In their study, Varshavskaya and Choudinovskikh estimated the scope and structure of potential migration flows and analysed some of the factors influencing the graduates' choice of where to move to. They used the data from a survey of 2,797 students nearing graduation from ten universities in nine major Russian cities, including Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, Kemerovo, Naberezhnye Chelny, Omsk, Perm, Rostov-on-Don, and Samara. Most respondents (97.7%) were Russian nationals, of whom 51.7% were local residents, i.e. they lived in the same city where they attended college, and the others were non-residents who had come from elsewhere.
The researchers studied the respondents’ post-graduation intentions and found that more than half intended to work after graduation, about a quarter were planning to combine work and study, and one out of ten aimed to continue their education.
To estimate the graduates' migration potential, the researchers subdivided them into four groups:
Slightly more than half (51.6%) of all respondents said they would stay in the same city where they had attended college.
According to the researchers’ estimates, the migration potential of regional graduates stands at 30-33%, and most of those who plan to relocate will stay in Russia.
Some 29.2% of the respondents intend to live elsewhere, of whom 15.2% are potential internal migrants, 7.1% are returning migrants, and 6.9% are potential emigrants, while about one fifth of all respondents were not sure where they intended to live after graduation.
The percentage of those prepared to leave Russia may seem small, but in absolute numbers they make up tens of thousands of young people. According to Rosstat, 1.06 million people graduated from Russia's public universities in 2013 – thus, potential emigration can be could be as high as 60,000 young graduates each year, according to Varshavskaya and Choudinovskikh.
Those young men and women who had come from elsewhere to study are more likely to migrate within the country – but less likely to emigrate – perhaps because some of them are going back home. On average, 13.7% of nonresident students are going back to the city where they lived prior to attending college. Varshavskaya and Choudinovskikh suggest that the proportion of the returnees may increase slightly, adding some of those who were not sure at the time of the survey, but it is unlikely to exceed 16-18%.
Nonresident students are also more likely than residents to move to other cities or regions within Russia, and at least 50-55% of the nonresidents will stay in the city where they attended college, according to the researchers.
In contrast, locally born graduates are more likely than non-locals to move to another country (9.3% and 4.3%, respectively). The study's authors explain that while for nonresidents staying in the city where they studied may mean better opportunities and higher living and working standards, those locally born may not share the same outlook.
In general, the survey reveals that 49.0% of men and 52.9% of women are not planning to leave the city where they attended college.
One of the key reasons for intending to relocate included higher salary expectations, which was mentioned by 48.2% of the respondents, although the content of future work and the prospects of self-fulfillment were no less important and chosen by 52.6% of potential migrants, while the desire to fulfill the lifelong dream of living in a particular city or country motivated a quarter of the respondents.
The respondents tended to view international migration as an opportunity to earn more money, those who intend to emigrate expect to earn at least three times as much as they would in the city where they attended college; 45.9% of potential emigrants expect higher earnings, while 42.3% are hoping to find a fulfilling job in another country, and 39% are in search of the city or the country of their dreams.
As for nonresidents, according to Varshavskaya and Choudinovskikh, a decision to return to one’s place of origin is not generally based on expectations of a good salary or a fulfilling career; instead, two-thirds in this category of respondents mention reasons such as going back home or expecting to enjoy social support or having a place to live.
The high cost of accommodation in big cities is among the reasons driving non-residents back home, even when they are unlikely to find an interesting and well-paying job upon their return.
Assessment of the home country's socioeconomic situation and future prospects is also an important factor, and those planning to move abroad tend towards a more pessimistic outlook.
The proportion of potential emigrants who describe the current situation in Russia as adverse and difficult is 2 to 2.5 times higher (49.1%) than the proportion of those sharing this outlook in other groups of respondents. Similarly, 43.9% of potential emigrants – almost twice the average of all respondents – expect the economic situation to get worse. The researchers conclude that their negative perception of the current socioeconomic situation and the expectation of its further deterioration is a major factor in their decision to leave.