Study identifies top UK academic homes for business leaders

The curse of 'interesting times'

Career outlook is increasingly a major consideration for students deciding where to further their education. A study of UK universities aims to identify the institution most likely to lead to top management positions such as chief executive officer (CEO) and other leadership positions.

Pay data website Emolument.com analysed data from 26,000 UK university graduates – restricting its survey group to those with a Bachelor and Masters degree and excluding Master of Business Administration (MBAs). The responses suggest that employers are more likely to look for hands-on graduates and employ professionals without top academic credentials.

As shown in table below, London Business School (LBS) is ranked as the top UK university for producing a chief executive officer (CEO), chief technology officer (CTO) or partner. “With a range of highly performing Masters degrees, LBS is well known as a breeding ground for entrepreneurs,” the website notes.

However “regular chart-toppers such as Oxford or the London School of Economics (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 start-up or SME, hence their notable absence.”

Emolument’s data also suggests Oxford University graduates represent 20 times more employees earning £500,000-plus per year compared to the rest of the UK working population. However, it also 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.

Table 1:
Table 1

Emolument’s data also suggests Oxford University graduates represent 20 times more employees earning £500,000-plus per year compared to the rest of the UK working population. However, it also 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.

Table 2:
Table 2

The data also suggests that alumni from Sheffield, Brunel or Leicester University are less likely to be wooed by major banks or consultancies than their Oxbridge counterparts. They are therefore more eager to consider entrepreneurship by launching their own business or joining budding start-ups, enabling them to ascend the ranks more quickly and reach leadership positions in smaller, more nimble structures.

According to Alice Leguay, Emolument.com’s chief operating officer (COO) and co-founder, the inescapable rise of the ‘gig economy’ – an environment in which temporary positions are common and organisations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements – and ubiquitous start-up technology firms means that “employers are more likely to look for hands-on graduates and employees, who have either studies related topics or have added specialised massive online open courses (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,” adds Leguay. “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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