Beyond the Rankings: The UK Universities Moulding Tomorrow’s Business Leaders

  • A recent study highlights the prominent universities and regions that have produced significant business leaders from 2003-2022.
  • University of the Arts London (UAL) emerges as a leading institution for producing business founders with a notable 8.44% rate.
  • Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh stands out, with 15.76% of its graduates advancing to CEO or MD roles.
  • Traditional heavyweights, the University of Cambridge and University of Oxford, consistently rank within the top 10 for producing both Founders and CEOs/MDs.
  • While London leads in the cultivation of business founders, for CEO and MD roles, regions such as Scotland, the North West, and Yorkshire display strong results.

Novuna Business Cash Flow has conducted a thorough analysis of 121 universities, studying an extensive 9.7 million alumni profiles on LinkedIn to trace the educational backgrounds of current entrepreneurs and business leaders across the UK.

Recent studies provide insightful clarity into the relationship between university rankings and the real-world accomplishments of their graduates. This analysis reveals which UK universities have been instrumental in shaping top-tier Founders and CEOs, uncovering several intriguing patterns…

Founders

The University of the Arts London (UAL) stands out, with an impressive 8.44% of its graduates pursuing entrepreneurial ventures. This is notable given its 19th position in the Guardian ranking. Renowned institutions, the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford, continue to be consistent performers in this domain.

London, known for its vibrant entrepreneurial scene, remains a hub for innovation. Impressively, 14 of the top 25 universities producing business founders are based in London.

 

Index Rank: University: University Region: 2023 Guardian University Ranking: % that went on to be founders:
1 University of the Arts London (UAL) London 19 8.44
2 London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) London 4 8.35
3 Goldsmiths, University of London London 106 7.29
4 SOAS University of London London 86 7.19
5 University of Cambridge SE 3 7.10
6 Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Scotland 45 6.89
7 University of Oxford Midlands 2 6.37
8 Imperial College, London London 5 6.32
9 University College London (UCL) London 9 6.03
10 Falmouth University (Cornwall) SW 97 5.81
11 University of Westminster London 116 5.41
12 Kings College London London 29 5.27
13 London Metropolitan University London 104 5.12
14 City, University of London London 58 5.03
15 Middlesex University (London) London 111 4.99
16 Arts University Bournemouth SW 70 4.72
17 University of St Andrews Scotland 1 4.68
18 The University of Edinburgh Scotland 12 4.68
19 University for the Creative Arts (UCA) SE 49 4.68
20 Royal Holloway, University of London London 33 4.29
21 University of Warwick Midlands 8 4.27
22 University of Sussex SE 66 4.26
23 University of Bath SW 7 4.11
24 Kingston University London London 55 4.08
25 St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London London 70 4.07

 

CEO’s & MD’s

In the realm of corporate leadership, Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh has set a benchmark. A commendable 15.76% of its students have transitioned into CEO or MD roles. Equally intriguing is the University Of Cumbria, positioned at 115th in the Guardian rankings, which has secured a reputable second position.

London’s representation diminishes slightly within the top echelons of CEOs and MDs, with 9 of the top 25 universities located in the capital. However, the South East emerges as a key player in this arena.

 

Index Rank: University: University Region: 2023 Guardian University Ranking: % that went on to be CEO’s or MD’s:
1 Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Scotland 45 15.76
2 University Of Cumbria NW 115 8.22
3 London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) London 4 7.67
4 University of Cambridge SE 3 6.74
5 SOAS University of London London 86 6.14
6 University of Oxford Midlands 2 5.93
7 Wrexham Glyndwr University Wales 94 5.62
8 University of Bolton NW 38 5.58
9 York St John University Yorkshire 77 5.54
10 Middlesex University (London) London 111 5.53
11 University of Dundee Scotland 44 5.50
12 London Metropolitan University London 104 5.44
13 St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London London 70 5.34
14 Buckinghamshire New University SE 70 5.26
15 University of Bradford Yorkshire 80 5.20
16 University of Suffolk SE 69 5.12
17 University of Chichester SE 37 4.93
18 Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh Scotland 89 4.83
19 Leeds Trinity University Yorkshire 113 4.77
20 University of East London London 113 4.76
21 City, University of London London 58 4.73
22 Imperial College, London London 5 4.68
23 Oxford Brookes University SE 42 4.67
24 University of Gloucestershire SW 88 4.65
25 London South Bank University London 96 4.63

 

Regional Highlights

Founders

The southern regions of the UK have solidified their reputation as centres for entrepreneurship. London, celebrated for its international appeal and dynamic business environment, leads with 5.04%. It’s closely followed by the South West and South East regions, registering 3.77% and 3.45% respectively, affirming the South’s role in cultivating enterprising individuals.

 

Index Rank: University Region: Average % that went on to be founders:
1 London 5.04
2 SW 3.77
3 SE 3.45
4 Scotland 3.30
5 Midlands 3.16

 

CEO’s & MD’s

 

When it comes to leadership within established organisations, the northern regions take centre stage. Scotland, renowned for its academic excellence and a rich tradition of innovation, ranks first at 4.68%. The North West, experiencing notable growth across various sectors, follows closely at 4.14%. Yorkshire’s inclusion in the top five further emphasises the northern regions’ influence in moulding business leaders.

 

Index Rank: University Region: Average % that went on to be CEO’s or MD’s:
1 Scotland 4.68
2 London 4.56
3 NW 4.14
4 SE 4.03
5 Yorkshire 3.84

 

Although London and the South East have a presence in both categories, their dominance is more evident in the Founders category.

The data paints a compelling story, illustrating the UK as a nation with diverse opportunities. While the southern regions appear more inclined towards entrepreneurship, the northern areas are emerging as breeding grounds for corporate leadership. This dichotomy highlights the balanced, dynamic nature of the UK’s academic and commercial landscape.

John Atkinson, Head of Commercial Business at Novuna Business Cash Flow, commented, “Our research underlines that success in the business sector isn’t exclusively from premier universities as traditionally perceived. Several universities, often not highlighted in typical rankings, are proving pivotal in shaping future founders and business frontrunners. We believe our findings will provide a new viewpoint for the next generation of ambitious professionals.”

For the full results of all 121 universities, you can view Novuna’s blog post here.

About the Research

Field: 29th – 30th August 2023

Sample: 121 UK universities, Alumni between 2003-2022.

 

*Methodology

To ascertain the number of entrepreneurial alumni, analysis was conducted of the ‘Alumni’ segment on the official LinkedIn page for each university. Our criteria filtered for alumni who held the job title “Founder”, “CEO”, “Managing Director” during the period from 2003 to 2022. The results of this analysis yielded the figures presented in the “% that went on to be founders:”, “% that went on to be CEO’s or MD’s:” and “Average % that went on to be CEO’s or MD’s: columns.

The ‘Guardian 2023 Rank’ was sourced directly from the Guardian University Guide, available here.

About Novuna

Novuna is a leading financial services company, authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). We have over 2,200 employees, £7.6bn of net earning assets and nearly 1.3 million customers across five business divisions; Novuna Consumer Finance, Novuna Vehicle Solutions, Novuna Business Finance, Novuna Business Cash Flow and European Vendor Finance providing innovative finance solutions to enable consumers and businesses to grow and prosper.  

From 1 April 2021 we became a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi HC Capital Inc., strengthening our relationship with one of the world’s largest and most diversified financial groups with over £60bn of assets.

Novuna Business Cash Flow

Novuna Business Cash Flow provides cashflow finance solutions to SMEs across a wide range of sectors in the UK, allowing businesses to release cash from unpaid invoices within 24 hours.

With remote digital on-boarding through FLi, its unique platform, and flexible approach to contracts, Novuna Business Cash Flow was awarded the Best Factoring and Invoice Discounting Provider at the 2023 Business Moneyfacts Awards.

Novuna Business Cash Flow is a trading style of Mitsubishi HC Capital UK PLC, part of Mitsubishi HC Capital Inc., one of the world’s largest and most diversified financial groups, with over £60bn of assets.

 

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