There are many things to consider when applying for university, including living costs, location, academic results, the student experience, as well as how a university can help prepare you for life after graduation.
But which universities are most likely to nurture the next generation of CEOs or give their students the skills, support and confidence they need to start their own businesses?
In a study of more than 28 million graduates, Capital on Tap looked at the U.S. and U.K. universities that have produced the most founders, c-suite executives and freelancers, as well as those that have the highest proportion of alumni who go on to own or lead a business.
Explore the data below to find the best universities for producing business minds, as well as the top options for those who prefer the small school experience.
Find last year's results here.
America's best universities for business 2022
Stanford University is America’s best university for business with 19.2% of graduates going on to start or manage a business or work for themselves.
Stanford also boasts the highest density of founders and business leaders at 11.8% and 6.8%, respectively.
The University Of California, Berkeley has produced the most founders overall with more than 41,300 graduates going on to found or co-found a business (7.3%).
Harvard University has produced the highest number of business leaders with more than 23,800 graduates (5.2%) holding c-suite titles such as CEO and Managing Director.
New York University has produced more self-starters than any other university with 6,900 alumni (1.7%) working in freelance roles.
While Stanford graduates are the most likely to go on to be business owners and leaders, it's the non-Ivy League school, Berkley, that has produced the most founders.
Almost a fifth (19.2%) of Stanford graduates go on to own or lead a business. Looking closer at the results, we can see that Stanford grads were the most likely to go on and hold c-suite level positions (6.8%) or be business founders and co-founders (11.8%).
But when it comes to sheer volume, it’s Berkley that has produced the most alumni who hold founder, executive, and freelance job titles (64,600), the majority of them (41,300) are business founders. Among its alumni, Berkeley counts the founders of companies including Intel, eBay, and Tesla, as well as Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak.
Despite ranking 21st overall, our study found that Harvard University has produced the highest number of c-suite level executives (23,800). Meaning that Harvard has put more people in boardrooms across the country than any other US university.
While our study found that the top 50 UK universities were around 75% more likely to produce freelancers than their American counterparts, there was one US university that was head and shoulders above the rest in this category.
Approximately 6,900 New York University (NYU) alumni are currently working in freelance roles, which is almost double the number of second-place UCLA (3,500). NYU alumni go on to work as freelancers at a rate of 1.7%.
The U.K.’s best universities for business 2022
University of the Arts London is the U.K.’s best university for business with 17.6% of graduates going on to start or manage a business or work for themselves.
UAL also boasts the highest founder density with 1 in 10 UAL alumni (9.9%) having founded or co-founded a business.
The University of Cambridge has produced the most founders with more than 22,600 graduates holding founder or co-founder titles (7.4%).
Graduates of The University of Oxford are the most likely to work in business leadership roles with 6.1% holding c-suite titles such as CEO, Managing Director, Executive Director etc.
While Cambridge produces the highest number of alumni who hold founder, executive, and freelance titles, it’s graduates from The University of the Arts London who are the most likely to own or manage a business.
With 17.6% of graduates going on to be business owners, leaders, or self-employed, the University of the Arts London is the U.K.’s best university for business, beating out university powerhouses Oxford and Cambridge to claim the top spot.
UAL topped our study in multiple categories including having both the highest proportion and overall number of alumni currently working on a freelance basis, as well as having the highest business founder density of any UK university with almost one in ten (9.9%) of graduates going on to found or co-found a business.
Despite ranking third overall for the proportion of its students that go on to own or lead a business, Cambridge has produced the most individual founders (22,600) and c-suite level executives (17,300), meaning that there are more Cambridge alumni at the helm of UK businesses than any other university.
Oxford produces the highest proportion of graduates who go on to hold leadership titles such as CEO, Managing Director, Executive Director etc. and performed well across every major
category in our study.
The best small schools for business
While studying at a prestigious Russell Group or Ivy League institution has many advantages, the small school experience can help nurture an entrepreneurial spirit.
Direct access to professors, student services, requirements for work experience or internships, as well as the close-knit community of alumni associated with smaller schools can all help arm students with the skills, contacts and confidence needed to succeed in business.
Many smaller schools also specialise in creative arts and industries, often attracting people who value having more freedom over their work or have niche and specific skills that might make finding full-time employment difficult - leading many to start their own small business or pursue freelance work instead.
For this reason, and in the interest of a fair comparison, we decided to look at small schools separately.
Hugh Acland, Head of Growth at Capital on Tap commented: “While there's no shortage of successful people who didn’t go to university, there’s no doubt that doing so can help give budding entrepreneurs and business minds the skills, confidence, and support they need to help them be successful.
For the second year of our best business universities study, we also looked at U.S. universities to see how each country's top institutions compared. We found that U.K. universities were producing both a higher number and proportion of freelance workers than their American counterparts.
Whether as a result of students feeling more equipped and confident in pursuing self-employment or due to cultural factors, it’s likely that we could see the number of people choosing freelance or contractor work increase post-pandemic as the appetite for more flexible working options continues to grow.”
Whether you’re a young entrepreneur just getting started, or an established business looking to take the next step, you can access up to $50,000 in funding with the Capital on Tap Business Credit Card.
- An analysis of 28,755,293 university graduates on LinkedIn.
- Total alumni was taken from the alumni section of each university's LinkedIn page.
- Percentages are the proportion of accounts listed as a graduate from the given university with a corresponding job title.
- Discrepancies in totals due to rounding.
- Business Leaders = CEO, Managing Director, Executive Director etc.
- Founders = Founder, Co-Founder, Owner.
- Universities with less than 60,000 LinkedIn alumni were considered to be small schools.
- Universities with less than 10,000 alumni or an intake of less than 2,500 students a year were not considered.
- Correct as of March 2022.
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