375,000 UK university students are budding entrepreneurs


Amongst those that have already started a business, the average turnover is £6,876 per annum, equivalent to a collective £478 million. 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 or continue with an existing venture.

The most common reason cited for not continuing with business plans was a perceived lack of experience, followed by a fear of failure, the lack of employee benefits and the lack of support and information.

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 said it was ‘OK, but could be better’ whilst over a quarter 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 while the influence of family and friends was cited by just over a quarter 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 are the most common type of student venture, followed by arts or crafts. Clothing and textiles, catering, and administrative tasks 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 while 63 per cent said they were driven by financial motivation, and one in three said they did it to gain work experience.