From education to employment

Eight universities will teach students to skip the job market and work for themselves from September

students walking down stairs

Universities across the UK are preparing to teach students to build their own businesses and careers, it has been announced today (26 September), in another sign that the days of traditional employment are numbered. The news comes as it is revealed that half of recent graduates received no advice or encouragement on starting their own business from their university.

Universities including Birkbeck, London Metropolitan, Kingston, Manchester Metropolitan, Birmingham, Twickenham, Swansea, and University of the Arts London, have agreed to a partnership with UnderPinned, an online platform for freelancers, to launch a business accelerator programme for students seeking a self-employed career, and to support them to commercialise their skills from September. 

This will give around 150,000 students throughout the UK access to UnderPinned’s innovative online platform, including tools to build a freelance portfolio, find and manage clients and projects, and produce invoices and contracts. Students will also be able to participate in a Freelance Business Accelerator programme, a comprehensive online course with modules helping students learn how to price their work, pitch to clients, and build their portfolio.

The news comes after research from Opinium, commissioned by UnderPinned, has revealed that currently around a fifth of adults in the UK are actively building a ‘side hustle’ business, including more than a third of young people aged 18-35, suggesting the days of traditional full-time employment may be over.

The survey also finds that 80% of graduates believe universities and other educational institutions are failing to provide adequate tools, courses, and advice to equip students and graduates for freelance careers. Meanwhile 78% believe that universities are too focused on traditional career paths and not enough on building marketable skills.

Very few graduates say they were provided with technical training on key skills needed in order to pursue working for themselves – such as compiling tax returns (11%), finding clients (9%) and preparing contracts (9%). Nearly two thirds of recent graduates (63%) say they believe universities should offer sessions on running your own business, including issuing invoices and tax returns. 

This announcement comes days after the government pledged to abolish IR35 reforms, cutting red tape for people choosing to work for themselves, and ahead of UnderPinned officially launching the Association for the Future of Work – a new organisation that will bring together leading minds to improve support systems for self-employed and freelance workers, from better education to tax simplification.

Libby England, Senior Student Enterprise Manager, London Metropolitan University:

“We are working with UnderPinned on a new pilot programme to equip our students and graduates for success in self-employment. Albert, UnderPinned CEO, has been eager to understand and meet the needs of our community of students and graduates. For us, it is essential to understand and support our community’s engagement in all programmes, including online learning tools, and measure the subsequent impact. This requirement has been fully recognised and facilitated by UnderPinned. As a result, we look forward to better understanding and catering to our community of fledgling freelancers.”

Albert Azis-Clauson, CEO of UnderPinned, said:

“The UK is brimming with entrepreneurialism and innovation, but our educational institutions are failing to harness it. Historically, our universities have been really bad at vocational education – excelling in academics but failing to teach students how to commercialise their skills as well as basic business skills like invoicing and tax returns.

“It’s a hugely positive shift that so many universities want to support their students to build a business around their skills, which will help channel and focus their enthusiasm and widen their opportunities. We’ll work closely with these leading universities to give students the confidence they need today to build the innovative businesses of tomorrow, and fundamentally transform the world of work.”

Related Articles