How much money have graduate start-ups and social enterprises contributed to the economy?

Economy & Politics | Education | Reports | Start-up

Graduate businesses and social enterprises generated over £822m worth of turnover in 2018, according to new analysis of data provided by Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

The report, produced by sales recruitment specialist Pareto Law, reveals that in 2018 the estimated total turnover of over 14,000 graduate start-ups was more than HelloFresh (£802m) and BooHoo Group (£603m), highlighting the significant contribution that student entrepreneurs make to the wider UK economy.

Currently employing over 25,000 people, the estimated total turnover of graduate founded businesses and social enterprises has risen from £669m (2014/15) to £821m (2017/2018), a massive 26% in just four academic years.

Further data provided by HESA shows that when it comes to the number of companies set-up per university, institutions that have an artistic or more vocational focus take a more active role in equipping graduates with the skills, confidence and support to set-up their own companies.

In a breakdown of the top ten universities who have created the largest number start-ups and social enterprises in 2017/18, it was the Royal College of Art – whose most famous alumni include Sir James Dyson – who came top of the table with 251 new businesses created.

They were followed by University of the Arts (240) and Kingston University (229) who all eclipsed the numbers of graduates start-ups created at the prestigious University of Oxford (34) and University of Cambridge (11).

Top ten universities for total number of start-ups and social enterprises in 2017/18:

HE Provider Graduate start-ups Social enterprises Total
Royal College of Art 250 1 251
University of the Arts, London 240 0 240
Kingston University 229 0 229
The University of Central Lancashire 201 0 201
Falmouth University 197 0 197
Solent University 153 0 153
University of Bedfordshire 144 5 149
The Manchester Metropolitan University 135 2 137
Conservatoire for Dance and Drama 118 0 118
The University of Lincoln 106 0 106

It’s not just graduates who are founding companies: for some university students running their own business has become a way to help fund their studies. According to the results of Save the Students money survey 2019 4% of undergraduates now supplement their maintenance loans (£540 per month) with £253 per month earned by working for themselves.

Monthly spending by self-employed undergraduates:

  • Rent – £412
  • Groceries – £93
  • Transport – £50
  • Going out & socialising – £36
  • Takeaways & eating out – £32
  • Clothes & shopping – £32
  • Household bills – £29
  • Mobile phone – £17
  • Holidays & events – £17
  • Health & wellbeing – £15
  • Course materials – £13
  • Gifts & charity – £10
  • Other – £38

This is just a pound shy of their £794 worth of monthly outgoings for these frugal entrepreneurs, who according to survey data receive an additional £164 of support from their parents and are less inclined to blow their profits on nights out, spending just £36 per month on socialising. This is over a quarter less (27%) than the rest of their undergrad peers.

Jonathan Fitchew, CEO of Pareto Law, commented: “In uncertain economic times it is great to see that student-founded businesses have found a way to grow and thrive. The challenges faced by any graduate who has started a business over the past few years are significant and those who manage to make the grade should be proud of everything they’ve achieved.

“It just goes to show that stereotypes that are often associated with graduates and students are tired and outdated. They’re hardworking and ambitious creators of wealth and jobs, and a vibrant part of the wider UK economy that we’re proud to serve.”

Jake Butler, Operation Director at Save the Student, said: “The idea of students starting their own ventures, big or small, is not only excellent for the students themselves but also the wider economy. You don’t need thousands to start and there’s not even a need to set the world alight and going it alone can be a great experience.”

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