Which UK universities breed the most successful business leaders?

When picking a university, a huge number of factors come into play: cost, quality of teaching, extra-curricular activities... and of course career outlook. Which university is most likely to lead to top management positions such as CEO and other leadership positions?

We have analysed data from 26,000 graduates from UK universities (only Bachelor and Masters degrees, excluding MBAs) to identify the institutions which were most likely to yield successful business leaders. Our data shows that employers are more likely to look for hands-on graduates and employ professionals without top academic credentials.

Best universities to become a CEO / CTO / Partner

University % of C-Suite & Partners
London Business School 5%
Cambridge University 3.90%
Birmingham University  3.20%
Strathclyde University 3.10%
Leeds Metropolitan University 3.10%
University of London 2.90%
Royal Holloway 2.60%
Leicester University 2.60%
Sheffield University 2.30%
Brunel University 2.20%

London Business School.. Again!

These days LBS seems to top most education-related lists, which is why we were not surprised to see it at no1, despite the fact that MBA degrees were excluded from our rankings. With a range of highly performing Masters degrees, LBS is well known as a breeding ground for entrepreneurs.

What of the aristocrats of education?

Regular chart-toppers such as Oxford or LSE do not feature in our rankings, as many of their alumni pursue careers with large corporations. Becoming CEO of Citigroup or Tesco is less likely than leading a startup or SME, hence their notable absence on this table.

Entrepreneurship, a way forward for Alumni with pragmatic degrees?

Alumni from Sheffield, Brunel or Leicester University are less likely to be wooed by big Banks or Consultancies than their Oxbridge counterparts, and therefore more eager launching their own business or joining budding start-ups, thereby climbing through the ranks more quickly and reaching leadership positions in smaller, more nimble structures.

Universities most likely to lead to 500,000+ a year pay packages

University % of alumni earning more than 500k a year Average experience of these alumni
 Oxford University 3.10% 17.3
 Cambridge University 2.90% 16.4
 Edinburgh University 2.50% 17.5
 Bristol University 2.10% 17.7
 London Business School 2.00% 14
 London School of Economics 1.40% 11.6
 University of London 1.20% 14
 Cardiff University 1.10% 18.3
 Birmingham University 1.00% 19.5
 Southampton University 0.90% 17.7
 Imperial College London 0.90% 18.2

Start by graduating from Oxford!

Our figures show 20 times more employees earning GBP 500,000+ a year among Oxford alumni compared to the rest of the UK working population*!

LSE is a fast-tracker

But Oxford is a safer bet: It takes on average 11.6 years for a LSE alumni to earn more than 500,000 a year versus 17.3 years for Oxford alumni. Whilst Oxford degrees are most likely to let you reach the 500,000 annual earnings mark.

Digging for gold? Then entrepreneurship may not be the right route:

Oxford's rankings show that reaching high level positions, yet not key leadership posts, at large companies is the most effective way of reaching a 500,000+ revenue: Oxford has the highest proportion of alumni earning 500,000+ a year despite not appearing among the universities with the most alumni in key leadership positions (CEO/CTO/Partners).

With the inescapable rise of the Gig Economy and ubiquitous start-up technology firms, employers are more likely to look for hands-on graduates and employees, who have either studies related topics or have added specialised MOOCs to their toolkit. It's a very different world from a few years ago when the most aspirational jobs where finance and consulting at blue chip firms, usually going to top-tier Classics, or History university graduates with little idea of what the business world entailed. This new professional world order is an open door for professionals without top academic credentials to show they are just as, if not more effective in the workplace.


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