18 November 2015

  • One in four students start a business whilst at University
  • Student businesses generate revenues of £478 million per year1
  • Santander launches ‘Big Ideas’ competition for students to transform the financial industry with a £20,000 prize fund

Over a quarter (27 per cent) of students - equivalent to 375,7002 in total - have started or plan to start a business venture whilst they are still at university, according to new research from Santander3.

Amongst those that have already started a business, the average turnover is £6,876 per annum, equivalent to a collective £478 million1. However, only 10 per cent of university students plan to start their own business when they graduate or continue with an existing venture, raising questions about the advice and information available to young entrepreneurs.

The research was commissioned to support the launch of Santander’s ‘Big Ideas’ competition, which challenges students to put forward their big ideas to transform the banking industry for a chance to win part of £20,000 plus the opportunity to develop the idea.

Simon Bray, Managing Director of Santander Universities UK commented: “Thousands of students across the UK run very successful and profitable businesses whilst at university, but the appetite to continue being entrepreneurial seems to diminish as they come to the end of their studies.

“We want students to continue with their business plans, both during their studies and after they graduate, which is why it’s so important that they are supported every step of the way. At Santander we want to reward and encourage students to dare to invent, innovate, create and be entrepreneurial.”


A lack of entrepreneurial appetite after graduation
When asked about their employment plans when they leave university, 80 per cent of students expected to join a company and 10 per cent planned to start their own business (eight per cent) or continue with an existing venture (two per cent).

The most common reason cited for not continuing with business plans was a perceived lack of experience (40 per cent), followed by a fear of failure (30 per cent), the lack of employee benefits (11 per cent) and the lack of support and information (10 per cent).

As part of the study, university students were asked to rate the support and information offered to them to start a business when they graduate. A third (33 per cent) said it was ‘OK, but could be better’ whilst over a quarter (26 per cent) felt it was poor or very poor.

When looking at the key influences for students wanting to pursue their own ventures after university, inspiration from other entrepreneurs had the biggest impact (34 per cent) while the influence of family and friends was cited by just over a quarter (27 per cent) and university experience influenced 11 per cent.

Bray continued: “There is support and information available to students but clearly more needs to be done to ensure it reaches those that need it. Our Big Ideas competition is calling upon bright, creative student minds to put forward their ideas for transforming the banking sector. There’s a prize fund of £20,000 and the winners will work with the Santander Innovation team to put them into practice.”

A look at student businesses
The study of university students found that technology-based solutions (25 per cent) are the most common type of student venture, followed by arts or crafts (16 per cent). Clothing and textiles, catering, and administrative tasks (all eight per cent) were also commonly cited.

The majority of student business owners surveyed said their motivation for starting a business was to pursue a hobby or personal interest (73 per cent), while 63 per cent said they were driven by financial motivation, and one in three (36 per cent) said they did it to gain work experience.


About Big Ideas
Big Ideas was created by Santander to help identify ways to overcome some of the key technological issues facing the financial industry. Through Big Ideas, Santander aims to help students identify and develop solutions, with participants retaining ownership of their work.

The Big Ideas competition has a £20,000 prize fund, which will be split into:

  • Best overall phase 1 submissions: up to 30 prizes of £50
  • The future of semantic search category winner: £5,000
  • The future of digital authentication category winner: £5,000
  • The future of virtual banking category winner: £5,000
  • Santander creative thinkers award for the most forward-thinking proposal: £3,500

Finalists will also be given the opportunity to:

  • Develop ideas with engagement from Santander’s Innovation team
  • Present their idea to Santander’s senior and executive teams
  • Gain valuable experience for their CV
  • Apply academic theory to real business challenges
  • Students retain the right of ownership for their ideas and prototypes.

For more information on the competition 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. 5% of students surveyed have already started a business, with an average turnover of £6,876.00. £6,876.00*(1,391,585*5%) = £478,426,923
  2. According to 2013/14 HESA Data, there are 1,391,585 full time undergraduate students in the UK. 27% of students surveyed have or plan to start a business whilst still studying 1,391,585*27% = 375,728
  3. Research conducted by YouthSight, November 2015 amongst a UK representative sample of 2,019 full time undergraduate students.

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 1|2|3 products for retail customers and relationship banking model for UK SMEs. As at 30 June 2015, Santander UK was the most switched to bank, attracting 1 in 4 new retail customers. The bank serves more than 14 million active customers with c. 20,000 employees and operates through 900 branches and 68 regional Corporate Business Centres. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in the UK. Santander UK plc customers are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK.

Santander Universities
Since 1997 Santander has signed over 1,200 collaboration agreements with universities and higher education institutions in 20 countries. The agreements focus on promoting international exchange, entrepreneurial activities and the mobility of students and researchers within the network, as well as internships in SMEs for students. For the past 18 years, Santander Universities has been the focus of the Bank's social action with an investment of more than 1.2 billion euros in different initiatives and university projects. In the UK, 80 universities partner with Santander and in 2014 alone the bank funded over 2,400 scholarships and mobility awards. In addition, the Bank has close to 60 university branches in UK campuses. Further information: www.santander.com/universities

About Us
Banco Santander (SAN.MC, STD.N, BNC.LN)
is a leading retail and commercial bank, based in Spain, with a meaningful market share in 10 core countries in Europe and the Americas. Santander is the largest bank in the euro zone by market capitalization and among the top 12 banks on a global basis. Founded in 1857, Santander had EUR 1.51 trillion in managed funds, 12,910 branches and 190,000 employees at the close of June 2015. In the first half of 2015, Santander made ordinary attributable profit of EUR 3,426 million, a 24% increase.

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