A partnership to be proud of

King’s has a long and proud history of collaborating with generous donors who are moved to support our students and research. But did you know we also partner with organisations who have been inspired by our work and want to help us maximise impact across communities?

In 2008, Santander Universities began supporting King’s with funding for a fellowship, four postgraduate scholarships and five scholarships for research or study abroad. Since then, the partnership has gone from strength to strength. To date, Santander has supported over 1,000 recipients across all areas of the university: student support, global mobility, research, entrepreneurship, widening participation, and careers and employability. Today, Santander, through Santander Universities, is embarking on a new agreement with King’s that will invest in the futures of our students.

A shared goal

Santander Universities’ mission is to provide inclusive, sustainable, and life-changing opportunities for students in higher education, with a focus on access to education, employability and entrepreneurship. Through these areas, Santander aims to have a positive impact within the communities in which they operate, allowing the dreams of every student to become a reality, whether it be to start a venture or become immersed in a culture they have studied and loved only from afar. In recent years, the partnership has allowed for a great many scholarships, internships and opportunities, as well as mentoring and skillset development.

The main driving force behind Santander’s support has always been to remove barriers to higher education and provide opportunities for students whose ambitions do not always match their means. This unique partnership has ensured more students can make their ambitions a reality, and Santander’s support has strategically responded to the problems facing higher education. In 2018, it was noted that women made up only 25 per cent of the two cohorts selected for the King’s20 Accelerator programme – the Entrepreneurship Institute’s flagship programme supporting 20 business ventures from King’s students, staff and alumni to take their ideas and ventures to the next level. This led to Santander supporting a pre-accelerator initiative aimed at achieving gender parity amongst the founders who secure a place on the programme. That initiative was the Women Entrepreneurs Programme (WEP).

The WEP combines a number of events, workshops and classes for women entrepreneurs. These can include pitching sessions, mentoring, coding sessions and an annual two-day retreat. With the programme, the Entrepreneurship Institute focuses on inspiring participants with the message that entrepreneurship can be a career pathway and it can also help them to build their entrepreneurial skillset.

In just three years, the King’s20 programme has reached gender parity and, with Santander’s help, we’ve built and embedded a system and network of support for sustainable gender equality.

One of these entrepreneurs, Josephine Philips (Physics & Philosophy, 2020), took part in the WEP and has since been announced as one of the entrepreneurs who joined the King’s20 in September 2020. Josephine’s venture, Sojo, is an easy and hassle-free way for ethically conscious consumers to get their clothes altered and repaired, connecting online users with local seamsters in just a few simple clicks.

Josephine’s participation in the programme was hugely beneficial to her: ‘The start-up space is an incredibly male-dominated industry, with 2.3 per cent of venture capital funding in 2020 going to women-led teams. I think programmes such as the WEP are important for many different reasons.’ She continues, ‘It’s a great place to build confidence and make women feel like they deserve to be there. The retreat is dedicated to our growth. Being amongst other women all at the same stage, and connecting and talking to them, made me feel seen.’ Since taking part in the WEP, Josephine was announced the winner of the Santander X Entrepreneurship Awards, the UK’s largest student business competition.

The WEP, after being supported and guided in its fledgling years by Santander, is now fully established within the Entrepreneurship Institute. After the success of this programme, the King’s partnership with Santander is turning its focus towards removing inequality from entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial careers for students from other widening participation areas.

Fewer students from low-income backgrounds participate in the programmes King’s has on offer – mostly due to lack of financial, social and cultural capital – and this is something that King’s wants to address urgently. With the support of Santander, the Entrepreneurship Institute is now looking to break down barriers for students from these backgrounds through a three-year initiative.

The first year will focus solely on research that deepens our understanding of the barriers facing disadvantaged groups embarking on entrepreneurship – a crucial effort in understanding the nuance that accompanies this issue. The research will also seek to artificially replicate components of privilege that lead to greater accessibility to an entrepreneurial career. The second and third years of the initiative will consist of putting these results into practice and helping young people to achieve their entrepreneurial goals.

Fewer students from low-income backgrounds participate in the programmes King’s has on offer – mostly due to lack of financial, social and cultural capital – and this is something that King’s wants to address urgently.

King’s and Santander will take on this challenge over the next three years to erase the obstacles currently faced by disadvantaged students, helping them to develop the entrepreneurial mindsets that will enhance their employability. Speaking of the new initiative, Matt Hutnell, Director of Santander Universities UK, said: ‘We are proud of what we have achieved in partnership with King’s, in particular with their Entrepreneurship Institute and their flagship Women Entrepreneurs Programme. We look forward to embarking on the next phase of the initiative, and to supporting even more entrepreneurs in the future.’

Sharing these findings with a wider audience will allow others to support disadvantaged groups within their own communities so that they, too, can succeed in their entrepreneurial careers.

Looking ahead, this long-lasting and significant partnership will focus on enabling entrepreneurial futures and continuing to support innovation.

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