The recent announcement from Emma Watson on her website that she will be "taking a bit of time off" from her degree at Brown University to focus on professional and acting projects has divided fans and followers over whether she should set an example by sticking with her studies.
With rising tuition fees and the cost of living steadily on the up, many young women are delaying their time or skipping university altogether in favour of joining the work force.
A degree from one of the top universities has traditionally boosted your earning potential. But with university fees soaring up to the maximum of £9,000 per year and a degree going hand-in-hand with debt - perhaps you don’t need a degree to be successful, after all.
Jacqueline Gold, founder of the Ann Summers adult retail empire, is a successful self-made business woman who has done it all without a degree.
We asked Gold what she thought about women choosing a career over university, and she replied that it actually made her feel proud. “I’m excited that there are individuals that want to do something different and create their own career and get straight in to the work place.”
Gold also insists that while she doesn’t find university to be a waste of time (and essentially money), but that she does worry that too many women are going to university to earn degrees simply because they feel that they don’t have any other options.
She’s never felt that not having a degree has held her back, or prevented her from reaching her goals.
“I was acutely aware when I started Ann Summers Party Plan that I had no formal business training, but what started out as a disadvantage actually turned into one of my biggest advantages. I had to rely entirely on listening to customer feedback, which led to the rapid growth of Party Plan turning over £86,000 in its first year.”
"I was acutely aware when I started Ann Summers Party Plan that I had no formal business training, but what started out as a disadvantage actually turned into one of my biggest advantages."
Gold says that she’s “very supportive” of the government’s plans to introduce 40,000 new apprenticeship schemes, and notes that they’re a great way of earning experience, as well as offering women a chance to “really understand what work is”.
Likewise, Katie Ledger, a leading communications consultant, says that updates in technology and social media have very much changed the the importance of a degree. The old saying “it’s who you know, not what you know” has never been more appropriate.
“Although qualifications can often help you get a foot on the ladder, professional networking sites such as LinkedIn have helped level the playing field considerably. Being connected to millions of professionals on LinkedIn can remove many of the boundaries traditionally associated with getting a foot in the door or accessing an opportunity. Some of the great women in the business didn’t attend university, but by being proactive and pursuing personal dreams of success, they made it, and being connected to leading professionals can obviously improve your chances.”
Essentially, it’s down to each women to do what they feel is right, and to follow their own path. And as Jacqueline says, “I would hope that my and other entrepreneur’s success inspires people to realise that you don’t need a degree to succeed. You need drive, passion and the ability to grab an opportunity and make it work for you.”
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