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UK millionaires: Where they went to uni and what they studied

We’re sure you’re always hearing stories of uni dropouts becoming millionaires around the world. But what about homegrown UK graduates?

Dreaming of making your millions, but just in the process of working out how to get there? Some pray for lottery jackpots, some follow every ‘get rich quick’ scheme that comes to town… but if this list is anything to go by, many more go to university first!

We’ve written a step-by-step guide on how to go from student to millionaire (easy enough, right?), and to motivate you, here are 10 uni graduates who went on to earn the big bucks.

These are some of the UK’s finest university-educated millionaires – plus full deets on what they studied, where they graduated from and how they got where they are today.

The UK’s millionaire graduates

  1. Emeli Sandé

    Uber talented singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé is not only a lyrical genius – she’s also incredibly academically gifted.

    She turned down her first record deal (that she was offered when she was just 16!) to go to the University of Glasgow and complete a degree in neuroscience, as her and her family placed a lot of importance on education (and she wanted a solid back-up plan in case music didn’t work out for her!).

    She first became known on the music scene when she won the BBC’s urban music competition, which prompted her parents to send some of Emeli’s tracks to BBC Radio 1Xtra. She went on to write songs for Alesha Dixon, Cheryl Cole, Chipmunk and Professor Green before getting her own record deals with Virgin Records and EMI Records.

    In 2017 she was awarded an MBE for her services to music and she’s now worth over six million big ones. Girl power!

  2. Rowan Atkinson

    rowan atkinson millionaire
    The ‘Johnny English’ star is now worth a whopping £60 million. Before he found fame as an actor, comedian and screenwriter, Rowan Atkinson had ‘bean’ a student of electrical engineering.

    He completed his undergraduate degree at Newcastle University before going on to study a master’s degree in the subject at the University of Oxford.

    It was during his time at university that he met fellow-screenwriter Richard Curtis and came up with the idea behind Blackadder and later, our favourite Mr Bean.

    Whilst studying at Oxford, Atkinson wrote and performed several sketches amongst student communities. His university life provided him with the experience, confidence and connections to get where he is today.

  3. Christopher Nolan

    Award-winning director of Inception, The Prestige and the latest Batman trilogy, Christopher Nolan has come a long way since his uni days.

    He is now worth a cool £60 million, despite only leaving University College London (UCL) 20 years ago. Nolan is also the youngest director to have been honoured with a hand and footprint ceremony at the world-famous TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles.

    Although he read English Literature, Nolan admired UCL for its outstanding film-making facilities. He quickly rose to President of the university’s Film Society and created several films alongside his studies. Both his degree and his extra-curricular activities at UCL supported Nolan’s interests, allowing him to find his true calling.

  4. Gemma Chan

    Gemma Chan got her first big break as a leading role on Channel 4’s Humans, before commanding the silver screen in Crazy Rich Asians in 2018, in which she played Astrid Leong-Teo.

    She grew up in Bromley, South East London, and she’s also quite the clever clogs having studied law at the University of Oxford!

    After graduating, she was offered a training contract at a major London law firm, Slaughter and May, but decided to pursue her dream of becoming an actor and studied at the Drama Centre London, to the dismay of her rentals.

    They must be pretty chuffed now though – she’s worth five million smackers!

  5. J.K. Rowling

    Everyone knows J.K. Rowling as the author of the best-selling Harry Potter series, but not many people realise that, before she became one of the world’s best-paid fiction writers, she read French and Classics at the University of Exeter.

    The influence of her Classics degree is clear in Harry Potter – spell names are based on Latin wordplay, and many of the ideas in the books are derived from Greek mythology.

    She’s now the highest self-made woman on the UK rich list, and has a estimated net worth of around one billion pounds!

  6. Sacha Baron Cohen

    Very nice! From Ali G to Les Miserable, Sacha Baron Cohen truly is versatile actor and comedian.

    In 1990, he matriculated at the University of Cambridge, just as fellow British millionaires and comic actors, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, had done before him.

    Baron Cohen chose Cambridge for its prestigious reputation and prolific acting opportunities. Whilst reading history, he regularly participated in their Amateur Dramatic Club, performing roles in plays such as Fiddler on the Roof and Cyrano de Bergerac.

    Nowadays he’s worth nearly £70 million, despite one of his Cambridge tutors remembering him as “quiet, friendly and studious, but not exceptional”. There’s hope for us all yet!

  7. M.I.A

    M.I.A is a rapper, songwriter, visual artist, record producer, activist, film-maker, full-time badass… the list goes on.

    She graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London with a degree in fine art, film and video in 2000. She had her first exhibition back in 2001 on London’s Portobello Road and actor Jude Law was one of the first buyers of her art!

    She went on tour to film Canadian dancehall artist, Peaches, who encouraged her to make her own music – something she started doing in 2002.

    She gained international acclaim with her single Paper Planes and is now worth around £11 million. Pretty fly!

  8. Craig David

    He’s worth just shy of £12 million all seven days of the week. See what we did there (#sorrynotsorry)?

    Craig David made it big back in 1999 with his single Re-Rewind. Before that, he was a student at Southampton City College and told Chris Moyles in an interview that he had quite the reputation for being late!

    And… he’s a massive Southampton FC supporter!

  9. Ricky Gervais

    Comedian Ricky Gervais is a University College London alumni. He originally enrolled to study biology, but switched to philosophy two weeks into his first term.

    UCL was also where he met his long-term partner and uber-successful author Jane Fallon (pictured), whom he’s been with since 1982. At the same time, he became close friends with Bill Macrae, with whom he started the band London Suede.

    Gervais initially tried to make it as a pop star before turning to comedy writing (he even had a record deal for a short while!). So that’s where the David Brent character comes from…

    His net worth currently stands at around £85 million, and Jane’s is at around one million. Not too shabby, the pair of them!

  10. E L James

    Love them or loathe them, we’ve all heard of the Fifty Shade of Grey books by now. What you might not know is that the woman behind the books is now thought to be worth more than £20 million.

    The University of Kent graduate read history before launching herself into the world of erotic fiction in 2009.

    The essay-based subject was clearly a blessing, as James didn’t even start out with a book deal. Instead, she made use of self-publishing sites online until she was spotted by a big-name publisher.

Get your name on that list!

These are just a few of the most notable university-educated UK millionaires, but there are too many examples of brilliant Brits to mention. And there’s always room for more!

Maybe your name will be on the list in a few years time?

Get a head start by gunning for a top class degree and (like these guys did) getting involved in some extracurricular activities while you’re at uni.

First step to millionairedom – stop spending money on these things that are defs draining your bank account!