Learning and leaving: education and depopulation in an island community

Donald Gillies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This paper probes the extent to which education can be identified as a factor in rural depopulation. The study focuses on the Scottish Hebridean island of Raasay which has seen significant population loss since census records began in 1841. In this study the post-school destinations of all pupils enrolled at Raasay School 1901-2000 have been plotted. In addition, a sample of school pupils from 1941-2000 have been questioned about their decision-making in relation to post-school destinations. The study shows that a remarkable 86% of school pupils left the island during that century. Further education was the main reason respondents gave for migrating after leaving school but the data also suggest that it is lack of suitable employment that keeps them away. The study concludes that while education is implicated in island depopulation, of more significance is suitable employment, much more so than aspects of infrastructure such as transport and housing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-34
Number of pages16
JournalCambridge Journal of Education
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • depopulation
  • education
  • habitus
  • cultural capital


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