Faculty of Business and Law attracts regional business leaders to new advisory team

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Donna Whitehead, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean at UWE Bristol’s, Faculty of Business and Law has unveiled an impressive new advisory team of 21 regional business leaders.

The new FBL Faculty Advisory Board has been assembled to look at how the new Faculty and its new £50m building can serve the needs of the region and its economy.

Business leaders from the region’s financial, commercial, legal, public and health sectors are represented on the panel. They are:

Chair – Lord Bichard, Chairman of the National Audit Office

Barbara Davies, Former CEO – West of England Local Enterprise Partnership

Bonnie Dean, CEO – Bristol and Bath Science Park

Chris Nott, Senior Partner – Capital Law

Clive Hetherington, Ex-Area Director – Lloyds Bank

Dame Ruby McGregor-Smith, CEO – Mitie Group

David Relph, Director – Bristol Health Partners

Iain Lovatt, Founder and Chairman – Blue Sheep

Jason Sprague, Management Consultant – ASE Consulting

John Moriarty, President – Bristol Law Society

Karl Brown, Senior Associate – Clark Willmott

Katherine Bennett, Vice-President – Public affairs – Airbus

Keith Probert, MD – Viimi

Luis Garcia, CEO – Bristol Water

Nicola Yates OBE, City Director – Bristol City Council

Peter Rillett, Chairman – North Bristol Trust

Phil Smith, MD – Business West

Rick Sturge, President – ICAEW

Sarah Pullen, MD – Trinity Mirror

Simon Gibson, CEO – Wesley Clover

Vanessa Moon, Moon Consulting

Donna Whitehead, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law says, “We’re delighted by the calibre of our new advisory board and the leadership experience they bring will stand the Faculty in good stead to drive forward our new strategy to make our provision meet the needs of employers and ensure that we forge an international reputation for business and law at UWE Bristol.”

Lord Bichard, Chair of UWE Bristol Faculty of Business and Law advisory board, says, “To be effective universities must work hard to stay close to business; build strong partnerships with local and nationally significant employers; show that they value and respect the voice of industry and look for ways of making their knowledge and research base more accessible to business. This is a partnership of genuine mutual benefit.”

Students are set to benefit from state-of-the art facilities, as the new building for the Faculty of Business and Law draws a step closer to completion. With completion due for January 2017, the new building will include: two showcase law courts, a city trading room, a 300 seat lecture theatre, two Harvard lecture theatres, a number of smaller teaching spaces, IT suites, flexible social learning spaces, external business engagement space, central social space and café.

UWE Events Management students secure dream Glastonbury volunteer role

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Two students from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) have got a dream ticket to work behind the scenes as Events Operatives at Glastonbury Festival in the organisational hub at Worthy Farm.

Students Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Dimitra Dimitriadou, who are studying for an MSc in Events Management at UWE Bristol, have secured voluntary placements that will give them a unique insight into the running of the world’s biggest music festival.

The students will be involved in all aspects of the operation, including general office administration and support in Site and Infrastructure and the Licensing office. They will act as runners and help with phone and email monitoring, assist in the processes of co-ordinating plant, vehicles and site teams and provide direct support to key Glastonbury Festival managers.

Kyriakos is a postgraduate Events Management student, having already earned a degree in Music Technology at UWE Bristol. He would eventually like to work as an artist manager.

Of the two-week placement, Kyriakos said, “I’m from Cyprus and have never been to a huge festival before so I’m really excited. Having the opportunity to gain experience at a music event like this is awesome. As a career, I’d like to manage live events for bands. It’s great that I’ll get the chance to see behind the scenes and find out how things are managed at Glastonbury.”

Dimitra, an international student from Greece, started work alongside Kyriakos on 13 June. She said, “It’s a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to making closer connections with contacts that might help with my future career.

“My inspiration to work in event management stemmed from when I watched my Dad, who is a singer songwriter, perform at festivals and I was struck by the enormity of the organisation behind events. I researched my course very carefully – I have really enjoyed it and this opportunity is the icing on the cake.”

Dr Fiona Jordan, Associate Dean (External Engagement) in UWE Bristol’s Faculty of Business and Law, has worked with Glastonbury Festival for the past three years. She said, “Chances like this are all about putting theory into practice. In the events industry, learning through doing is essential and where better to do this than at the world’s biggest music festival? We are delighted to have helped secure such an amazing opportunity for our students to gain experience and to see what really happens at the centre of the organisation of the festival.

“In these roles the students will gain invaluable insight into the working of the biggest festival of its kind, before, during and after the event. They have a unique opportunity to learn and to prove themselves in a tough yet exciting environment. Events management is all about teamwork and making connections and I’m confident that Dimitri and Kyriakos will rise to the challenge and have a brilliant and rewarding time.”

Final pitch for business students at Enterprise Fair

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200 final year business students will take to the stage to compete for a series of prizes to highlight the best student business plans at UWE Bristol’s Enterprise Fair, from 10-12 noon this Saturday 14 May 2016 at the UWE Bristol Exhibition and Conference Centre (ECC).

The students will make a 30 second elevator pitch and take part in an assessed poster presentation to mark the final element of the Enterprise project, a final year dissertation module organised around the creation and development of a business plan.

Students have submitted business plans based around a wide range of business ventures covering everything from software applications to artisan food businesses, including a considerable number focused around sustainability.

Speaking about the significance of the Enterprise Fair, Bristol Business School’s Nick Kent, said, “The Enterprise Fair – which gives students the opportunity to pitch their business ideas in a public arena – really is the icing on the cake of the Enterprise Project module; a supervised dissertation module which sees students working up a business idea into a full business plan over the course of the final year of their degrees.

“This is the second time that we’ve run this particular event and we’re hoping to build on the success that we had last year. Students take away the ability to create and develop a full business plan – a very transferable skill which will be equally valuable in the private, public or third sectors. The business plan draws on and integrates knowledge from a wide range of subjects including strategy, marketing, operations, and accounting and finance. The students also gain an appreciation that you need much more than just a good idea to prepare to launch a successful business.

“In essence we believe that the Enterprise Project provides an arena to enable students to create and develop a unique business opportunity by synthesising ideas from their prior learning, research that they’ve carried out, and their own individual creativity.”

There are a range of prizes for the best projects, all generously sponsored by Peter Fane of Nurture Landscapes, an alumnus of the University. Prizes include Best Enterprise Project, Best ‘sustainable’ Enterprise Project and two prizes for ‘The Projects with the Most Potential’.

Students are set to benefit from state-of-the art facilities, as the new building for the Faculty of Business and Law draws a step closer to completion. A ceremony recently took place to mark construction reaching the top floor of the landmark building with completion due for January 2017.

For more information on studying at UWE Bristol, visit the Faculty of Business and Law website.

£50 million UWE Business and Law building is a step closer

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The new £50 million Faculty of Business and Law at UWE Bristol (the University of the West of England) is a step closer to completion.

The new state-of-the-art building will house Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School and is part of the University’s campus development plan to build a University for the 21st Century.

A ceremony is being held on 4 May [2016] to mark construction reaching the top floor of the landmark building.

Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors and an Honorary Graduand from UWE Bristol will mark the occasion by securing a golden bolt on the top floor of the building on Wednesday 4 May.

The new building is located on the northern side of the plaza at the heart of developments on the UWE Bristol Frenchay Campus and is due for completion by January 2017.

The new building will ensure that staff, students and businesses have access to world class facilities and it will enable achievement of the core of the Faculty strategy: engagement with the business sector in the region.

Research by the Association of Business Schools and the Chartered Management Institute, shows that UK business schools and businesses, who are key employers of graduates, could benefit from closer working relationships. Businesses say they want ‘business-ready’ graduates, and key to achieving this are student placements and work experience which are a core part of the vision for the Faculty.

The numbers of UWE Bristol business graduates entering professional jobs within 6 months of graduation has been consistently ahead of the marketplace for business graduates. The latest data based on the 2013/14 Destination of Leavers in Higher Education (DLHE) produced by the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed 74% of UWE Bristol graduates entering professional jobs immediately after graduation compared to a national figure of 67%, confirming the capability of these graduates and the underlining demand in the region.

Working closely with a modern practice-based university like UWE Bristol brings huge benefits for business and this new facility will foster formal and informal interaction between businesses and the University.

Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors says,“UWE Bristol is a great university with impressive international reach. It should be commended for investing in the workforce of the future. Access to skills is a major concern for IoD members, as shortages in key areas can prevent businesses from growing. Management, professional, commercial and entrepreneurial skills are vital to this region. UWE’s effort will create strong career opportunities for students and employees alike.”

Key professional organisations will have a base in the new building enabling barristers, accountants, small business owners and start-ups to mix with staff and students in the learning and social areas. Throughout the building there will be flexible workspaces available for staff, students and visitors to use.

Donna Whitehead Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law says, “This will be a live environment where staff and students and business work together – with collaboration and collegiality at its core. We consult with our advisory board of key business figures who challenge us to make our provision meet the needs of employers and the latest developments in the business world.

“Our students are very enterprising – for example we have very successful Pro Bono work carried out by Law students offering free legal advice to victims of domestic violence and benefit claimants – resulting in successfully gaining £1m in welfare benefits for people wrongly declared fit for work. We plan to develop this model of Pro Bono work for a business audience – enabling our students, with supervision, to offer advice to small businesses on areas such as start-ups, intellectual property, HR issues, marketing and communications. These activities help us to be engaged with the region, and they benefit students by giving them live experience interacting with business owners and developers.

“This new building will enable us to deliver our strategy by providing a first-class teaching and learning environment comprising lecture facilities, teaching and seminar rooms, as well as specialist learning facilities such as a trading room, team entrepreneurship hubs and law courts. It will have spaces that encourage interaction and learning areas enhanced by the latest technology, as well as zones for all subject areas.”

Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School educate future professionals in all aspects of business and law – from entrepreneurship, management, leadership, strategy through to economists, accountants, marketing and human resources. As well as offering academic law courses they also train barristers and solicitors. They provide alongside this, relevant research into important business and law issues that confront both businesses and society.

Innovative new courses, such as the successful Business Team Entrepreneurship degree, enable students to respond to the challenges of creating their own businesses during their time at university.

The new building will include: two showcase law courts, a city trading room, a 300 seat lecture theatre, two Harvard lecture theatres, a number of smaller teaching spaces, IT suites, flexible social learning spaces, external business engagement space, central social space and café.

ISG is the main contractor for the project.

The University is currently seeking further funding from the business and alumni community to develop Technology Enhanced Learning classrooms to deliver the very best in student learning experience and teaching. At the same time this will give these businesses access to talented students and graduates, research and development.

Student shortlisted for £5,000 prize hopes to transform banking with virtual reality

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UWE Student Nominated for Prize A student from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has been shortlisted in a competition which calls on young people to help crack some of the financial sector’s biggest digital challenges.

Santander invited students and recent graduates from across the country to submit ideas outlining how technology could be used to transform the banking experience for customers in the future.

One of 13 entrants shortlisted for a prize in the Big Ideas challenge is UWE Bristol masters student Thomas Cottrell, who has developed a creative way of using virtual reality in banking.

The 24-year-old student on the university’s MSc Finance course hopes his idea can improve transparency between customers and banks, helping rebuild trust in the banking industry.

He said: “The biggest problem at the moment between banks and customers is that the general public essentially do not trust that banks are interested in the wellbeing of their customers. Even industry professionals estimate that it will be a decade before public trust in banks returns to where it was before the financial crisis.

“My idea is to add value to the way Santander staff interact with customers by helping the relationship to be founded upon trust. The specific way this will be achieved will be by making the process of dealing with Santander more transparent, and more engaging.

“By using an exciting augmented reality interface to make financial data come alive through a number of intuitive visualisations, customer and staff will find that decisions are made in a way that is clearly beneficial to the customer. The visualisations and financial models are so easy to use and understand that all customers, even those with no financial expertise, can feel that they are actively participating in their finances and can clearly see that what kind of deal they are getting.

“These kinds of models are very versatile, and can be made to work in branch and at home. For instance, as well as being used to talk someone through their options for a mortgage application in a branch, by putting the software directly into the Santander App, customers could use the process to make visualisations of their finances and financial planning right on their kitchen table.

“By being the most transparent bank at the point of contact with the customer, Santander can get a head start on the long road to earning back the trust of the public.”

Shriti Vadera, Santander’s UK chairman, said the competition was recognition that young people were often better with technology than their older peers.

The contest asked students to tackle challenges including semantic search, allowing bank staff to access customer information more quickly; digital authentication, ensuring online transactions are secure; and the incorporation of virtual reality into financial services.

Prizes of up to £5,000 are on offer for the best ideas, with Santander also looking to help entrants develop their proposals into solutions that could be commercialised.

The judging and awards ceremony will be held at a grand final on Monday (March 21) at Santander’s head office in London, where the winners will be announced.

National Living Wage a ‘leap in the dark’: UWE economics expert

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The introduction of a National Living Wage next month is ‘leap in the dark’ which may put some smaller companies out of business, says an economics expert from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

Associate Professor Felix Ritchie said there was a great deal of uncertainty about the impact of raising the earnings of the lowest paid by 50 pence an hour.

Dr Ritchie, who alongside colleagues at UWE Bristol has conducted extensive research on low pay in recent years, said large organisations would be better able to absorb the extra burden on their wage bills but smaller companies may feel the strain and be forced to fold or lay off staff.

He said: “The Government has acknowledged the new rate is a policy decision rather than a research-driven decision. It’s a bit of a shot in the dark and an experiment from the Government, which seems to be willing to accept the risks to employment to provide better wages for workers.

“In the short term, profits will be hit. Bigger companies will be able to absorb the changes but small individual businesses have less flexibility and will feel it most. It might be that some small businesses even fold and blame the new rate for that happening – it could end up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

“In the longer term, there is evidence that companies will find ways to adjust. This is what happened with the introduction of the minimum wage.”

The new National Living Wage of £7.20 per hour, being introduced on April 1, will replace the current minimum wage of £6.70 per hour for employees aged over 25. Chancellor George Osborne plans to increase the rate to £9 per hour across the UK by 2020. The blanket increase covers the whole of Britain, with no special rate for more expensive areas such as London.

Employees aged between 21 and 25 will continue to receive the £6.70 per hour, with those under 21 earning an even lower rate.

Dr Ritchie said another likely consequence of the move – announced in last year’s summer budget – was a knock-on pay increase for those currently on salaries just above the new National Living Wage threshold.

He said: “I expect employees on all the existing minimum wages to see their pay rising more steeply and there to be a ripple effect for those earning just above the new National Living Wage level. Overall, it should give people a bit more money and help families but the issue is – will people keep their jobs and will some employees be traded in for younger workers?

“The introduction of the National Minimum Wage was huge but this isn’t going to be as big a jump – the immediate impact won’t be as great. One area of major concern is social care – this is an industry that is already struggling, and they will find it hard to renegotiate contracts with councils.”

The academic also believes the introduction of a National Living Wage could cause resentment among workers already receiving a Living Wage through existing voluntary schemes, such as employees at Bristol City Council.

Dr Ritchie said: “Bristol is trying to be a UK Living Wage employer and the city council is requiring its workers – and organisations that work for it – to be Living Wage employees, so for lots of people in Bristol it might not change things. People like being on these voluntary Living Wage schemes, partly because it is special for them – it shows that your employer is willing to go beyond the legal minimum. But how are people going to react to it being rolled out everywhere?

“There was research done with the voluntary schemes – these rates are calculated by looking at what the average family needs to earn to live on. The new National Living Wage has just come out of the blue. It’s been based on minimum wages in other countries rather than thinking about how it will impact employees and employers in the UK.”

Dr Ritchie is director of Bristol Economic Analysis (BEA), a research centre based at UWE Bristol which has conducted several studies on low pay. It has produced a number of reports for the Low Pay Commission since 2012, focussing since 2014 on the pay of apprentices.

UWE’s Professor Don Webber led a BEA study in Bristol last year, with employers and employees being asked what impact a Living Wage might have. The study was carried out before the Government announced a National Living Wage was to be introduced.

Dr Ritchie said: “We were interviewing people about their attitudes to the Living Wage and it gave us some interesting insights. We were asking if people would work harder if they were on a Living Wage. Some said they would do but explained that if all organisations were paying the same Living Wage they wouldn’t feel their employer was exceptional. A number of employees were also worried about the effect on their job security because they recognised that some businesses have very tight profit margins.”

Financing British Companies: evolution or revolution?

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Sir Howard Davies, Chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, sets out his thoughts on the financing of British Companies at UWE Bristol’s Exhibition and Conference Centre, on Wednesday 9 March 2016.

RBS remains the largest provider of finance for British companies, though it is smaller than it was before the crisis and bailout. But how is the financing landscape for British companies changing? New ‘challenger banks’ have come on the scene, together with a range of new types of provider – peer to peer tenders, crowd funding etc.

The University welcomes Sir Howard to the Bristol Distinguished Address Series,to discuss how firms should try to navigate through this more complex marketplace.

Series organiser, UWE Bristol’s Professor Nicholas O’Regan says, “We’re delighted to welcome Sir Howard Davies to our 2016 Bristol Distinguished Address Series. These lectures have become a popular event for the Bristol business community, with the opportunity to network and hear directly from inspirational figures in industry with a wealth of strategic experience and leadership skills at the highest level.”

Sir Howard Davies was appointed Chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland on 1 September 2015. Previous to this, Howard was Chairman of the Phoenix Group between October 2012 and August 2015. He recently chaired the UK Airports Commission and was the Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science from 2003 until May 2011. Prior to this appointment Howard chaired the UK Financial Services Authority from 1997 to 2003.

Previously, Howard was Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, after three years as the Director General of the Confederation of British Industry. Earlier in his career he worked in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Treasury, McKinsey and Co, and as Controller of the Audit Commission.

Howard is a Professor of Practice at the French School of Political Science in Paris (Sciences Po).

Howard also chairs the Risk Committee at Prudential PLC, whose board he joined in 2010. He is a member of the Regulatory and Compliance Advisory Board of Millennium Management LLC, a New York-based hedge fund. He has been a member of the International Advisory Council of the China Banking Regulatory Commission since 2003 and in 2012, was appointed Chairman of the International Advisory Council of the China Securities Regulatory Commission. Previously Howard was an independent Director of Morgan Stanley Inc.

Howard has published five books focused on the financial markets and regularly writes for The Financial Times, Times Higher Education, Project Syndicate and Management Today.

The Bristol Distinguished Address Series is delivered by the Bristol Business School in partnership with ACCA,Bristol City Council, Bristol Junior Chamber, Bristol Post, Business West, CBI, CMI, FSB, IoD,ICAEW and the West of England LEP.

Discuss this event on Twitter using the hashtag #BristolLectures.

Improving a great national institution – the plan for modern public service

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John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the Civil Service and Permanent Secretary (Cabinet Office), sets out his thoughts on the future of the Civil Service at UWE Bristol’s Exhibition and Conference Centre this evening (Wednesday 2 March).

The University welcomes John to the Bristol Distinguished Address Series, to share his observations about his move from the private to public sector, give an overview of his vision for the Civil Service, discuss what he is trying to achieve in his role and what the future will look like.

Series organiser, UWE Bristol’s Professor Nicholas O’Regan, says, “We’re delighted to welcome John Manzoni to our 2016 Bristol Distinguished Address Series. These lectures have become a popular event for the Bristol business community, with the opportunity to network and hear directly from inspirational figures in industry with a wealth of strategic experience and leadership skills at the highest level.”

John became Permanent Secretary for the Cabinet Office in August 2015. He was appointed Chief Executive of the Civil Service in October 2014 and continues in this role also. He joined the Cabinet Office in February 2014 as Chief Executive of the Major Projects Authority.

John was previously President and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian oil and gas company Talisman Energy Inc. He has more than 30 years’ experience in the private sector. In his 24 years at BP, he contributed to its global growth and held senior strategic and operational leadership roles at global, regional and local level. Between 2002 and 2007, he was Chief Executive, Refining and Marketing, spanning six different businesses across more than 100 countries and he was a member of the BP plc main board from 2003 to 2007.

The Bristol Distinguished Address Series is delivered by the Bristol Business School in partnership withACCA, Bristol City Council, Bristol Junior Chamber, Bristol Post, Business West, CBI, CMI, FSB, IoD,ICAEW and the West of England LEP.

Discuss this event on Twitter using the hashtag #BristolLectures.

Reaching out to help businesses flourish: Crowdfunding agency nets £85,000 in donations

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Launching a successful business while at university could be considered an incredible achievement in itself. But three students from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) have gone one better – by forming a start-up which has helped two other fledgling companies take off.

Their company CrowdReach, which helps entrepreneurs raise capital through crowdfunding, has attracted more than £85,000 in donations since it was established just over a year ago.

The agency has helped two tech companies in Bristol – a 3D printing business and a virtual reality start-up – eclipse their fundraising targets and has now set its sights on giving more firms a funding boost.

It was created by undergraduates Rob Wilson, Bradley Green and Will Dooley – all students on UWE Bristol’s pioneering Team Entrepreneurship degree programme. Working alongside creators of innovative products, CrowdReach plans, creates, markets and manages crowdfunding campaigns – helping clients reach their target audience and convert interested individuals into backers.

Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular method of attracting funding, with Kickstarter and Indiegogo the most widely-used platforms. But the alarming failure rate (two out of every three Kickstarter campaigns end unsuccessfully) was viewed as a huge opportunity by the trio.

Rob, 21, said, “The problem with crowdfunding is the failure rate – on most platforms, if you don’t reach the target you don’t get the funding. Many campaigners fail to appreciate the time and resources that go into launching a successful campaign.”

Crowdreach helped earn £64,000 for its first client OmniDynamics and, more recently, £22,000 for VRGO. Its focus is on reward-based crowdfunding, offering donors a tangible “pay off” for their generosity if a target is reached.

Its opening campaign was a runaway success, with the £20,000 target from OmniDynamics being surpassed within 11 hours. The campaign helped raise enough money to launch 3D printer accessory Strooder, aimed at bringing down the cost of 3D printing by allowing people to create their own 3D printing ink from scraps of waste plastic.

VRGO was seeking £20,000 to launch a virtual reality chair, allowing users to control movement in the virtual world. Within 24 hours, 70 per cent of the target was reached and by the end of the campaign in December the total had been exceeded.

Final year student Rob is confident the company can build on its successes in 2016. He said, “We have a strong team and a clear strategy for the next 12 months. So far we have made a positive start to the year, with a couple of projects already in the pipeline.”

He and fellow students on the Team Entrepreneurship degree are actively encouraged to start their own innovative businesses. An alternative to traditional degrees, the programme – which launched in 2013 and is only one of a handful of degrees of its type in the UK – is targeted at aspiring entrepreneurs looking to learn about setting up and running a business in teams.

The programme’s undergraduates – known as Team Entrepreneurs – develop skills in everything from event and budget management to marketing, PR and graphic design.

Of the course, Rob said, “Time management has been the biggest thing we’ve learnt since starting the degree. The structure and flexibility of the course means that we are able to dedicate the majority of our time to the business and find time in the evenings and at weekends to complete our assignments.”

CrowdReach was selected for the NatWest-backed accelerator programme Entrepreneurial Spark. The programme takes in promising start-ups, offering them free office space and business advice to help them realise their ambitions. The company progressed to the next round of the programme earlier this year, benefiting from mentoring and a base in Bristol’s Temple Quay for an additional 12 months after an initial six-month placement.

Joe Ryan, owner of VRGO, was impressed with how CrowdReach managed its virtual reality chair campaign.

He said: “Launching a Kickstarter campaign requires a combination of planning and reactive decisions. The CrowdReach team were able to perform both these tasks under intense pressure and delivered an excellent result.”

Young entrepreneur aiming to save universities millions by halving drop out rate

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They are a costly problem for universities, accounting for hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost tuition fees every year. But an enterprising student from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) believes he has the solution to undergraduate drop outs.

Jamie Rawsthorne, 21, has devised a system which can help universities retain more students – by identifying those most at risk of quitting their studies.

Some 7.1 per cent of first year students dropped out in 2012-13, with course dissatisfaction and financial problems among the most common reasons for new entrants leaving.

But third year student Jamie reckons he has the answer – using historic data to predict which students are most likely to abandon their courses, then providing tailored personal support to help them stay. His start-up Unique Insights is offering universities across the UK the chance to trial the sophisticated analytical software from September. At least five universities have expressed an interest in using system in the 2016-17 academic year.

Unique Insights has launched at a time when retaining students is arguably more important than ever, with the recent increase in tuition fees to £9,000 a year making drop outs far more costly for both higher education institutions and students.

The inspiration for the business emerged during a chance meeting with UWE Bristol’s Vice-Chancellor Steve West, who revealed that student retention was one of the biggest challenges facing UK universities.

Jamie, a student on the pioneering Team Entrepreneurship degree programme, said: “When I met Steve West, I knew he was an influential man and just said to him ‘What’s the biggest problem facing universities?’. With fees being paid by the student and universities’ balance sheets more dependent on student income, it’s never been more important to retain students.

“We’ve looked at universities’ historic data and at the characteristics of students – whether their chosen university was their first choice, how far they have travelled from home to go to university, which campus they are studying at, and so on. Our tool knows how influential these factors are and can give a clear prediction on the likelihood of that individual dropping out.”

Some of the most cited reasons for students dropping out are problems integrating socially, poor grades, financial issues and a lack of a relationship with the university.

Once predictive analytics have been used to highlight students most at risk of quitting, the universities will engage with those undergraduates to resolve problems or allay concerns.

If, for example, 300 students were identified as being ‘at risk’, Jamie believes his system could prevent half dropping out.

Jamie said: “Research shows that as little as 20 per cent of students who experience doubts at universities actively seek support from their university student support services. We are trying to bridge that gap and equip universities to go to them.”

Jamie’s promising business has flourished with support received on the Team Entrepreneurship course, one of a only a handful of its type in the UK dedicated to giving undergraduates a platform to start their own companies.

About 60 students a year join the ground-breaking BA (Hons) business course which was established in 2013. It was inspired by successful methods pioneered in Finland and tested in Spain and Hungary.

Each student has a tailored programme to equip them with entrepreneurial and teamwork skills ready to launch their own business or become effective team players within dynamic and changing organisations.

Jamie, who formed Unique Insights with fellow Team Entrepreneurship student George Sanderson, said he was suited to the course because he has an entrepreneurial spirit.

He said: “I was selling tickets in college and sweets in school, so I’ve always had that spirit.

“I originally wasn’t going to go to university – I told my mum and dad it wasn’t any good for entrepreneurs. When I discovered this course, my mum was really happy because she knew I was way less likely to drop out of it than if I was on a traditional degree.

“I would recommend it to those who want to jump into the unknown – but you have to have the right mindset. It’s about ‘getting out what you put in’ more than any other degree.”

Jamie is based at the MassChallenge UK accelerator programme in London, a hub for the most promising start-ups in the country who benefit from advice from world-class business mentors. From an original 2,000 applicants, Unique Insights has progressed to a final group of 26 start ups battling for a £500,000 prize.

Last year, Jamie was highly commended in the Institute of Directors‘ Student of the Year prize. The award recognises students who have implemented brilliant and innovative projects that have created tangible value for a particular audience.