The entrepreneurs of tomorrow revealed

While ambition and determination are key characteristics for becoming a business owner, tailoring your education to build skills, knowledge and potential networking opportunities is vital for prospective entrepreneurs. Each university has a unique reputation, whether that's based on prestige or academic success, but is there a university that produces more business owners than others?

To investigate this, business loans experts examined alumni pages on LinkedIn for each university to see how many graduates were listed as company founders, along with the number of founders that studied business, determining which university produces the most business owners.

The university that produces the most founders

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is one of the top universities for prospective business owners, with 11% of graduates going on to become company founders. Of the 268,186 listed alumni, 29,767 went on to start their own businesses. 

Economics was discovered to be the most popular university subject for new business owners at the university, with 8,705 business owners (29%) studying the subject, followed by business studies with 6,907 (23%). 17% of graduates that studied business at LSE went on to found their own business, the second highest of any other university in the UK, only behind the University of Oxford (18%).

London’s universities are the best for future business founders, with 12 of the top 20 universities located in the capital. The capital is the biggest hub for startup activity in the UK, with 38% of student startups being founded at London unis

The University of Oxford is another top university for potential business owners, with 27,300 out of a total of 278,988 alumni (10%) establishing their own businesses. Business studies was found to be the most popular subject to study for prospective business owners at Oxford, with 3,162 students studying in this field, followed by economics (2,823 students) and political science (2,601 students). Furthermore, 18% of students who studied business at Oxford went on to start their own company, the highest rate of any university graduate that studied the subject.

10% of graduates from the University of the Arts, London go on to form their own business. Marketing was the most popular subject for entrepreneurs at this university, with 1,936 business founders studying this topic, followed by business studies (1,901 students) and mass communication and media studies (987 students). 

Among all of the universities studied, the University of the Arts, London had the most marketing students go on to start their own businesses, followed by the University of Cambridge (1,491 students), LSE (1,403 students), and London Metropolitan University (1,133 students).

The University of Cambridge had the most students start their own businesses in total, with 32,179 of the 359,917 listed alumni doing so, while Harper Adams University was deemed the worst for new business founders, with only 289 of their 11,829 listed alumni going on to create a company.

The most popular subject among business founders

James Andrews, business loans expert, commented on the factors to consider before starting a business: “To start your own business, you need the right combination of knowledge, attitude, and work ethic, but your university of choice and the subject you study also seem to be important influencing factors. With so many universities offering exceptional education and potential networking opportunities, this research shows that certain universities have the essential components to create business founders.”

There are several factors you need to consider when looking at starting your own business, such as:

  • How to tell if there’s profit in the idea: One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting a business is underestimating the costs involved. You want to make sure that whatever you do will be profitable eventually, and you don’t want to get into debt following your dreams. You will need to consider startup fees, cost of supplies, accountancy, legal and insurance fees, how much tax you’ll pay and more.
  • If it’s something people will pay for: You think it’s a great idea, your friends agree - but will the wider public? Just because something is useful or fills a need for some, doesn’t always mean it will be something enough people are prepared to pay for for you to make money. See if you can get opinions from a wider network or group to test your plan out. 
  • How to set up a business: The three main options for your business structure when you start a business are sole trader, partnership or limited company. You also need to consider insurance, licences, setting up a business bank account and potentially even PAYE. All of these will factor into your start up costs, so you need to explore all areas thoroughly to make sure your business can work.
  • How to check if a business idea is legal: Generally, we tend to know what things are allowed or not in the UK, but when it comes to business there might be industry-specific rules and regulations to think about. For instance, if you’re planning on working with food, you may need a specific licence. Equally, if you’re planning to sell to consumers, there are strict laws about returns and rights. If you’re not sure if your business idea is legal, do some careful research. Check the government laws associated with the area, and see whether there are other businesses doing similar things.