How we’re investing in the UK’s future prosperity

Britain’s universities play an essential role in shaping the UK’s future and delivering prosperity, from educating the business leaders of tomorrow to developing the innovations that are crucial to the nation’s progress.

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At Santander, we recognise the vital importance of a sector that contributes more than £73 billion a year to the UK economy – and this is why we have established relationships with more than 80 universities around the country through Santander Universities UK.

Matt Hutnell, Director of Santander Universities, says:


Santander Universities was launched in the UK in 2007 with the primary aim for universities to share goals of internationalisation, transfer of knowledge and fostering of entrepreneurial skills.

As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, I am proud of what we have achieved in building up our extensive partnerships with the higher-education sector and working with universities to enable students and beneficiaries to prosper.

Looking forward to another decade of success

To mark the 10-year anniversary of the scheme, Santander Universities announced extra funding for the programme, taking the total investment by Santander Universities to £10.1 million for the current academic year.

A further element of our support aimed at young entrepreneurs is the annual Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards. In this year’s awards, the winner in the early-stage category was BellaMoon, which provides unique, multifunctional baby products and which was set up by Irene Breen from Queen’s University Belfast. Meanwhile, Cardiff University-based textile firm Jenny Evans Designs claimed top spot in the established business category. The two winners were awarded cash prizes of, respectively, £20,000 and £25,000 to help them expand their enterprises.

Santander Universities UK is part of our global Santander Universities network, which, over the past two decades, has established links with almost 1,200 institutions around the world in countries such as Spain, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Argentina, Mexico and the United States1. In 2016, the network was responsible for awarding more than 36,000 grants worth the equivalent of £141 million in total.

Improving access to employment

Through Santander Universities UK’s SME Internship Programme, universities work with us to develop internship schemes involving small and medium-sized businesses in the local community. “For example, we have been working recently with the University of Chester,” Gareth Jones, National Head of Education at Santander UK Corporate & Commercial says. “They have a certain number of internship schemes every year, and through their careers department we will give an SME £1,500 to help fund a ten week internship for a pre- or postgraduate student.”

This kind of arrangement can have significant benefits for all the parties involved, he adds. “For small businesses, one of the biggest risks you face relates to taking on staff – if you bear the cost of bringing someone in and that turns out to be the wrong person, it can be make-or-break in terms of your business’s margins.”

The internship scheme, on the other hand, means the company can get an idea of whether this is a role that needs to be filled as well as whether the intern in question is suitable for the job, Gareth says. “So the programme gives the SME access to a high skilled and intelligent potential worker base, while the intern benefits from credible working experience – in the employment market, if a graduate has that on their CV then it puts them at a real advantage.”

The value of holistic support

Gareth comments:

Higher education is one of the UK’s most exciting and successful sectors, and the Santander Universities programme is a way for us to create a more beneficial relationship with our partner institutions.

Ultimately, we are looking to help the university however we can, whether that is via capital development plans that we have the ability to help fund, or simply through standard banking arrangements.

While many of the universities that participate with Santander Universities UK are Santander clients, benefiting from this link is not contingent on being a customer. “That said, where we do run the Santander Universities scheme with bodies that have corporate business with us, we are in a great position to create a holistic relationship to help the organisation achieve its aims,” Gareth adds.

A key factor in our success in the higher education sector in recent years has been our willingness to provide flexible funding solutions for universities’ evolving capital needs.

We are very much prepared to look at circumstances that are out of the ordinary. This has become particularly important given the changes we have seen over the past decade. In terms of capital spending, for example, I think the demand for state-of-the-art, high-tech facilities has increased significantly since the increase in student fees.

The higher-education sector has become far more of a “consumer economy” as a result, he adds. “Fundamentally, students are more likely now to think about value for money: when they are deciding which university to choose, their key concern is, where is my £9,250 a year going? What do I get back for that?

“Historically that has not really been the case. So, there has been a huge boost in facilities development within the university sector in the UK – a boost that we have been ready and willing to support.”

Ready for change

Increasing demand for the latest facilities is not the only change now facing higher education businesses. “There is the upcoming overhaul of the regulatory system as well as accounting reforms and the potential upheaval that could be caused by Brexit,” Gareth points out. “But we have a team of highly experienced Relationship Directors who understand the challenges ahead: they can use their sector expertise to work with clients and help develop the right strategies to overcome obstacles and build successful, sustainable businesses.”

Gareth adds:

We see the work of our Relationship Directors, alongside Santander Universities, as essential components of our combined support for Britain’s higher-education sector. Whether it is providing support for research, funding internships or through our Corporate Banking teams putting together finance packages for new capital development projects, our goal is to help with the UK’s economic progress by making investments in young talent and the country’s knowledge base.

More about how we support customers in the Education sector.

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