From Classroom to Boardroom: 2023 Study Reveals Universities Churning out Today’s Business Leaders

education, graduation and people concept - silhouettes of many happy students in gowns throwing mortarboards in air
  • Research by Novuna Business Cash Flow pinpoints top 20 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.

Top Universities for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

In a bold step to unravel where tomorrow’s business leaders are really coming from, Novuna Business Cash Flow 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.

Cambridge and Oxford were Strong Performers, alongside many London Universities – but there were plenty of surprises too

The Standouts:

Index Rank University Region Guardian 2023 Rank* % of Alumni becoming company founders (2020-2022)* No. of Students Equivalents*
1 University of Cambridge South East 3 6.85 4,374
2 SOAS University of London London 86 6.64 662
3 London School of Economics and Political Science London 4 5.90 3,456
4 Goldsmiths, University of London London 106 5.76 757
5 University of Oxford Midlands 2 5.16 2,902
6 University of Cumbria North West 115 5.10 303
7 Imperial College London 5 4.98 1,682
8 Falmouth University South West 97 4.95 397
9 University of the Arts London (UAL) London 19 4.33 1,250
10 University of St Andrews Scotland 1 4.11 533
11 Kings College London London 29 3.86 2,384
12 City, University of London London 58 3.75 723
13 University College London (UCL) London 9 3.63 2,652
14 St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London London 70 3.58 189
15 University of Sussex South East 66 3.51 806
16 York St John University Yorkshire 77 3.46 261
17 The University of Edinburgh Scotland 12 3.42 1,526
18 Royal Holloway, University of London London 33 3.38 540
19 Wrexham Glyndwr University Wales 94 3.32 149
=20 University of Chichester South East 37 3.25 152
=20 Middlesex University London 111 3.25 702


Full list available in the Novuna Business Cash Flow blog post


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 company founders are:

Index Rank Region of University % of Alumni Founders (2020-2022) No. of Student Equivalents
1 London 3.54 21,570
2 South West 2.64 5,320
3 South East 2.63 10,008
4 Scotland 2.61 6,204
5 Wales 2.41 2,874


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

Wrexham Glyndawr in North Wales – one of the universities punching well above it’s weight, alongside fellow Welsh contender, University of Wales, Trinity St. David


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:

Index University Region Guardian 2023 Rank % of Alumni 2017-2019 % of Alumni 2020-2022 No. of 2020-2022 Students Becoming Company Founders
1 University of Cambridge South East 3 5.70 6.85 4,374
2 University of Cumbria North West 115 4.22 5.10 303
3 University of Suffolk South East 69 2.11 2.91 175
4 York St John University Yorkshire 77 2.77 3.46 261
5 Liverpool John Moores University North West 87 1.73 2.04 692
6 University of Wales, Trinity Saint David Wales 74 2.61 2.87 285
7 University of Chichester South East 37 3.01 3.25 152
8 Wrexham Glyndwr University Wales 94 3.10 3.32 149
9 University of Bolton North West 38 2.23 2.30 183


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

John Atkinson, Head of Commercial Business at Novuna Business Cash Flow, 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


To ascertain the number of entrepreneurial alumni, analysis was conducted of the ‘Alumni’ segment on the official LinkedIn page for each university. Our criteria filtered for alumni who held the job title “Founder” during the period from 2017 to 2023. The results of this analysis yielded the figures presented in the ‘Student Equivalents’ column.

Additionally, we recorded the total number of students who graduated within the aforementioned timeframe. This data facilitated the calculation of the percentage representation of founders among the total alumni.

The ‘Guardian 2023 Rank’ was sourced directly from the Guardian University Guide, available here.


About Novuna

Novuna is a leading financial services company, authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). We have over 2,200 employees, £7.6bn of net earning assets and nearly 1.3 million customers across five business divisions; Novuna Consumer Finance, Novuna Vehicle Solutions, Novuna Business Finance, Novuna Business Cash Flow and European Vendor Finance providing innovative finance solutions to enable consumers and businesses to grow and prosper.  

From 1 April 2021 we became a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi HC Capital Inc., strengthening our relationship with one of the world’s largest and most diversified financial groups with over £60bn of assets.


Novuna Business Cash Flow

Novuna Business Cash Flow provides cashflow finance solutions to SMEs across a wide range of sectors in the UK, allowing businesses to release cash from unpaid invoices within 24 hours.

With remote digital on-boarding through FLi, its unique platform, and flexible approach to contracts, Novuna Business Cash Flow was awarded the Best Factoring and Invoice Discounting Provider at the 2023 Business Moneyfacts Awards.


Novuna Business Cash Flow is a trading style of Mitsubishi HC Capital UK PLC, part of Mitsubishi HC Capital Inc., one of the world’s largest and most diversified financial groups, with over £60bn of assets.