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Success after school

Businessman and philanthropist John Caudwell says in some cases there's way too much peer pressure on young people to go on to university after they complete their A levels.

Sixth form students get their life-shaping exam results on August 18, 2011, but Caudwell says that while they should be aiming for straight 'A's across the board, a fast-track into a top university place should not be the be-all and end-all.

Caudwell, who made his estimated £1.5 billion fortune by growing and selling his mobile phone business – which included high street retailer Phones 4u – says that while formal education is an essential route for many young people, it’s not the best choice for everybody.

"There’s a group of people who feel pressed to do 'A' levels and university who actually would be much better just getting out there and going for it,” he said (video – 43 seconds <> ).

"Clearly, for certain people, further education is absolutely the way forward, certainly if you're going into a professional environment where you need those qualifications. It also gives them a chance to develop themselves emotionally and intellectually, and enhance their education at the same time.

"But I don't think formal education necessarily plays an essential part in being a business success, in fact, possibly in some cases quite the reverse. I firmly believe that a challenging childhood that creates that drive, passion and desire to succeed is one of the strongest attributes to actually being successful (video – 42 seconds <> ).

"Of course, you do need to be intelligent, there's no getting away from that, but being intelligent doesn't mean you have to go to university; being in a vocational situation, being in an entrepreneurial environment, and pushing for success, might be a way better education for some people than spending five years on further education.”

John Caudwell says his business success is largely down to taking a me-too idea, applying six critical business success factors, and doing it bigger and better.

"The opportunities these days from an ideas point of view are immense. The internet, the whole 'e' side of life, gives you massive scalability throughout the world. You've still got to come up with the idea, but even the less spectacular ideas can be made massively successful by having those six critical success factors (video – 50 seconds <> )," he said.

"Let's face it, who would have thought you could have made a fortune out of mobile phones by just being 'me-too'. That's all I had - I had a me-too proposition. Everybody sold Nokia, everybody sold Motorola, everybody connected to Vodafone airtime; all I did was do it bigger and better."