Features | By Catherine Gowers

Removing barriers: How Santander Universities supports City students

Since its expansion to the UK in 2007, Santander Universities has been an important donor to City, donating over £1.5M to date. Founded in Spain, Santander has helped remove financial barriers for City students, giving them opportunities to develop skills and participate in new experiences.

President Professor Sir Paul Curran with Matt Hutnell, Director of Santander Universities UK.

Santander Universities has been providing financial support to students in higher education globally for over twenty years, collaborating with its network of university partners to enhance students’ higher education experiences through a range of funding and internship opportunities.


In 2019, Santander Universities extended its partnership with City by signing a new three-year agreement, taking the partnership into its fifteenth year. The new agreement offers funding across the three key areas of the partnership’s mission: entrepreneurship, education and employability.



City’s entrepreneurship team CityVentures offers bespoke programmes, events and advice to students and recent graduates. Through events such as Hackathons, which benefit from £8,000 of Santander Universities donations, CityVentures is able to support a wide audience of budding entrepreneurs.


Those in the early stages of their venture creation can apply to City’s Launch Lab, which provides free workspace, mentoring support, shadowing and pitching opportunities. Financial support is particularly important to emerging businesses and the Santander Universities funding has provided £40,000 of micro-grants and £7,000 of competition prizes to Launch Lab start-up companies. Launch Lab has created over 1,000 jobs, ranking fifth of such initiatives in the UK, according to recent data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).



As part of its commitment to giving every student the opportunity to succeed, Santander Universities offers bursaries of up to £2,000 to support some of City’s undergraduate students with their accommodation and living costs.


The funding is also allocated to support student mobility, providing opportunities for students to travel abroad through programmes such as Common Purpose: Global Leadership Experience. The funded places allow City students to spend time abroad on intensive development programmes, working with other students on solutions to global problems.



City’s Careers Service helps students and recent graduates to explore and prepare for their future careers. It offers a range of initiatives to develop skills and experiences to support students to succeed in the workplace, two of which benefit from Santander Universities funding.


The Micro-Placements programme supports students to consider alternative careers not traditionally associated with their degrees, through the opportunity to work in a London-based company for a few weeks in the summer. A key part of the process is the application stage, which uses £23,000 of Santander Universities funding to run workshops and a thorough interview process, ensuring students are fully prepared to make the most of their Micro-Placement.


The Santander Universities SME Internship Programme provides students and recent graduates paid work experience opportunities with local businesses. The internships, which last between two and ten weeks, receive £27,000 of Santander Universities donations, fully funding two-week internships and providing half the funding for longer internships (with the SMEs matching the other half). Managed at City by the Unitemps team, the programme enables participants to undertake valuable work experience and explore their career options. Sangita Bhalla (MSc Organisational Psychology), spoke about the benefits of the scheme.  “I started as a graduate who felt overwhelmed and underqualified… [now] I feel like a young working professional who can handle pressure and is strengthening and applying all the skills learned at university,” she says.

Supporting students during the coronavirus pandemic


As part of the Education funding, Santander Universities allocated £15,000 for student mobility this year. Since Government restrictions prevent travel abroad during the pandemic, the money has been reallocated to the Covid-19 Student Emergency Fund. The fund supports City students who are struggling financially or facing hardship because of the pandemic by providing bursaries of up to £500.

And it doesn’t stop there…


Alongside funding, students from City and partner universities also benefit from other initiatives to support their development.


Last year, City Women’s Football Team captain Karolina Batistova and some of her counterparts travelled to Barcelona to train with Barcelona legend and under 19 coach, Chapi Ferrer, on a Santander Universities trip. While in Barcelona, they were given front row tickets to see the Champions League semi-final. In addition, two City students from Widening Participation backgrounds (groups under-represented in higher education, such as the first family generation to enter HE or young carers) attended a special screening of the Champions League final.

Karolina Batistova with Barcelona legend Chapi Ferrer.


For the last ten years, entrepreneurial students have pitched their start-up business ideas at the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards. 2020 marks the tenth anniversary of the awards and Santander Universities is celebrating with its Emerging Entrepreneurs Programme, dedicated to support student and graduate start-ups. Participants will have the chance to win a share of £90,000 as well as professional advice from a mentor to help them grow, develop and scale their business.


Through partnering with Santander Universities, City is able to offer unique opportunities and experiences to students. We remain grateful for this collaboration and look forward to continuing working together to support students and recent graduates.


If you recently graduated from City, you can still benefit from some of the funding. Find out more here.