Migration, education and employment: socio-cultural factors in shaping individual decisions and economic outcomes in Orkney and Shetland

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Migration is a common feature of island experiences, with young people
especially likely to migrate to mainland communities for education and employment opportunities. Within the British island communities of Orkney and Shetland, concern about youth migration is clear. However conceptualising migration as simply an economic decision based on accessing ‘better’ opportunities elsewhere risks overlooking the significant social and
cultural influence in the career and migration decisions of young people. This paper presents the results of the first stage of a research project into the experiences of higher education students from Orkney and Shetland. The project involved interviewing twenty three students about their higher education choices, and their plans for the future. The results demonstrate the importance of social and cultural influences in students’ decision making. This paper also discusses the role of the island ‘habitus’ in students’ narratives of their journeys, drawing from the work of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-192
Number of pages15
JournalIsland Studies Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016



  • Bourdieu
  • Career
  • Graduate
  • habitus
  • Higher Education
  • Island
  • Migration
  • Orkney
  • Shetland

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