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Is the Traditional University Route Still The Best for Business?

13/05/2013 15:41 BST | Updated 13/05/2013 15:41 BST
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As amusing as Nick Clegg's 'I'm Sorry' video was, let's not forget why the original video existed in the first place. The Lib Dems' whole 2010 election campaign - and Clegg's sudden popularity boost - was based on the fact that they promised to abolish student tuition fees, something that would save university students around £25,000 a year or more. Then they came into power as a Coalition with the Tories and suddenly students were looking at £9,000 a year for tuition fees. Oops.

I was a mature student at university at the time, and I can still remember the outrage. I also remember being one of the only people who believed that it was a good thing that the fees were going up, because it would weed out all the idiots and parent pleasers who were going to university through obligation or because "their mates were". I was torn to shreds for this view, with most people stating that with the fees being £9,000 a year, poor kids wouldn't have the opportunity to go to university.

My reply to that was: Good.

Not good because they wouldn't get the chance, but good because university in this country has become something that we take for granted. It shouldn't be a privilege just for the rich - that wasn't my point - but a privilege for the people who were going to give their degree 110% knowing that when they came out, they needed to earn good money in order to pay off the debts they've accumulated. What's wrong with creating a little desperation and competition in people?

In the 2010 film The Social Network, the President of Harvard Larry Summers says to the Winklevoss brothers: "Harvard graduates believe that it's better to create a job than to find one." Although the film is mostly a work of fiction based on the true story of how Mark Zuckerberg created the social media giant Facebook, that entrepreneurial spirit could - and should - apply to everyone, whether they are Harvard students or a broke kid from Hackney who can take a computer apart and put it back together again in the blink of an eye, but is not likely to apply to university because of the fees.

It seems that at the moment, you're either told that university isn't an option, or that there are no jobs. To that I say: Make one up. That's what I did. I graduated, worked in a job I enjoyed for nine months to have a bit of money behind me and then I turned freelance in order to have complete control over my career and give myself some flexibility. My confidence is higher now than it ever was working for somebody else. As long you never stop wanting to learn about what you choose to do - from reading, workshops, interviews and any other method you can get your hands on - there is nothing to hold you back from being a success in your chosen field.

In America, they are trying to create alternative routes to the traditional university route towards a career in business. They have options such as online business programs, which are similar to the Open University in the UK. All you need is a laptop that works and the time to do the work. You can balance it with work and take time to attend workshops and lectures outside of your online degree because you're not bound by geography.

Wherever you live in the world, as long as you have a decent internet connection you can learn and you can earn. There is no such thing as an internet recession, and there's nothing stopping wannabe business types from getting to where they want to be if they take the initiative to find ways to learn. A traditional university degree still carries a great deal of weight in the world and comes highly recommended, but it doesn't have to be the Holy Grail.

Here is what Alan Sugar said about university in an interview with the Telegraph in May 2011, when asked whether he felt that he had missed out on a university education:

"I don't think the outcome would have been any different. And I would perceive three years at university as a waste of time. I would have already made £200,000 by then. I'm a commercial person, not an academic."

There you have an example from a self-made man who was driven and got to where he is now by having a drive and determination that saw him succeed. Noble Prize winners might raise an eyebrow at the notion that university could be "a waste of time" for anyone, but that is the point: University is the traditional route, but it's not the only route to success. As soon as people realise that, the less angry they should feel about tuition fees and start planning world domination instead, whether that involves going to university first or not.