Educations

of the Rich and Famous

Everybody’s path to success is different, and while some naturally head down the academic route, others are itching to get into the world of work as quickly as they can.

But how many of the UK’s most famous, powerful and richest individuals actually studied for a degree and what did they study?

We’ve analysed over a thousand notable names from the worlds of celebrity, business and politics, to find out.

Education of the UK’s

Celebrities

You certainly don’t need a degree to write a hit song, star in a Hollywood blockbuster or win a gold medal, but many of the most famous faces from sectors such as sports and entertainment have still chosen to pursue higher education. We looked at 200 of the most famous faces in the UK to chart their journey to the top.

The Most Common Universities Amongst British Celebrities

As two of the most prestigious universities in the world, it’s little surprise to see the Oxbridge universities (Oxford & Cambridge) topping the lists across the board.

Of the 200 celebs that we looked at, slightly fewer than half (45%) attended university, with Cambridge proving to be the most common, with 13 famous faces passing through its famous corridors, including acclaimed actors such as Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson, national treasures like David Attenborough and Stephen Fry and even royalty.

Rank

University

Number of Celebrities

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The Most Common University Courses Amongst British Celebrities

While it’s no surprise to see that a number of celebrities studied subjects such as acting and drama to help launch their careers, there are also some other pretty interesting choices in there.

For example, who would have thought that comedian Johnny Vegas graduated with a degree in arts and ceramics?

The most common degree though was English, which was studied by the likes of Hugh Grant, Sting, Pippa Middleton and Chris Tarrant.

Rank

Course

Number of Celebrities

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Education of the UK’s

Politicians

As you might expect, far more politicians chose to attend university than celebrities, with 82% of current MPs holding some form of degree. However, many of the country’s most notable politicians, including Angela Rayner, Nadine Dorries and the latest Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, decided to forgo the traditional route of education.

The Most Common Universities Amongst British Politicians

Again, Oxbridge unis were the most commonly attended, but while more celebrities chose Cambridge rather than Oxford, the opposite was true for MPs, with 75 holding a degree from Oxford.

They include Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, former PM Theresa May and of course, the current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who was President of the Oxford Union and member of the infamous Bullingdon Club.

Rank

University

Number of MPs

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The Most Common University Courses Amongst British Politicians

While you might expect politics to be the most commonly studied course amongst politicians, the majority actually opted for a degree in law before they went into politics. Overall, the current MPs have studied 187 different degree disciplines between them, including subjects such as zoology, agriculture, Swahili, veterinary medicine and more.

Rank

Course

Number of Politicians

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Education of the UK’s

Richest People

Finally, we looked at the 200 richest people in the UK. The most notable detail here was that out of the 200 most successful people in the country, the majority (56%) never attended university (that we know of).

Many incredible success stories such as Richard Branson, Peter Jones and Alan Sugar went straight into building their empires with no higher education qualifications.

The Most Common Universities Amongst the UK’s Richest People

The country’s richest people all had varied journeys to the top, with many studying outside of the UK before settling here.

Once again, Oxford just edges out Cambridge, with 13 of the financial elite, followed by London School of Economics, as well as Harvard in the USA.

Rank

University

Number of Richest People

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The Most Common University Courses Amongst the UK’s Richest People

For a group who have spent their lives accumulating vast wealth, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see that their most commonly studied subject was economics, which was pursued by the likes of easyJet boss Stelios Haji-Ioannou, West Ham United co-owner David Sullivan and Bet365 founder Denise Coates.

Rank

Course

Number of Richest People

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Methodology

We analysed the educational backgrounds of the 200 most famous British celebrities, according to YouGov ratings, the 650 current members of the House of Commons and the 200 richest individuals on the Sunday Times Rich List 2020.

For each individual, we looked at what degree they studied at undergraduate level, taking the first degree they studied if they happened to study more than one.

Note that information was not publicly available for all individuals, in which case we assumed that they had not attended university.