Students boost region's economy

MORE of the brightest youngsters from Essex and Suffolk are opting to continue to study locally and use their valuable skills to help boost the regional economy.

By Sharon Asplin

MORE of the brightest youngsters from Essex and Suffolk are opting to continue to study locally and use their valuable skills to help boost the regional economy.

And the move has been welcomed by the business community which traditionally has fought a losing battle to retain talented workers - often lured away by the bright lights of London.

This year, Essex University is hosting a record number of students, including more undergraduates than before from the two counties.

In the last four years applications from Essex and Suffolk schools and colleges have increased by 36%.

More than 1,250 local students applied to the Colchester campus to study this year and about 380 locally-based students started their degrees this month, compared with 279 in 2002.

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Mike Nicholson, head of undergraduate admissions and student recruitment, said: “This is a really encouraging sign, as, traditionally, students from the local area tended to leave East Anglia and after graduation settled outside the region.

“This change in applicant preference means that some of the best and brightest students in the local area are likely to remain and contribute to the local economy.”

He said there was a perception in some quarters that students, unhappy at the prospect of spiralling student debt, were being forced to study locally for financial reasons but Mr Nicholson stressed this was not Essex University's experience.

“Research that we have conducted indicates that students are much more likely to consider course content and academic opportunities before they look too closely at the costs of attending,” he said.

Kim Salmon, Colchester chamber of commerce manager, said: “This is very valuable especially if we can encourage these people to stay in the Colchester area, but there is no guarantee.

“Traditionally, we have always had a leakage of skilled people going to London. We have problems keeping people with high skills and that is reflected in the wage structure.”

She said some people also felt they needed to put London jobs on their CVs whereas there were actually hundreds of high-profile firms, dealing with international clients, looking for talented people from the region.

“But maybe now we are seeing a change in culture and in three or four years time when these people finish their degrees we will see this situation start to change,” she said.

“It is certainly a step in the right direction and we would look to see it continue.”

Katie Proctor, an Essex graduate who has lived in Colchester all her life, has found many benefits in attending a local university.

She said: “Studying locally is a great experience. I had the opportunity to live on campus as well as being close to my family and all the home comforts.

“It was great to be in familiar surroundings and introduce my new friends to the local area.”

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