- 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…
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|
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:|
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:|
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.
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.
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