Almost half of students considering ditching uni to start own business

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

New research indicates that almost half (45%) of GCSE, AS-level, and A-level students are considering starting their own business rather than attending university. Cost is at the heart of this budding entrepreneurialism, with many students disillusioned at the growing expense of higher education amidst the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis.

Three-quarters (75%) of 16–19-year olds think university is too expensive, while two-fifths (42%) said that the rising cost of university and student debt has made them reconsider higher education. More than half (55%) of students want greater financial independence, and enterprise is seen as a key way of achieving it. As a result, 50% have already started to learn skills that will allow them to start their own business, while more than a third (37%) of students have already launched their own business, or plan to imminently do so, be that a full-time job or as a side hustle.

Venture forward, a study by GoDaddy and the University of Kent, found that the percentage of start-up owners aged under 35 has more than doubled since March 2020, rising from 16.4% to 34%. Among this group, the proportion aged 18-24 has soared from just 1.7% pre-pandemic, to 8.6% in the two years after the Covid-19 outbreak. Retail is by far the most popular industry for those planning to start their own business, accounting for 55% of planned ventures. Tech and software (7%) are second, followed by leisure (5%), including beauty and fitness services or hospitality.

Beyond the potential financial benefits, students identified several other factors driving their decision to not pursue a degree. More than half hailed being their own boss (54%) as the biggest advantage, followed by having more flexibility in their working pattern (40%) and not having to work a 9-5 job (34%). Two-fifths (38%) want to follow their passion.

The findings also uncovered that the biggest barriers students face when thinking about launching their own venture is a perceived lack of experience (89%) and knowledge (36%). Nearly half (48%) also consider their fear of failure to be a significant barrier to success, as well as lack of capital/funding to launch (43%).

Jack Parsons is Chief Executive Officer of The Youth Group, an organisation that has helped more than 95,000 young people get into work. Jack didn’t attend university and took to entrepreneurism shortly after leaving school, which he says is becoming more popular: “I work with thousands of young people and am seeing more and more of them choose to start their own business instead of attending university. Starting a business has never been easier, so as higher education becomes more expensive I expect to see this tend continue.”

“Running your own business gives you certain skills, such as emotional intelligence, that simply can’t be developed in the same way at university. There is a really exciting entrepreneurial spirit among young people in the UK and it’s great to see GoDaddy championing the businesses it produces.”

Ben Law, Head of UK & Ireland, GoDaddy, said: “GoDaddy is focused on empowering entrepreneurs and making opportunity more inclusive for all, and it’s inspiring to see a new generation of entrepreneurs explore different routes to success. Gone are the days where a university degree Automatically translated to career success and financial independence. Today, young people feel inspired to follow their passion and hone their business skills.

“Our research highlighted young people’s concerns around knowledge gaps and financial obstacles, and these aspiring entrepreneurs need the right support to grow and prosper, which is what GoDaddy is passionate about providing.”

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024