Which universities are producing today’s business leaders?

Tuesday 8th August 2023

From Classroom to Boardroom: Novuna Reveals Universities Churning out Today’s Business Leaders

  • Our research looks at the top universities for producing entrepreneurs between 2020-2022.
  • Surprising outcomes with lower-ranked universities showcasing robust entrepreneurial outcomes.
  • A shift in regional trends: Northern and Welsh universities make strides in closing the North-South entrepreneurial divide.

The Top Universities for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

We've scoured LinkedIn data of nearly 2.8 million alumni from 121 universities. The findings? A fascinating blend of familiar names and unexpected contenders in the entrepreneurial arena.

Index RankUniversityRegionGuardian 2023 Rank% of Alumni Founders (2020-2022)Students Equivalents
1University of CambridgeSouth East36.854,374
2SOAS University of LondonLondon866.64662
3London School of Economics and Political ScienceLondon45.93,456
4Goldsmiths, University of LondonLondon1065.76757
5University of OxfordMidlands25.162,902
6University of CumbriaNorth West1155.1303
7Imperial CollegeLondon54.981,682
8Falmouth UniversitySouth West974.95397
9University of the Arts London (UAL)London194.331,250
10University of St AndrewsScotland14.11533
11Kings College LondonLondon293.862,384
12City, University of LondonLondon583.75723
13University College London (UCL)London93.632,652
14St Mary’s University, Twickenham, LondonLondon703.58189
15University of SussexSouth East663.51806
16York St John UniversityYorkshire773.46261
17The University of EdinburghScotland123.421,526
18Royal Holloway, University of LondonLondon333.38540
19Wrexham Glyndwr UniversityWales943.32149
20University of ChichesterSouth East373.25152
20Middlesex UniversityLondon1113.25702
22University of WarwickMidlands83.241,021
23University of WestminsterLondon1163.21,024
24London Metropolitan UniversityLondon1043.11607
25Queen Mary University of LondonLondon543.081,108
25University of East LondonLondon1133.08757
27University of Roehampton (London)London1112.95388
28Bangor UniversityWales822.94254
29University of SuffolkSE692.91175
30Durham UniversityNE62.9768
31University of GloucestershireSW882.89269
32Queen Margaret University, EdinburghScotland892.88125
32University of StirlingScotland592.88281
34University of Wales Trinity Saint DavidWales742.87285
35University of DundeeScotland442.8300
36University for the Creative Arts (UCA)SE492.76251
37University of EssexSE422.72525
38Brunel University (London)London1162.7533
38University of AberdeenScotland132.7422
40Edinburgh Napier UniversityScotland832.68414
41University of BathSW72.67669
42Bath Spa UniversitySW892.64239
43University of KentSE552.57521
44University Of SurreySE242.56456
45University of South WalesWales532.53477
46University of ExeterSW152.52930
47University of BrightonSE922.51337
48Kingston University LondonLondon552.5586
48University of BristolSW162.5924
50Cardiff Metropolitan UniversityWales732.46493
50Oxford Brookes UniversitySE422.46687
52University of YorkYorkshire212.45609
53Lancaster UniversityNW142.44611
54London South Bank UniversityLondon962.42398
55Heriot-Watt University, EdinburghScotland452.41488
55Buckinghamshire New UniversitySE702.41207
57Staffordshire UniversityMidlands682.35391
58University of BradfordYorkshire802.34211
59Loughborough UniversityMidlands102.33545
60University of ChesterNW742.31265
61Abertay University (Dundee)Scotland852.385
61University of BoltonNW382.3183
63University of SunderlandNE502.28328
64University of DerbyMidlands482.23413
64UWE BristolSW242.23721
66University of West LondonLondon232.22411
66University of SalfordNW892.22595
68Robert Gordon University (Aberdeen)Scotland932.2306
68University of ReadingSE612.2416
68University of BedfordshireSE1212.2354
71University of NorthamptonMidlands952.19359
72University of NottinghamMidlands632.18944
72University of LeicesterMidlands352.18451
74University of HullYorkshire592.16279
75Solent University (Southampton)SE1012.15255
76Glasgow Caledonian UniversityScotland522.13345
77University of GlasgowScotland112.1734
78University of WorcesterMidlands1022.09131
78University of East Anglia (UEA)SE272.09384
78The University of ManchesterNW302.091,286
81University of LeedsYorkshire202.061,060
81University of PlymouthSW632.06401
81Anglia Ruskin University (ARU Cambridge)SE1092.06559
84Aston UniversityMidlands222.05363
85University of WolverhamptonMidlands1062.04274
85Liverpool John Moores UniversityNW872.04692
87University of StrathclydeScotland162.01437
88Arts University BournemouthSW70298
89Leeds Beckett UniversityYorkshire1021.98503
90Canterbury Christ Church UniversitySE1161.97215
91Bournemouth UniversitySW1081.96377
92Coventry UniversityMidlands511.95899
93University of WinchesterSE1101.94129
94University of the West Scotland (UWS)Scotland1191.92260
94University of LiverpoolNW401.92702
96Northumbria UniversityNE461.91643
97Keele UniversityMidlands321.89163
98Liverpool Hope UniversityNW991.8869
99De Montfort University (Leicester)Midlands1201.86504
100The University of SheffieldYorkshire301.85633
100Newcastle UniversityNE631.85573
102University of GreenwichLondon981.84573
102University of BirminghamMidlands271.84872
104Queen's University BelfastIreland461.82388
105University of SouthamptonSE161.79477
105University of Central LancashireNW1041.79377
107Cardiff UniversityWales351.77568
108Aberystwyth UniversityWales401.76107
109Birmingham City UniversityMidlands1001.71509
110University of HertfordshireLondon741.69571
110Nottingham Trent UniversityMidlands621.69706
110University of HuddersfieldYorkshire781.69258
113University of PortsmouthSE671.68506
114Swansea UniversityWales261.62312
115Teesside UniversityNE801.6250
115The Manchester Metropolitan UniversityNW841.6690
117Leeds Trinity UniversityYorkshire1131.5857
118Sheffield Hallam UniversityYorkshire781.54474
119Edge Hill UniversityNW551.51133
120Ulster UniversityIreland381.46368
121University of LincolnMidlands341.41247

While the likes of Cambridge and Oxford remain strongholds for entrepreneurial education, the limelight is shared by unexpected stars like the University of Cumbria and Goldsmiths.

Regional Divide: More than just North Vs South

While 75% of the top 20 entrepreneurial universities lie in London or the South, deeper exploration paints a more intricate portrait. The regions dominating in producing founders are:

Index RankRegion of University% of Alumni Founders (2020-2022)Student Equivalents
2South West2.645,320
3South East2.6310,008

However, the North and Wales seem to be punching above their weight, especially when examining universities that ramped up founder production from 2017-2019 to 2020-2022.

Bucking the Trend: Universities Defying Odds

A comparative look between the 2017-2019 and 2020-2022 periods reveals a decline in entrepreneurs across most regions. However, nine universities defied this trend:

IndexUniversityRegionGuardian 2023 Rank% of Alumni 2017-2019% of Alumni 2020-2022No. of 2020-2022 Students Becoming Founders
1University of CambridgeSouth East35.76.854,374
2University of CumbriaNorth West1154.225.1303
3University of SuffolkSouth East692.112.91175
4York St John UniversityYorkshire772.773.46261
5Liverpool John Moores UniversityNorth West871.732.04692
6University of Wales, Trinity Saint DavidWales742.612.87285
7University of ChichesterSouth East373.013.25152
8Wrexham Glyndwr UniversityWales943.13.32149
9University of BoltonNorth West382.232.3183

A closer look reveals that apart from Cambridge, all the other top performers were ranked 37th or below by The Guardian.

John Atkinson, our Head of Commercial Business, reflected: "Our findings highlight that the entrepreneurial spirit is well and truly alive across a spectrum of universities, not just the usual top-tier suspects. For young people aspiring to be business leaders and evaluating university options, this data provides a fresh perspective."

About the Research

Field: 23rd July - 1st August 2023

Sample: 121 UK universities, Alumni between 2017-2019 and 2020-2023


  1. Researched the official page of each university.
  2. Filtered by Alumni.
  3. Searched: Founder.

Full research can be found here.

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