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Which universities produce the most CEOs

Author: Emma Allison
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Every year, millions of students, parents and academics gather wide-eyed to peruse the latest university league table.

But what would the results look like if it was based on the number of graduates who went on to run a company?

As experts in finding excellent personnel, we decided to find out. We analysed over 260,000 LinkedIn profiles to discover who’s really top of the class.

Here’s what we learned.

The top 20 universities producing the most CEOs

We looked at how each UK university fared in terms of the total number of CEOs and Managing Directors they produced.

Rank

University Name

Number of graduates who are now CEOs and MDs

1

Open University

8,196

2

University of Cambridge

7,309

3

University of Oxford

7,033

4

The University of Manchester

7,011

5

University of Leeds

5,188

6

University of Birmingham

4,490

7

The University of Nottingham

3,833

8

University of Bristol

3,815

9

Manchester Metropolitan University

3,801

10

London Business School

3,791

11 University College London (UCL) 3,765
12 London School of Economics and Political Science 3,678
13 Imperial College London 3,539
14 The University of Edinburgh 3,435
15 Nottingham Trent University 3,400
16 University of Westminster 3,369
17 Kingston University 3,337
18 Loughborough University 3,289
19 Durham University 3,284
20 University of Southampton 3,235
 

Methodology: We conducted an analysis of over 260,000 LinkedIn profiles and identified anyone in the UK whose current job title is "CEO" or "Managing Director". We matched these profiles up with the university they graduated from to find the data above. 

Contrary to expectation, world-renowned universities Oxford and Cambridge were outshone by the Open University, which specialises in long-distance learning via online courses and tutors.

Moreover, London-based universities found themselves outperformed by some of their northern counterparts. despite being in the nation’s capital and one of the world’s most economically powerful cities, London Business School trailed behind more northern universities including Leeds, Birmingham and two universities in Manchester.

The University of Manchester did exceptionally well, coming in at fourth place just 22 graduates shy of Oxford’s total.

Which degrees produce the most CEOs?

We also wanted to find out which degrees were most commonly studied by today’s business leaders.

Below is a list of the top ten degrees to study in the UK if you want to become a CEO.

Rank

Degree 

Number of graduates who are now CEOs and MDs

1

Business Administration and Management, General

22,215

2

Economics

13,086

3

Marketing

5,979

4

History

4,492

5

Business/Commerce, General

4,338

6

Law

4,035

7

Mathematics

3,597

8

Psychology

1,386

9

Political Science and Government

1,234

10

Design and Visual Communications, General

789

 
Methodology: We conducted an analysis of over 260,000 LinkedIn profiles and identified anyone in the UK whose current job title is "CEO" or "Managing Director". We matched these profiles up with which degree they studied to find the data above. 
 

Business Administration and Management topped the list, with nearly double the number of successful graduates than the next most-popular degree, Economics. 

Surprisingly, History degrees made an extraordinary appearance as the fourth-best degree to do to become a CEO. 

Equally unexpected was Design and Visual Communications, which managed to make the list in tenth place. With increasing competition in the online marketplace, though, knowing how to stand out from the crowd is an incredibly valuable asset, so we might see Design degrees becoming increasingly popular as markets continue to evolve.

What about postgraduates?

Finally, we wanted to know if having a postgraduate degree increased the likelihood of graduates becoming business leaders.

Total number of CEOs and MDs

260,054

Number with post-graduate degrees

114,0664

Percentage

44%

 

Of all the CEOs and MDs we examined, nearly half (44%) had postgraduate degrees as well. This is a significantly higher ratio than the wider population: the Sutton Trust found that 11% of working Britons had postgraduate degrees. 

Top of the class

The new research tells us a lot about education and career paths that lead people into senior-level positions or even running their own businesses.

“Seeing the Open University come at the top of the table opened our eyes to what it takes to be a CEO,” says Brian Johnson, Director at Forward Role. “Those that apply themselves to develop outside of the regular path from college to university to job are the ones that see more success down the line.

“Companies who want really promising recruits should look for those who invest in their future with postgraduate degrees and online courses — the data shows it’ll pay off.”

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