‘Generation Hustle’: The Open University (@OpenUniversity) discovers a new wave of Passion-prenuers

Whilst many say young people have been hugely affected by the pandemic, new polling reveals a new wave of optimism when it comes to the study and the career choices of today’s school leavers.

The Open University study has identified the next generation of ‘Passion-preneurs’ – students inspired to undertake a degree and pursue a side hustle or career that is inspired by the interests they love. Revealing that the hustle generation, or Gen H, is alive and kicking despite the pandemic - whether it’s money on their mind, a need-to-work and study ethic, or the desire to get ahead fast - the results highlight a goal-driven generation who want flexibility to juggle their student lives with their career ambitions.

Some 28% of students intending to go to university have a passion project that already makes them income, and 28% have ambitions to turn this into a career. Over a quarter (29%) are sharpening their entrepreneurial skills with a part time job and a passion project all connected to their choice of degree. Gen H has sharp ideas about their future and where they want their career to take them and they’re taking the steps to make it happen now.

Flexibility to work and study is especially important to Gen H. Stats show 56% of students considering university want to work on passion projects at the same time and 29% say their decision about which subject to study was led by their passion project.

A recent report showed the OU produces more CEOs than any other UK university suggesting the Open University is the place for students with this hustle mentality.

This enterprising group are thinking about the building blocks towards a future too. Some 51% say their degree subject will help them to progress in the career and 88% say that it important that their university helps them with a qualification that will help them achieve their career goals.

It is important to 4 in every 5 (84%) of respondents that their future university helps them pursue their ambitions by providing expert learning advice.

The insights also show that students applying to university expect to have 3 - 5 jobs in their lifetime revealing that Generation Hustle are young people who are willing to explore new avenues when it comes to their career choices and who express a desire for lifelong learning.

Some 22% have a passion project that doesn’t currently earn money – 46% say it’s on a back burner but it will lead to a career and 16% say it helps with wellbeing.

The Open University comes third amongst 174 participating degree-awarding universities, a rise from 17th place in 2019 underlining the growing popularity for distance learning and the OU as the trusted place chosen by many to follow their ambition and study for a degree.

The Open University has seen a rise in its student numbers over the past year, as the pandemic means more people are choosing to study online with the OU. The University cites the impact of Covid-19 as the main driver of the increase; it has significantly increased the demand for upskilling and reskilling and has emphasised the attractiveness of high-quality distance learning.

 The total number of students for 2020/21 is up 15% on last year to over 163,000. The total number of new students registering with the OU in the past year is over 59,000 compared to nearly 47,000 in 2019/20. A rise of 25%.

The survey’s other key findings include:

  • 40 % said Marcus Rashford most embodies Gen H’s work ethic, one of the UK’s successful entrepreneurs who turned a passion into a business

Prof Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University said:

“This last year has amplified concerns about money and jobs for young people, but it’s also clear that this Generation H is hungrier than ever to make up for lost time. Many are approaching higher education having already plugged into their hobbies and interests, often turning these into genuine enterprise. They're ahead of the game and display a determined mentality to get the most from both, their study and their passions.”

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