• internal migration;
  • UK;
  • student migration;
  • graduates;
  • well-being


Pre-existing literatures on post-student migration have mainly focused on inter-regional flows of young educated migrants, the attendant redistribution of human capital around the UK, and the impact on local and regional economies. This paper argues that the parochial focus on labour-motivated graduate migration (usually to first employment), and the absence of data enabling individual migration histories to be traced longitudinally across the post-student phase of the lifecourse, has masked the complexity of the patterns and processes of migration in this social group. Drawing upon recently collected primary data from a retrospective survey of the migration histories of a cohort of students who left the University of Southampton (UK) between 2001 and 2007, this paper reveals that post-student migration trajectories are complex and precarious across the 5-year period after leaving university. During this prolonged period of instability, the parental home (and parental support more generally) provides a crucial safety net. This begs questions about the impacts of post-student transitions to financial and residential independence on the resources and intergenerational care exchange frameworks of contemporary mid-life parents (terms such as ‘sandwich generation’ and ‘pivot generation’ refer to the multiple family roles and responsibilities of mid-life parents who are caught between meeting the needs of their adult children and their ageing parents). It is suggested that the well-being agenda in migration studies is helpful for refocusing the lens of enquiry on the impacts of return migration to the parental home on graduate migrants, their families, and the potential trade-offs that might occur between generations. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.