According to a recent study commissioned by Santander Universities, it has been found that one in 10 university students in the UK are running their own businesses while pursuing their studies. The research, which surveyed 1,000 undergraduates, discovered that there has been a 50 percent increase in the number of student entrepreneurs, rising from 108,000 in 2018 to 162,000 at present.

On average, these student ventures generate a monthly turnover of £411.67, which amounts to approximately £5,000 per year or nearly £15,000 over the course of a three-year degree. Additionally, the study found that 18 percent of students have plans to initiate their own business ventures in the near future, bringing the total percentage of current undergraduates involved in entrepreneurship to 27 percent.

Surprisingly, only 16 percent of those who started their own businesses did so due to financial reasons. Motivations for starting a business varied, with a third of the student entrepreneurs being influenced by their family, and one in five by their friends. Furthermore, a significant portion of student business owners (33 percent) pursued entrepreneurship as a result of personal interest or hobbies, while 10 percent aspired to be their own boss.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a significant impact on university students’ career plans, with over 40 percent reconsidering their career choices. Among these individuals, 78 percent expressed concerns that the pandemic would adversely affect their job prospects upon graduation. Consequently, six out of 10 students considering a career change now seek roles that offer a clear sense of purpose and the ability to make a difference. Additionally, 55 percent admitted to having a backup plan in case their primary career choice doesn’t work out.

Matt Hutnell, the director of Santander Universities, expressed enthusiasm about the increasing number of student entrepreneurs, stating that they play a vital role in the future of the UK economy. He acknowledged the challenges faced by graduates in the current environment and commended students for finding innovative ways to navigate the world of work.

The study also revealed that approximately 17 percent of student business owners aim to continue their ventures as full-time careers, while only six percent anticipate closing down their businesses. Half of the respondents (48 percent) plan to continue their businesses as side jobs or hobbies after graduating.

Among the various sectors pursued by student entrepreneurs, arts and crafts emerged as the most popular, followed by technology-based solutions and administration or business services. Despite the enthusiasm for entrepreneurship, 64 percent of respondents believed that there was insufficient support available for undergraduates looking to start their own businesses. Notably, 76 percent cited a lack of funds as a major barrier to launching a business.

When seeking guidance, over a third of students turned to their parents, while nearly 20 percent consulted careers advisors. However, the study indicated that universities and colleges (28 percent) and banks or financial advisors (22 percent) were the preferred sources of advice for students planning to start businesses in the future.

Although 15 percent of undergraduates believed that the pandemic would have no impact or potentially increase job opportunities, a significant number acknowledged the risks involved in entrepreneurship. Despite this, 33 percent of students still dream of starting their own businesses, while 11 percent perceive the risk to be no greater than it was prior to the pandemic. Additionally, a quarter of respondents claimed not to worry about the impact of entrepreneurship on their lives, and eight percent maintained an optimistic outlook for the future.

Santander Universities has launched the Santander Universities Emerging Entrepreneurs 2020 initiative, offering a virtual program of panel discussions, workshops, coaching, and peer-to-peer learning until the end of September. The initiative aims to provide support, expertise, and resources to aspiring university entrepreneurs seeking to grow or scale their businesses, with a particular focus on addressing challenges during the current pandemic. The program concludes with a live virtual pitching competition on 29 September, where two winning businesses will receive £30,000 of equity-free seed funding and an eight-week fully funded internship.

Over the past decade, Santander has awarded over £500,000 in support to student entrepreneurs and provided universities with a platform to showcase entrepreneurial talent across the UK.

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Sam Allcock

Sam Allcock is the founder of PR Fire. He helps small to medium-sized businesses land coverage in publications like BuzzFeed, Metro, The Huffington Post, and The Telegraph through smart press release distribution....

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