Emigration from the UK


The chosen topic within migration for this vignette is the issue of emigration from the UK, exploring the what, where and why for emigrating from the UK. Most teaching around migration in school is focused on the basic push and pull factors for why people move to the UK (international migration) or to cities (internal migration). We end up taking a very Eurocentric approach, highlighting the benefits of living/working in countries around Europe. But in 2018, 345, 000 people left the UK to go and live abroad – what about this group of migrants?

The map below shows the numbers and locations of migrants that have emigrated from the UK. The UN data details 5 million Britons living abroad. Although the image gives a clear indication of where people are moving to, there is no detail about the reasons why this may be the case. The idea of place – what places mean to different people, how they are constructed, how places become homes – helps students to understand why people emigrate from the UK to other places around the world. By looking just at the arrows and the numbers we miss the more human side of migration in understanding motives and the significance of different destinations.


To fully understand and interpret the stimulus image, students need an understanding of flows, place, connections and interdependence. As this PDK about migration shows, people could easily look at the numbers and arrows present on the map and make some reasonable guesses about why people would move from the UK to the other countries (climate, work, family) – keeping in line with simplified push and pull factors. However, this lack the geographical thinking and analysis of the image because it does engage with the idea of place and the relationships of people with different places.

Geographic knowledge of both the UK and the nations where emigrants end up is needed to look beyond the push and pull factors. Without a more in-depth geographical understanding of place, locations and flows, people tend to draw conclusions about migrations on their own personal and everyday experiences (e.g. why would I want to move to Australia?). This example also requires students to have substantive knowledge about locations/different countries as the basis for understanding why people would emigrate from the UK. Building on this, students would then develop their geographical thinking in dissecting these locations further to explore the concept of place and the different ways that places are constructed and experienced by the individual. With this understanding, students can explore beyond push and pull factors to understanding the driving forces behind international migration and make more informed analyses of global migration patterns from the UK.

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