How to start a recognised university with this 5 step process even if you don’t have any students yet

Everyone, it seems, is launching an online university, but what is a university, and how do you become a real one? 

Def. a high-level educational institution in which students study for degrees and academic research is done. (Oxford Languages)

In England, to use the title university, you must be approved by various Government bodies. The title ‘university’ provides a signal of quality; students know what they are getting, and employers understand that the qualification on a CV has the appropriate rigour. 

To use the title ‘University’ in England, you must be a Higher Education (HE) provider with taught degree-awarding powers, able to demonstrate regard for the principles of good governance relevant to the HE sector, and have at least 1000 full-time or equivalent higher education students with at least 750 students registered on degree courses and at least 55% of total students (full-time equivalence) on HE courses.

Become an English University in five steps: 

Step 1: Start teaching people – create excellent teaching and learning with high student satisfaction and deliver it in a financially stable way (make a profit). 

Step 2: Turn your teaching into courses – package your education into courses with rigorous assessments, academic standards, and performance metrics, including student success, and manage it as a company.

Step 3: Validate your courses through an existing provider –  Use a partner with degree-awarding powers to turn your courses into degrees and use this partnership to implement effective governance.

Step 4: Get degree-awarding powers –  Once you have been offering validated higher education courses for at least three years, you can apply for your own awarding powers.

Step 5: Become a registered university – grow to 1000 FTE students, with at least 55% of them on HE programmes.

Do you need to be a university? Students take a course to achieve a particular outcome; this usually relates to getting a better job than they would otherwise. Many established online courses provide excellent results and can be much quicker at giving students the required knowledge, skills, and behaviours to get the same good job. What the title on the certificate provides is social proof that what the course title promises was delivered. A portfolio, some experience, and skills can signal if the individual is willing to take the initiative to curate their learning.


There are those in society that choose to forgo the option of wealth to care for others.

Compassion: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

Oxford Languages

In all dealings in life, look out for the people dedicated to the care and protection of those in society who are weaker or more vulnerable. Care for people at all costs and protect them when they need protection. Communities are built on the foundation of their sacrifice.

Being Great at Work

A David Goggins quote appeared on my Instagram Reels this morning:

“Out of the hundred men that go to war, ten shouldn’t be there. Eighty of them are just targets. Nine do most of the fighting. One is a warrior. It is a true quote to life. I saw it going throughout training. I saw everywhere I went. Some so many people just show up to life that shouldn’t even be around. And there are a few people who do all the work. I wanted to be part of that nine, and I’m working towards being that one.”

David Goggins

I think that we often experience similar at work. 10% of people should not be there and usually remain due to poor management, conflict avoidance, or it can be easier to leave someone doing a poor job than the effort it takes to go through the dismissal process. The sad part is that 10% of people might be happier and more productive in a more suitable role.

80% of people turn up, do what is asked of them, and then go home, not ever going above and beyond or making significant innovations or impact but getting work done. 9% make a real difference, introducing new ways of doing things, volunteering for tough jobs, being prepared, staying late, and going above and beyond what is required.

Then there is the 1%, the people that impact not only the company or institution but the field or sector they work in, the key people of influence that push things forward and make lasting change. These people are wholly committed to their work and improving themselves and those around them to change the world.

Price’s Law

Price’s law states that 50% of the work is by the square root of the total number of people participating. So, the more employees a company has, the smaller the proportion of people that genuinely make a difference. According to the observations documented in Price’s Law:

  • In a micro company (up to 9 people), 50% of the results would be generated by up to three people. 
  • In a small business (10-49 people), half the results would be generated by up to seven people. 
  • In a medium-sized company (50-249), roughly 50% of the results would be generated by 16 people.
  • In a large business (over 250 employees) where the average employee number was around 1300 in 2021, half the results would be generated by just 36 employees.

The Good News

The good news is that if you want to progress, you can strive to be one of the nine employees and work and then gain the competencies and mindset to be that one in a hundred. 

The first step is quantity. If you have been smart enough to pick an industry that operates more or less as a meritocracy, you can start by working longer than everyone else. This might be easier than it sounds; according to multiple studies, the average person only productively works for 2-3 hours per day in a full-time job. If you can build up to six hours of highly productive work, you could produce twice the output within a standard 35-40 hour week.  

The next step is to understand the game you are playing within your industry. If you are an academic, that would be referenced research papers. A salesperson would be the revenue generated etc. Once you produce more than everyone else, you can target the specific output you are developing in this extra time to win the game. 

Finally, you can optimise your work through systems and processes to produce more of what matters within the same period. 

Hard questions

It is a tricky question to ask ourselves. Our egos do not want to admit if we are one of the 80% and not a top performer. I recently talked with one of my managers about Price’s law. I saw the blood drain from her face as she contemplated if she were one of the roughly seven people in our team of 50 people generating 50% of the results. She is, and by the fact you are reading a blog like this, you probably are one of your company’s top performers, as ordinary people don’t read stuff like this for fun.

Take some time to think about this, and then get a pen and paper out to make a plan:

  1. How many hours are you actually productive in the workday? (be brutally honest) How can you get this up to six hours?
  2. What game are you playing in your industry? What can you do to play better and win?
  3. How can you use systems and processes to optimise your outputs within your six productive hours? 

You already know what to do, so why do you not have the results you want?

What is the one thing you want to do in life that would bring you ultimate fulfilment? The thing you would do if money were not an option? 

Most people can come up with this idea quickly. When asked what they need to do to get there, most people can tell you this too, but they are not doing it. Commonly the issue people raise is needing ‘money’, but this is rarely the barrier people think it is. 

Many steps can be taken before money becomes the limiting factor and people tend not to have done the work to calculate the financial requirements to get their dreams off the ground. Outside of some manufacturing, most things can be started in the internet age with little to no money.

The information on starting most things can be found for free on YouTube or across various web pages. Hiring a coach or buying a course can speed the process up with a curated set of steps and feedback, and it is often much cheaper than people think. Multiple courses can be purchased for the same skillset by various experts in a field to provide further information and training to get started with dreams.

Nicolas Cole’s (@Nicolascole77) Four-step mastery framework can be a helpful exercise when starting on this journey:

  1. Do you know the right thing to work on? If not, who do you need to talk to and/or what do you need to read/consume to know?
  2. Do you know the right thing to work on but aren’t doing it? If not, what luxuries do you need to deprive yourself of, what distractions do you need to get rid of, what escapes & coping mechanisms do you need to avoid, what new habits do you need to build etc.?
  3. Are you doing the right thing but could you do it better? If so, who do you need to learn from/surround yourself with, where do you need to live, what community do you need to join, what ‘teacher’ do you need in your life, what habits do you need to improve, what techniques do you need to learn, etc.?
  4. Are you doing the right things as best as you can do them, and are just waiting for time to catch up? If so, optimise for consistency, keep showing up, get the reps in, and focus on falling in love with ‘monotony’ until it’s clear you’ve plateaued-then start back at #1 again.

What is the one thing you should be working towards, and do you know the right thing to work on right now to make it happen? 

Sunday Planning Ritual

Like most people, I waste a lot of my week. Some of this waste comes from endless meetings with little output. Other parts of my week are wasted purely because I do not have a plan for what to do next. My workdays can be full of meetings which can make it easy to get lost in the day-to-day and not progress towards my bigger work goals. I work hard, but I always feel I could do more.

I have tried all sorts of productivity tips and tricks, but very few of them stick. However, a Sunday planning ritual has been a big part of my working life for the last decade. Every Sunday, I sit in a coffee shop with paper and a pan and plan my week.

This ritual started when I first got married. We both worked long hours outside of the home and got very little time in the house when we were not cooking, cleaning, or preparing for work. My mum sat me down and explained the importance of time in the house alone, so I created this time for my wife to have regular space in our small flat when I was not around. I would walk down the road to the town centre and get a coffee or two and plan my week. This Continued and has become a key part of my week since. This process prepares me for the week ahead and clears my head for better focus on Monday morning.

This process usually involves four distinct steps:
Step 1: Mind dump – tasks, ideas, and commitments
Step 2: Review the previous week – write a weekly update for my teams
Step 3: Unstructured plan for the week – write a plan.txt
Step 4: Identify a ‘Highlight’ task for each day and which days I must commute into the office.

I review the plan each morning and time block my most important tasks, including my 90-minute deep work block.

A millionaire with a Ferrari in the garage but with no gas

My chess teacher described my gameplay today as ‘a millionaire with a Ferrari in the garage but with no gas’. It was my second lesson, and my tutor reviewed some of my recent 5-minute games on His point was that I had built up lots of raw ‘power’ but did not have a framework to use that power, resulting in inconsistent performance. 

This observation was fair; I recently gained and lost 150 rating points in the space of a few days. 150 points are equivalent to what most amateur players would hope to gain in a year with hard study and hours of play each day. This gain and loss is similar to a gambler winning big with a run of luck, then losing it all and staying at the casino all weekend without sleep, trying to win it back but making it worse.

There are two main ways to pick your next move in chess, intuition and calculation. Intuition is when you look at the board, and the move just comes to you. This skill is built over time as you train your brain to recognise positions, moves, and lines that you have experienced before in games, book study, and puzzles and can call on to make your next move. Calculation in chess is a series of steps where you assess all avalible ‘candidate’ moves on the board to decide your best course of action. 

Calculation is considered the most critical skill for success in chess and is developed in longer-time games. Intuition is required for shorter time frames where you have less time to assess all the possible moves on the board. I almost exclusively play short time frames currently, so I rely on intuition; however, my recent jump and drop in rating indicated I need to improve my calculation through deliberate practice.

A good coach is helpful for three reasons; the first is they have an objective, expert eye on your current ability. Second, they help you to identify where you want to go and realistic timeframes to get there. Thirdly, they can help you create a personalised plan for what you need to do to get there, monitor how well you stick to it, and update the program based on this feedback.   

You can get most of the way there on your own by focusing on three questions:

  • Do you know where you are in life?
  • Where do you want to get to?
  • What are you doing to get there?

Now back to finding some gas for my Ferrari.

Document, don’t create

‘Document, don’t create’ means making content by documenting what you have learned over the last few days rather than creating content from scratch designed for a specific audience. 

This idea was popularised by Gary (Vee) Vanachuck, CEO of VanerMedia and one of the most prominent influences on the internet. The motivation behind this advice is to stop worrying about delivering perfect content and record something people will find valuable. There is someone in the world a step or two behind you on the same journey, and you can help them.

Rather than filming everything you do, a better approach is to look at your calendar and then make content about that. Ask:

  • What did I do over the last seven days?
  • What were the meetings I had? 
  • What conversations did I have?
  • What problems did I face, and how did I deal with them?
  • What did I learn?

Gary Vee suggests just starting. Create and distribute 7-25 items per day.

Journaling for ideas: how to use writing to capture your best thoughts 

Photo by Jessica Lewis Creative on

I never realised the power of my thoughts until I started writing them down. Journaling helps me set and achieve my goals in a way that simply thinking about them never could. By journaling, I gain clarity and a new perspective on my work.

I have started to carry a notepad again. I use it to make lists of high-value tasks, write goals, draw diagrams, write copy, calculate plans, envision my future, track thoughts and ideas, and mark milestones. I have been amazed by the insights and self-discoveries that came to me by writing them down and revisiting them regularly.

My Tools

My favourite notepad brand is Rhodia, they are reasonably priced, and the paper quality is excellent. For 2023 and the Entrepreneur Revolution challenge, I am using a simple and light Rhodia A5 Notebook with dotted paper. However, on my desk, I have kept a less portable A4 stapled notepad with squared paper for the last few years. As for pens, I lose them regularly, so I don’t use anything expensive; I currently use a pen borrowed from the City of London Club when I stayed there a few months back. I have heard the Lamy Swift is an idea journaling pen.

How to keep it up

I’m not too fond of linear journaling (a page per day) as I don’t want to do it daily. Keep it simple, and don’t give yourself too much to do and set yourself up to feel guilty about not doing it. Keep it non-linear so you never miss a day, a week, or a month; you use it when you have something to write. Use it how you want, use your headings and categories for pages that make sense to you, and keep the index up to date – this will make it invaluable in the future. Apart from that, use it any time you have a thought you want to explore.

Sections I am using

  1. Index – table of contents for my notebook – 2 page spread
  2. Future Log – my year at a glance – 4 pages
  3. Big Moments – memories, milestones and wins record – 1 page
  4. My Routine/Habits – 1 page
  5. SBA from Iman Gadzhi – 1 page each
    1. Life’s Vision
    2. 2023 Goals
    3. My future Wikipedia entry
    4. Affirmations
  6. Entrepreneur Revolution pages – 1 page each
    1. What am I most grateful for in my life so far?
    2. Who has helped me recently that I have not acknowledged?
    3. What do I want to achieve in the coming three years?
    4. What would I do if I had £100K to invest in my business?
    5. Who can I take out to lunch?
    6. What have I noticed since carrying £500 in my pocket?
    7. What problems can I solve for my clients?
    8. Where would I like to go on holiday in the next 12 months?
  7. Weekly planning – 2 page spread per week
  8. I will add new sections as I come up with them.


  1. Get an A5 notebook and carry it around with you.
  2. Create an index page and use the notepad for all your notes and ideas to plan out your thoughts.
  3. Let me know how you get on.

How to become a Learning Designer, assess your skills and get feedback on what you need to improve

I have been contacted recently by many people interested in becoming Learning Designers but needing to know if they have the right skills or where to go to learn more about the role. 

I am launching a scorecard to help people identify the best ways to get their first role by assessing what skills they need, even if they are nervous that they are not yet ready.

It is simple; you answer 15 yes or no questions and automatically receive customised recommendations. 

I have just set it up, so I would love some feedback. 

There is the link: