Marks & Spencer

Case study
Talking about
The University of Leeds' partnership with Marks & Spencer

The University of Leeds' partnership with Marks & Spencer was founded when the M&S Company Archive relocated to a permanent home on campus in 2012. The archive has a collection of over 70,000 historical items and has also successfully engaged over 8000 students. The partnership offers exciting opportunities for collaboration between higher education and industry, which focuses on research, student opportunity and culture. 


The partnership has gained much external recognition for the strength of its activity: 

Watch Five years of partnership with Marks & Spencer on YouTube.


Working together has enabled us to secure funding for research that matches commercial need with academic expertise. The partnership has secured external funding for collaborative projects such as:

  • ESRC funding for International franchise research
  • two PhDs in consumer behaviour and social history 
  • HEFCE funding for store design research
  • NERC M&S Knowledge Exchange Fellow, University of Leeds academic Dr Claire Quinn, appointed to work with the business to ensure academic knowledge and expertise has an early impact on industry

M&S has also supported the university to secure over £7million research funding for bids in areas such as Big Data and the history of fashion.  

We are delighted that returning our Company Archive back to the business's roots led to a broader partnership with the University of Leeds. The partnership has enabled us to use academic expertise to inform business decisions in a variety of different areas and demonstrates our commitment to help young people into work.

Alison Houston, M&S Head of Company Archive and University of Leeds Partnership

Student opportunity

Our partnership recognises that in today’s competitive climate it is crucial to support students in developing their skills and career prospects, while businesses benefit from the expertise of our top-quality students.     

  • 50 M&S mentors supporting students on the business school nurturing talent programme in 2016/17. 
  • 15 mentors provided mentees with work experience opportunities
  • Exclusive summer internships as part of the pilot programme in 2016  
  • Embedded annual placements for students in legal, graphic design and product design.  
  • Over 600 students engaged through careers and employability activities in 2015/16 


From free online innovation courses to reducing landfill through Shwopping, participating in University Council and Advisory Boards the Partnership is making a significant impact to the Business, University and wider community. The 'On Your Marks' networking series is aimed at external business audiences.

New for 2016/17 is the Leadership Development Programme and Twinning. M&S colleagues will share their experience and insight as part of the new development programme for University Leaders. Colleagues will also be offered the opportunity to be matched in a University-Business peer mentoring scheme.

Our partnership with M&S creates the opportunity for a wide variety of collaborative and mutually beneficial initiatives. Working closely with a FTSE 100 international business makes this a distinctive and exciting model to contribute to both the University's academic strategy and M&S business agenda.

Martin Holmes, Marketing Director at the University of Leeds