Student entrepreneurs: over a quarter of students starting businesses at university

  • Over 450,000 students currently run, or plan to run a business whilst at university

  • Student enterprises collectively generate revenues of £1 billion a year

  • A third plan to turn their business into a career when they graduate

Over a quarter (26 per cent) (1) of students currently run or plan to run a business whilst they are at university, according to new research from Santander Universities(2).

Amongst those up and coming student entrepreneurs who have already launched a business, the average turnover is £11,408 per annum, equivalent to a collective £1 billion(3), a 32 per cent increase from the £913 million turnover recorded in 2016.

Technology-based solutions (27 per cent) and arts or crafts (17 per cent) are the most common type of student venture. These are followed by: clothing and textiles (nine per cent); administration and business services (nine per cent); tutoring (eight per cent) and charity, voluntary or social work (seven per cent).

The research, commissioned by Santander Universities to support the launch last month of their eighth annual Entrepreneurship Awards, which recognise and support student entrepreneurs from across the UK, reveals the most common reason for students to start a business or joint venture is financial motivation (60 per cent). This is followed by the desire to pursue a hobby or personal interest (59 per cent) and the intention to gain work experience (32 per cent). For one in four (23 per cent) students, the decision to start their own business was influenced by the need to pay off their student loan.

Students are aiming high with ambitious plans for growth, with 18 per cent of all student entrepreneurs expecting their turnover to more than double over the next five years. The average expected increase in turnover in this time period is 68 per cent.

Matt Hutnell, Director of Santander Universities UK, commented: “Student entrepreneurs play a key role in shaping the UK economy now and will continue to do so in the future. It is encouraging to see that so many students are inspired to start a business whilst at university, from developing software to designing and selling clothing.

“We are continually impressed with the ambition and skills demonstrated by student entrepreneurs who are driven to create their own opportunities and successfully juggle running a business whilst also keeping up with their studies. At Santander we take pride in supporting and encouraging these young business leaders who challenge themselves to invent, innovate and create ideas. We are committed to nurturing their talent and ultimately help them to achieve their entrepreneurial goals.”

Post-university business plans
When asked about future plans for their business, 33 per cent of respondents expected to pursue it as a career when they graduate. Over half (52 per cent) said they would continue the business as a second job or hobby once they finish university and nine per cent said the business would continue with guidance from others. Just four per cent said they would close it down.

Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards
The Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards support and encourage university students and recent graduates to pursue their business ideas by rewarding the best with cash prizes, mentoring and start-up support. Since the awards were launched, Santander Universities has provided more than £340,000 in support for budding student entrepreneurs, and given universities the chance to showcase entrepreneurial talent from across the UK.

Last year’s winners, BellaMoon® from Queen’s University Belfast and Jenny Evans Designs from Cardiff Metropolitan University were selected from a shortlist of 12 entrepreneurial projects.

Irene Breen, the founder of BellaMoon®, which provides unique, multifunctional baby products and up and coming textile artist Jenny Evans, founder of Jenny Evans Designs, were awarded top prizes of £20,000 and £25,000.

Irene Breen, BellaMoon®, said: “Creating BellaMoon has been a brilliant experience, despite having to juggle it with my academic studies. I’ve received some incredible support and guidance along the way particularly following last year’s Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards which provided me with the crucial funding and expertise I need to launch BellaMoon on the global market.”

Jenny Evans, Jenny Evans Designs, added: “It took a leap of faith to start my own business whilst at university, but I am so glad that I did it. Being the owner of your own business can be difficult but extremely rewarding at the same time. I’ve gained some incredible experience and the encouragement provided by Santander throughout the competition and since the Awards win has been truly invaluable to my business.”

The 2018 awards are divided into the following categories: A winner and runner up for technology businesses; a winner and runner up for non-technology businesses; and a recently introduced prize for the entry that has the greatest social, community or environmental impact. The National Final will take place in October 2018. For more information on the 2018 Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards, please visit:

The information contained in our press releases is intended solely for journalists and should not be used by consumers to make financial decisions.

Notes to Editors 

  1. According to the latest HESA Data, there are 1,766,285 full time undergraduate students in the UK. The research shows 26% of students have already started a business, or are planning to do so – a figure of 459,234.
  2. Research conducted by YouthSight, 1st – 11th January 2018 amongst a UK representative sample of 2,030 full time undergraduate students.
  3. According to 2016/17 HESA Data, there are 1,766,285 full time undergraduate students in the UK. The research shows 6% of students have already started a business, with an average.
    turnover of £11,408 per year. £11,408*(1,766,285*6%) = £1,208,985,616.

About Us

Santander Universities UK
Santander, through its Santander Universities division, maintains partnerships with close to 1,200 academic institutions in 20 countries. Santander Universities was introduced in the UK in 2007 and the bank is already collaborating with 83 British Universities and Higher Education Institutions, with agreements focused on promoting international exchange, entrepreneurial activities and the mobility of students and researchers within the network.

Santander UK is a financial services provider in the UK that offers a wide range of personal and commercial financial products and services. It has brought real competition to the UK, through its innovative products for retail customers and relationship banking model for UK SMEs. At 31 December 2017, the bank serves around 14 million active customers with c19,500 employees and operates through 806 branches (which includes 61 university branches) and 64 regional Corporate Business Centres. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in the UK. Santander UK plc customers are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK.

Banco Santander (SAN SM, STD US, BNC LN) is a leading retail and commercial bank, founded in 1857 and headquartered in Spain. It has a meaningful market share in 10 core countries in Europe and the Americas, and is the largest bank in the euro zone by market capitalization. At the end of 2017, Banco Santander had EUR 986 billion in customer funds (deposits and mutual funds), 133 million customers, 13,700 branches and 200,000 employees. Banco Santander made attributable profit of EUR 6,619 million in 2017, an increase of 7% compared to the previous year.

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