People & skills

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The population of Glasgow is 621,020 (NRS 2017 mid-year estimates) and growth is projected to continue. Glasgow sits at the heart of Scotland’s only metropolitan region of 1.8 million, while the population of the greater Glasgow conurbation is around 2.3 million. Glasgow has access to 43% of Scotland’s entire population.

While some of Glasgow’s recent population growth is natural (births outpacing deaths) net migration accounts for a large part of the increase which has resulted in a diverse, multi-lingual population.

Glasgow’s population is relatively young compared to the rest of the UK – over 70% of the population is working age (16-64). In fact, 86% of the recent population growth has been in the working age population; in 2017 it grew to 437,911 in Glasgow city alone.

Glasgow has the largest student population in Scotland and the second highest in the UK. More than 130,000 students from 135 countries live and study here. The city’s institutions of higher and further education graduate around 20,000 individuals per annum ensuring a healthy talent pipeline.


Glasgow has improved its employment rate significantly, with the City Region achieving 71.4% in 2017. Glasgow’s Economic Strategy plans to maintain or exceed the city’s employment rate at the national Scottish average over the period 2017-2023. This will be achieved by taking advantage of underused talent in Glasgow and increasing the skills base.

There has been a steady increase in the number of jobs in Glasgow in each of the last 3 years and much of this growth comes from the ever-growing service sector, reflecting the overall shift in Glasgow’s economy in the past 25 years. Glasgow has moved away from a primarily production-based economy to a service-based one, with up to 84% of Glasgow’s job belonging to the service sector. Vast numbers of these service sector jobs are focused on professional services, such as finance, information technology, business services, public administration, health and education.

Skills and qualifications

Glasgow’s universities and colleges offer a wide range of programmes and courses to drive the city’s economic growth.

  • Number 1 of UK’s core cities of producing the highest number of Financial and Business Services graduates
  • Number 1 of UK’s core cities for producing the highest number of Life Sciences students and graduates
  • Number 1 of UK’s core cities for producing the highest number of digital technology students and graduates (computer science and mathematics)
  • 50% of Scotland’s engineering students in electronics, mechanics and software
  • Business schools at the University of Glasgow and the University of Strathclyde are both triple accredited – only 1% of business schools worldwide hold this accreditation.

Glasgow is home to three of Scotland’s largest and most prestigious universities: University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde, and Glasgow Caledonian University as well as the world-renowned Glasgow School of Art and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Glasgow’s universities are among the best in the world, regularly topping league tables, winning prestigious awards and securing highly-competitive funding grants.

Glasgow’s colleges – City of Glasgow College, Glasgow Kelvin College and Glasgow Clyde College – are the three largest in Scotland and integral to developing the talent pool in Glasgow. Agile and responsive to employers’ needs, the further education provision is committed to providing core market skills and improving progression into employment.

Glasgow has one of the most highly skilled and flexible workforces in Europe. 42.8% of the current working age population in the City Region is educated to degree level or above. As the population has grown, this proportion with degree-level education has increased as well. So much so that, of the UK Core Cities, the Glasgow City Region had one the highest increase in its degree-level population 2009 – 2016.

The student experience in Glasgow is among the best in the UK and many choose to stay in the city after graduation. Retention rates in Glasgow are some of the highest in the UK, offering businesses access to the best and brightest talent.

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