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Are they coming back? The mobility of university graduates in switzerland

Kehren sie Zurück? Die Mobilität von Hochschulabsolventinnen und -Absolventen in der Schweiz

Abstract

The present paper focus on the possible impact of university graduates’ internal mobility in Switzerland. This is an interesting setting because all the cantons have to bear the public costs for their students irrespective of the students’ study place of choice. As not all the cantons have a university, in some cantons students have to leave their home involuntarily to attend university. Focusing on the description of factors explaining internal graduate mobility, we investigate which of the cantons lose potential tax payers for which they had to bear the study costs and discuss the potential consequences on the financing of higher education. On average, half of the students who had left their place of living in order to study do not return to their home canton. Approximately half of those who do not return from the canton in which they studied move to a third canton. Besides other factors, which are linked to post-graduation mobility, we find that top-performing students return less often than low performers. As a consequence, the cantons without universities face a quantitative as well as a qualitative disadvantage compared to cantons with a university.

Zusammenfassung

Die vorliegende Arbeit untersucht die möglichen Auswirkungen der internen Mobilität von Hochschulabsolventen in der Schweiz. Ein empirisch interessantes Setting, da nicht alle Kantone eine Universität haben, müssen in einigen Kantonen die Studierenden ihre Heimat fürs Studium verlassen. Ausgehend von der Beschreibung der Faktoren, die die interne Mobilität der Absolventen erklären, untersuchen wir, welche der Kantone potenzielle Steuerzahler, für die sie die Studienkosten tragen mussten, verlieren und diskutieren mögliche Folgen für die Finanzierung der Hochschulbildung. Etwa die Hälfte derjenigen, die aus dem Kanton, in dem sie studiert haben, nicht zurückkehren, ziehen in einen dritten Kanton. Neben anderen Faktoren, die mit der Mobilität von Hochschulabsolventinnen und -absolventen zusammenhängen, stellen wir fest, dass leistungsstarke Studierende seltener zurückkehren als leistungsschwache. Dies hat zur Folge, dass die Herkunftskantone, die den Grossteil der Kosten auch für die mobilen Studierenden tragen, beim Verlust von Absolventinnen und Absolventen sowohl einen quantitativen wie qualitativen Nachteil haben.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The Swiss cantons are comparable with US states, German Länder or the Canadian provinces in terms of their degree of autonomy in educational policy.

  2. 2.

    Additionally there are two Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH, EPFL) and two private universities. In our analyses we exclude the two Federal Institutes of Technology and private universities as their financing differs from the cantonal universities; e.g. cantons do not have to pay for their students if they choose to study at one of the Federal Institutes of Technology (EDK 1997). There are also two other types of higher education institutions, the Universities of Applied Sciences and the Universities of Teacher Education. Because of the differences in terms of admission criteria to these institutions (Universities of Applied Sciences) and the differences in terms of labour markets (Universities of Teacher Education), we decided not to include the graduates of these types of institutions in our analyses. They could be analysed in a separate study however.

  3. 3.

    The numerus clausus was introduced in 1999 (in some medical disciplines later). In our sample, this only applies to individuals of certain cohorts who we have excluded from our analyses.

  4. 4.

    There are also subsidies coming from the Federal level but most of the federal funds cover directly research expenditures and not teaching costs for undergraduate and graduate students.

  5. 5.

    The study costs for foreign students have to be covered by the canton of study, and are therefore not covered by the IUV or by federal funds.

  6. 6.

    The canton of residence can differ from the canton in which the graduates work, as some graduates may choose to work in another canton than where they live after graduation.

  7. 7.

    The dataset analyzed during the current study is available from the corresponding author on request.

  8. 8.

    Due to our focus on internal mobility within Switzerland, we excluded graduates who moved abroad.

  9. 9.

    Further descriptive statistics are shown in Tables 5 and 6 in the appendix.

  10. 10.

    A probit regression in the appendix (see Table 8) shows the factors that affect the probability of graduates, who had initially stayed in their home canton, to leave it five years after graduation. In comparison to the results for mobile students, the graduate mobility of students who studied in the canton of origin is not linked with the students’ performance at university. Tax levels, however, are a reason to leave the home canton. At first glance, the positive effect of GDP per capita in the canton of origin is counterintuitive and cannot be interpreted causally. This is probably related to the fact that the GDP per capita is general higher in university-cantons.

  11. 11.

    We also analyzed the determinants for the full sample of mobile students (results are available on request). However, we choose to present the specification with two samples because too many of the explanatory variables may differ between the two groups.

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Correspondence to Chantal Oggenfuss.

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Appendix

Appendix



Table 5 Number of observations of study population (5 years after graduation, second-wave survey)
Table 6 Descriptive statistics of variables (analytic sample, 12,262 observations)
Table 7 Probability of living in the canton of origin (5 years after graduation)
Table 8 Probability of leaving the canton of origin for graduates who had studied in their home canton (5 years after graduation)

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Oggenfuss, C., Wolter, S.C. Are they coming back? The mobility of university graduates in switzerland. Rev Reg Res 39, 189–208 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10037-019-00132-4

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Keywords

  • Student mobility
  • Graduate mobility
  • Brain gain
  • Brain drain

JEL-codes

  • H52
  • H75
  • I23
  • J61