From education to employment

Southampton firm secures multi-million-pound funding to support UK universities

JS Group

University services provider, JS Group, has secured a £5 million funding package from NatWest to drive forward ambitious growth plans.

The Southampton-based firm will use the finance to expand its network of partner universities. The company currently supports 27 universities across the UK and has just launched its most recent scheme at Bucks New University in High Wycombe.

JS Group will also use the funding to develop its range of Aspire solutions which saw 10 per cent growth last year. Aspire programmes are designed to provide students with the most valuable university experience, whether that is improving student engagement or providing learning resources, access to laptops or mental health and wellbeing tools.

The firm was founded in 1751 by John Smith who opened a book shop at The University of Glasgow and expanded to open a total of more than 30 bookstores. The business has since adapted away from this model driven by the request for online platforms to incentivise university students and encourage student retention. However, the original book shop remains open in Glasgow.

In 2006, JS Group developed Aspire Engage, a smartcard bursary scheme replacing cash bursaries to purchase materials including books and stationery, and join student clubs and societies – encouraging student retention and participation in university activities. It remains at the core of the business today alongside Aspire Connect, Aspire Tech and Aspire Thrive.

JS Group employs more than 60 members of full-time staff and each partner university has an on-site member of staff as well as student ambassadors.

Peter Gray, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at JS Group, said:

“Our aim is to work with as many universities as possible, to support as many students as possible in as many ways as possible. The funding from NatWest will enable us to achieve this by developing our Aspire programmes further and offering these solutions out to a wider number of universities.

“We are looking at our long-term growth strategy and NatWest is our long-term banking partner of choice to help achieve these ambitions. The pandemic has made it a strange time to operate in the higher education sector but we hope that the funding will help us not only get back on track but significantly accelerate the expansion of the business.”

Mikael Rosen, NatWest Relationship Director, Mairead Taylor, NatWest Director of Corporate and Commercial Banking in Dorset and Richard Emblen, NatWest Director, Credit Delivery, helped JS Group to secure the funding package.

Mikael said:

“JS Group is a brilliant business servicing the higher education sector and providing universities with solutions that allow students from all backgrounds to access the resources needed to achieve success. With the funding we have provided and our continued support going forward, we hope that Peter and his team can drive forward these ambitious growth plans and help even more students across the UK access these essential services.”

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