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.

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? 

Ten challenges to wake up your entrepreneur brain from Daniel Priestley

Photo by SHVETS production on

Happy New Year!

Are you ready to face the challenges of entrepreneurship head-on this year? Let’s make 2023 the year of moving from consumers to producers. Whether social media or physical products, I challenge you to start something new. After 20 years of working for educational institutions, I am ready to start building something with everything I have learned. But what problem do I fix, who do I help, and what do I create to fix it? 

In this post, I want to explore Daniel Priestley’s ’10 challenges to wake up your entrepreneur brain’ from the book Entrepreneur Revolution. Get out a pen and paper, buy the ebook, and get ready to join me in tackling some tough obstacles – because the reward of entrepreneurship is worth it.

The ten challenges are:

  1. Make three calls
  2. Put 10% of everything you make into a savings account, and don’t touch it
  3. Stop spending time with people who bring you down
  4. Carry £1000 cash
  5. Take someone new to lunch each week
  6. Tune out from the news
  7. Keep a journal
  8. Plan your holidays first
  9. Get structured
  10. Get an entrepreneurial team

Challenge one might be the hardest, but it is about taking action. It requires you to get started before you fully know what you are doing by making three phone calls and seeing what happens. You need to pick a bold idea and begin making phone calls, sending emails, and booking meetings with people who could help. Just start the conversation without knowing where it will lead. 

Challenge two requires you to start building your wealth and make your brain ok with taking risks by creating a wealth-building account. The idea is that having money will open your brain to a bigger vision. Spending less than you earn to build wealth is not new, but it is simple. Any additional money you can save above the 10% can be invested into your business or in gaining skills. The only rule is not to touch the money.

Make a list of everyone you spend time with and start to curate this list. Challenge three is to make friends and spend time with people who inspire you and less time with those that don’t. Challenge six is similar in its impact on your mental state. Cut out the news as a regular part of your input and only seek specific stories that relate to your goals.

£1000 in cash is a big chunk of paper to keep in your pocket for challenge four. Like most people, I have been almost entirely cashless for the last few years, so this is a big one for me. The aim is to tackle some mental barriers people have regarding money, such as dealing with impulse spending or making you comfortable asking for large amounts of money from people.  

Challenge five is to take out two people to lunch each week and pick up the bill. Have no agenda; ask interesting people to share a meal and talk about life. There should be nothing work-related about these lunches, but they will quickly pay for themselves through the opportunities they provide. 

Challenge seven is to keep a journal. The journal should be used to keep track of high-value tasks, goals, diagrams of ideas, marketing copy and future visions. You should always keep the journal at hand and use it to record your thoughts and ideas about your business and jot down plans, calculations and resource requirements as you work out these ideas. I use a Rhodia pad for the high-quality paper and the bullet journal method as a structure.

Keep your energy and excitement by planning your holidays at the start of the year and then fit work around them for challenge eight. You should block our 6-8 weeks for holidays and relax. Scheduling your year this way does two things. First, it allows you to work harder knowing that you will have a break at the end, and second, it will keep you doing exciting things and make you a more interesting and vibrant person.

Challenge nine is to meet with business advisors such as an accountant and a lawyer (they will probably provide a free introductory meeting) to discuss your business and wealth-building plans. These experts will give you options for the best way to move forward with any ideas you have. This is to set yourself and your business up correctly so you can take advantage of any tax breaks and government initiatives for new companies and avoid any legal or financial problems.

Finally, challenge ten requires you to identify people around you who can help you implement your ideas. My MBA suggested the first two people you need are a data analyst and a sales closure. The book proposes a team including a graphic designer, a technical expert in your business’s field, a ‘swiss army knife’ person who can do anything that is required and a mentor.

So there are ten challenges to get stuck into this year to awaken your enterprising brain and get you started as an entrepreneur. I suggest you pick up a copy of the book if you are interested in joining me this year in creating something new. Leave me a comment if you are interested in this journey too. 

The four points of a good start up pitch

This morning the following tweet was trending globally. Paras Chopra is a Delhi based tech entrepreneur and founder of Wingify, a web platform. Although I work in an established institution, I have created my learning design team from scratch. We are currently working on expanding our impact at the university, so it caught my interest.

The four points of a good start up pitch

According to Investopedia, an intrapreneur is “an employee who is tasked with developing an innovative idea or project within a company.” As an intrapreneur, you can borrow much of the behaviours and tools of an entrepreneur, such as risk-taking and innovative approaches to build and launch your internal project. The idea of a startup pitch for a new business function set up to target a new market, such as non-traditional students, can help to justify funding from the company in the same way a startup seeks funding from venture capital.

Paras’ four elements of a startup pitch are:

  • How is the product 10x better than alternatives (with proof)
  • What’s their moat
  • How they can acquire users profitably at scale (with evidence)
  • Hustles that the team has done in their careers

The first point, how is the product significantly better than alternatives, should be easy to answer and forms the basis of what your business function does. Once you have a hypothesis, it needs testing. Testing the product to get proof of its superiority over alternatives needs to be done with prototypes and prospective customer interviews in the early stages. Once up and running, the next job is to gain as much data as possible from early customers that the product is 10x better or continue to iterate until this is true.

A startups moat is how the new business can protect its product, gain and retain market share. A startup pitch must suggest how the company can avoid or create barriers to entry that stop other companies from taking over their business. Moats might include brand loyalty, economies of scale, geographical barriers, being first, integration with other parts of a supply chain and legal obstacles such as a patent. As an internal project, it is likely that fully integrating into the organisation, geographic access, and brand loyalty are likely moats to pursue.

Shareholders don’t pay for the castle, they pay for the moat.

Warren Buffet

The prototype testing should provide some data for acquiring users as, without a solid plan to build customers, the rest of the plan is not important. Word of mouth is the most reliable user acquisition method, but some form of advertising will be needed for this to scale. Popular user acquisition methods include building a social media following, paid search ads and search optimisation, and ad agencies and networks. Internal project teams can use cross-promotion with existing users from other business areas.

The pitch is about getting much-needed funding to support growth. To get people to part with money, they need to trust the team can deliver on the other three points. Many venture capital firms and large companies may be more interested in backing people than the idea. Good people will adapt and change an idea till they find something that works. It is essential to leverage what the team had done before joining the startup in the early stages. This currency will only last so long before the people expect to see what the team members have been able to do since joining the startup. Spend time developing the narrative around the people in the team to build trust that you can deliver what you say you can in the other three points.

Paras Chopra list of four points for a startup pitch provides an excellent framework for either an entrepreneur or intrapreneur starting or building a new project. By focusing on how the product is better, how it will stay better, how it will grow, and evidencing that the team can deliver this, you will build trust from internal or external investors. Can you answer these questions convincingly for where you currently work? If you can, then great; if not, you know what you have to do.