In the knowledge era, the importance of highly-qualified human capital has been widely recognized as a key factor for local economic development, especially for those areas specialized in science and technology (S&T). Assuming a regional perspective, the capacity to attract this kind of people is both a sign of territorial competitiveness and a way to further reinforce this by boosting the quality of the local labour market in a self-reinforcing process. In line with this perspective, universities play a fundamental role because they can attract students from elsewhere, and then provide local firms with qualified workers. On the other hand, this process is particularly detrimental for territories suffering ‘brain drain’. This paper aims to show this process of selective migration in the case of Italian S&T university students. Specifically, we use a spatial gravity model to show that university students move from Southern towards Northern regions to study in S&T universities, and this mechanism is driven by the dynamism of local labour markets, and not just by the quality of universities. In our view, these results are supportive of the hypothesis that skill-biased migration occurs also very early in the lives of migrants, i.e., at the time they choose university.

With Ugo Fratesi, Camilla Lenzi and Marco Percoco, published in Review of Regional Research

This paper looks at a little-explored role that universities can play: that of representing a channel for brain gain, enabling regions to attract bright students who may decide to stay after they have graduated. In this way, universities can be a source of selective migration processes and possibly of diverging development paths, by augmenting the capability of economically dynamic regions to attract bright people from the lagging regions. In this paper, we argue that student mobility behaviour is a function not only of the quality of universities, but also of local labour market conditions in the destination locations. The paper relies on a gravity model, and shows that graduate migrations respond to several determinants, among which graduate job vacancies (that is, the dynamism of the local labour market) appear to be essential.

With Ugo Fratesi, Camilla Lenzi and Marco Percoco, published in Spatial Economic Analysis.

This synopsis is the first attempt until now to make a global assessment of the role and importance of higher education in Brussels in its interactions with the city and urban development.
This synopsis includes three distinct parts. The first part defines the Belgian institutional and political framework of higher education institutions in Brussels. The second establishes a series of observations. The third part discusses some major challenges and debates regarding higher education institutions in Brussels.

With Vaesen, Wayens et al., published in Brussels Studies.

(available also in French and Dutch).