towards thinking about how to function effectively within these dynamics. This involves accounting for skills flows and skills routes, and considering not just on-island higher education delivery but also the accessibility of, and routes through, other (mainland) higher education providers.

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