Published on 02/08/2021

Paula Whitehouse and Rishi Sunak

  • The Chancellor of the Exchequer met with Aston University’s deputy vice-chancellor engagement and associate dean enterprise of the College of Business and Social Sciences to launch Help to Grow: Management
  • The scheme will support senior managers of small and medium-sized businesses to boost performance, resilience, and long-term growth
  • The 12-week programme is 90% funded by the Government and participants can complete it alongside full-time work.

The Chancellor has called on the leaders of small and medium-sized businesses to sign up to a new programme designed to hone their expertise as he attended one of the first courses in the UK today (August 2).

Rishi Sunak joined a class taking part in the government-funded Help to Grow: Management scheme at Aston Business School, Aston University, alongside small business owners, to see first-hand how it is giving them the tools they need to innovate, grow and help drive the recovery from the pandemic.

The Chancellor delivered a talk to participants at Aston Business School on the critical role small businesses can play in boosting UK productivity. He then took part in a group activity and led a discussion about their own business models and opportunities for growth.

The scheme, which was announced at the March Budget and opened for applications in May, will give 30,000 SMEs access to world-class business expertise on everything from financial management to marketing and is a pivotal part of the government’s Plan for Jobs.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer, said:

“Small businesses are key to our innovation and economy and will therefore be an essential part to our recovery from the pandemic, which is why we are levelling up their skills through the Help to Grow schemes.

“I want to bring some of the best bits of management training from around the world to help boost productivity here in the UK.

“Help to Grow: Management will ensure our brilliant SMEs seize every opportunity to grow, fuelling our Plan for Jobs by boosting productivity in all corners of the UK.”

Experts in small business and entrepreneurship from Aston University have played a significant role in developing the programme.

Paula Whitehouse, curriculum director for Help to Grow: Management and associate dean enterprise of the College of Business and Social Sciences, said:

"It was a pleasure to host the chancellor at Aston Business School today. As a small business leader you have to know about all the key business functions and how to optimise them to drive high performance in your business. 

“Help to Grow: Management will combine this essential business education with the creation of a like-minded business network and support for the practical application of the learning to ensure businesses get immediate results.

“I am excited to be working with Small Business Charter business school colleagues all over the country to roll out the Help to Grow: Management curriculum and ultimately to be introducing many more business leaders from the West Midlands into Aston's vibrant entrepreneurial community."

Mark Hart, professor of small business and entrepreneurship at Aston University and associate director of Aston Centre for Growth, said:

“The launch of the Government’s Help to Grow: Management programme for SMEs is a welcome addition at a critical time to the range of support available to small business leaders across the UK. 

“Small firms will drive the recovery as they have always done in previous economic downturns and equipping their leaders with the leadership and management skills from the UK’s leading business schools will ensure that they will build even more resilient, innovative and sustainable businesses capable of responding to the emerging opportunities in their chosen markets. 

“This is a practical, intensive 12-week programme designed by some of our top academics to provide the skills required to improve the performance and productivity of small firms across all sectors of the economy”.


For more information about Aston Business School programmes visit our website

Notes to Editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

Aston University was named University of the Year 2020 by The Guardian and the THE (Time Higher Education) Entrepreneurial University of the year 2020. Aston Business School sits in the Top 100 QS ranking.

At a subject level, it is ranked by the Financial Times as a Top 100 European Business School, the online MBA is ranked in the Top 30 in the world in the QS World University Rankings, and our MSc in Strategy and International Business is ranked no. 1 in the UK

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Sam Cook, Press and Communications Manager, on (+44)7446 910063 or email:

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