Graduate Retention in Relation to Entrepreneurship in Tilburg

Master thesis research by Marianne van Donselaar

In July 2016 Marianne van Donselaar graduated from the Tilburg School of Economics and Management at Tilburg University. She followed the master Strategic Management and wrote her master thesis in the area of entrepreneurship and mobility.

Entrepreneurial activity is acknowledged as a source of economic prosperity for national and local economies. In entrepreneurial research, it has been found that highly educated individuals have a higher probability of starting successful businesses. Moreover, the businesses of these highly educated individuals have a higher chance of creating more economic value, innovation and employment opportunities. Universities deliver highly educated individuals to society. Logic suggests that local economies could therefore benefit from a university, in terms of increasing entrepreneurial activity. However, research has shown that (recent) graduates have higher mobility rates than other demographic groups. Mobility patterns show that highly educated graduates have a larger chance of moving from peripheral regions towards metropolitan regions. Research generally categorizes the reasons for mobility into (city) amenities, social ties and job opportunities. Literature on graduate mobility shows that job opportunities are a large motivator for graduates to move from peripheral regions to economic centers, or metropolitan regions. Local economies therefore have an incentive to increase graduate retention. Another factor that might increase local graduate entrepreneurship is entrepreneurship education; to increase overall entrepreneurial tendencies among all graduates.

This study aimed at mapping the mobility patterns of Tilburg University graduates and the location determinants that motivated their mobility patterns. Another aim was to research whether entrepreneurship education was undertaken, and to see whether this entrepreneurship education could have a positive impact on local entrepreneurial activity in the region of Tilburg. A questionnaire was used to collect data from a sample of graduates of Tilburg University. They were asked to provide details on their mobility patterns before, during and after graduation and on whether or not they had taken part in entrepreneurial education during their studies. The questions, were the result of a thorough literature review and both quantitative and qualitative (open) questions were used. Eighty four responses to the questionnaire were recorded.

The results indicated that less than 40% of the respondents were retained in Tilburg after graduation. About 30% moved to regions surrounding Tilburg (North Brabant) and about 25% moved towards West Netherlands (which includes the economic center of the Netherlands). These findings confirm previous research on the high mobility of (recent) graduates. Graduates moving away from Tilburg move to North Brabant and West Netherlands primarily. This is consistent with findings indicating higher job opportunities in these regions, compared to regions such as South Netherlands. Findings showed that job opportunities and social ties were the most important location determinants for the Tilburg graduates, and were more important than city amenities.

The equal importance of social ties compared to job opportunities was an unexpected finding, which was not shown by previous literature on graduate location determinants. It was also found that Economics and Management graduates have a higher potential of moving towards the economic center such as West Netherlands, which was also shown in previous literature. The research findings from this thesis show that while graduate mobility rates are high for Tilburg University graduates, they are the highest for students from the economics faculty who seemed to have had more entrepreneurship education, but this was not conclusively supported by the research results. Thus, the study shows that job opportunities and social ties are the main reasons for retention and mobility. While social ties could be hard to influence by policy makers, job opportunities might be a gateway to a more entrepreneurial future for regions that are not in the economic center of a country. This thesis shows that more research is needed into the policies needed to increase the retention of graduates and especially those with the most training and thus potential (students of the economics faculty).