Business Leaders’ View on Higher Education

Anyone can see, it is possible to launch a successful and profitable large-scale business without a diploma of college studies. Or there is other situation: you have the diploma which never really helped. Here are views of successful people who believe that higher education is extremely overrated.Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, dropped out of school at 16. He had bad grades and found it hard to learn because of dyslexia. But that didn’t stop him from launching the huge corporation Virgin Group and becoming one of the richest people in the UK. 

In his book ‘Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School’ he proposes to reduce the time of studying in universities by at least a year. Branson believes that this will allow young people to start working and gain practical skills earlier. Modern universities, he calls the ‘warehouse of students.’

The businessman said: ‘I am not an expert in this matter, but as a pragmatist I see no reason why the usual 100 weeks of study, which today are divided into three to four years, cannot be turned into 80 weeks, divided into two or three years, depending on the student’s desire.’Henry Ford’s education was limited to the church school, and he wrote with mistakes until the end of his life. But during this time, he created the Ford Motor Company with automobile plants worldwide and became the author of 161 patents. The businessman did not consider his gaps in knowledge to be a vice, and even sued one Chicago newspaper, which called him ‘ignorant man.’

At the trial, a lawyer for the newspaper tried to hurt Henry Ford by asking: ‘How many soldiers were sent by Great Britain to America to put down the uprising of 1776?’. The businessman did not know the answer, but showed his class: ‘I don’t know exactly how many soldiers were sent, but I’m sure that much less was returned.’

According to Henry Ford, the main task of man is to learn how to use his own mind, and not rely on textbooks. He said: ‘The most difficult thing in the world is to think for yourself. That’s probably why so few people do it.’ 

Here’s what he said about highly accredited people in his book ‘My Life And Work’: ‘If I wanted take out my competitors with dishonest means, I would give them an army of specialists. Having received a lot of good advice, they could not get to work.'Billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel has not dropped out of neither schools nor universities, but this fact that doesn’t stop him from criticizing higher education. He believes that success can be achieved without a university degree. To prove this thought, he launched the Thiel Fellowship, a two-year program for young people who want to build new things. Each year, the foundation selects several dozen students who are ready to drop out and start their startup. Within two years, the foundation helps young businessmen — introduces them to investors and helps to develop the project.

Peter Thiel believes, it is better to solve real problems than to chase a prestigious entity. Moreover, young people have to pay large loans for education. Thiel compares today’s institution of higher education with the position of the church in the Middle Ages: ‘People are gaining large debts, buying a kind of indulgences and paying for the hope of salvation, which personifies the diploma.’The world’s first confirmed U.S. dollar billionaire did not consider higher education the key to success. After high school, Rockefeller entered Cleveland College, where he was taught accounting, but then he decided that he would have enough three-month courses. After completing the three-month accounting course, he got a job as an assistant accountant, grew to an accountant and eventually invested savings in his own business.

Rockefeller stressed that a higher education diploma is just a start for a career, and not a means for making big profits. After all, no one will appreciate a specialist only for a diploma. To become a professional, you need to set goals and work hard, gaining practical experience. Rockefeller said, ‘the diploma creates the illusion that you have no problems at all, instilling you a false sense of superiority over people without higher education and depriving a sense of reality.’Steve Jobs was raised by foster parents. One of the conditions of adoption was a promise to provide the boy with a higher education. Therefore, after school, the world-famous entrepreneur tried to get an education at the Reed College, but left it after six months of training. 

In his Stanford University commencement speech, he attributed this fact by two reasons. First, the university fee was very large, and almost all of his parents’ savings went to pay tuition. Secondly, after a few months, he realized that there was no point in studying. Steve Jobs did not know what he wanted to do, and the university did not help him understand this. 

‘I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made,’ he said in the speech. Amancio Ortega Gaona, the founder of Inditex fashion group, best known for its chain of Zara clothing shops was born in a very poor family who lived in a Spanish village with a population of 60 people. Once, 13-year-old Amancio Ortega saw the grocery store seller refuse to lend foodstuff to his mother. This incident messed the boy up and he decided to become a rich man.Shortly after, he found a job as a shop hand for a local shirtmaker called Gala, and learned to make clothes by hand. Just 4 year later, in 1972, he founded Confecciones Goa to sell quilted bathrobes and three years further on, in 1975, he opened his first Zara store.

Spanish retail tycoon and Zara co-founder did not have time to get an education, but he became one of the most influential people in the world, and even occupied the first place in the ranking of the richest people for some time.