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Famous people who got a 2:2 or third class degree at university

There's a bit of an unfair stigma attached to getting a 2:2 or a third-class degree at uni. But as these successful celebs prove, it shouldn't stop you from making your dreams a reality.

bear grylls and mel giedoryc

Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency (left), s_bukley (right), Travelerpix (background) – Shutterstock

We're not quite sure where it comes from, but there's a prevailing myth among students and graduates that anything other than a 2:1 or a first is useless.

But as we establish in our guide on what to do if you get a 2:2, this myth is exactly that: a myth. Loads of the very best grad schemes have relaxed their entry criteria in recent years, and you can be accepted even if you didn't quite get a 2:1 or above.

So to really ram the point home, we thought we'd put together a list of some of the most successful graduates with a 2:2 or below. If it didn't stop them from going on to greatness, it shouldn't stop you either.

There are loads of things you can do at uni to improve your CV and ensure you stand out from the crowd once you graduate.

Celebrities with a 2:2 or a third

These are some famous people who either have a 2:2 or a third-class degree:

  1. Bear Grylls

    bear grylls

    Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency – Shutterstock

    Bear Grylls' real name isn't really 'Bear' – it's Edward Michael Grylls. Incredibly, given his modern-day fondness for the wilderness, 'Bear' was actually a nickname given to him by his older sister when he was just a week old. Pretty cute, really.

    You won't be surprised to learn that, as a cub child, Bear took up climbing and sailing and excelled in both. And not content with mastering land and sea, Bear learned to skydive as a teenager, also earning a second dan black belt before the age of 20.

    What we're trying to say is: Bear Grylls got a 2:2 in Hispanic Studies from Birkbeck, University of London. But it was his personality that got him where he is today.

    In fact, speaking about how his degree affected his job prospects, he said, "[what helped me] was understanding that hard work, persistence and enthusiasm are king." Preach.

  2. Carol Vorderman

    carol vorderman

    Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency – Shutterstock

    If anyone ever tries to tell you that getting a 2:2 or below is somehow disappointing, it's worth pointing out that for 26 years, Carol Vorderman's job was basically 'being smart on TV'. And, far from getting a first at uni, Vorderman got a third.

    Admittedly, she got her third-class degree in Engineering. She also studied at none other than the University of Cambridge, a uni consistently ranked as one of the best in the UK. Despite this, there's no denying that some people would let a third get them down.

    Nonetheless, a year after leaving university, Vorderman secured a job as the resident maths expert and all-around brainbox on Countdown. She held this role for almost three decades before stepping down in 2008. Not bad, eh?

  3. Mel Giedroyc

    mel giedroyc

    Credit: Bart Lenoir – Shutterstock

    Perhaps better known as 'Mel from Mel and Sue', Mel Giedroyc met Sue Perkins ('Sue from Mel and Sue') while studying at the University of Cambridge.

    The internet seems to be a bit divided on exactly what course Mel did as a student. Some people say it was Italian Language and Literature. However, we've spotted on the Cambridge website that it was French and Italian.

    She graduated with a 2:2, meaning we had no choice but to feature her here.

    Mel's rise to stardom is arguably the best example in this list that hard work and perseverance matter more than degree classification.

    Despite some initial success on TV, it wasn't until she got the Bake Off gig in 2010 (almost 15 years after her television debut) that you could say she'd really 'made it'. So whatever you want to do, stick at it.

  4. David Dimbleby

    david dimbleby

    Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency – Shutterstock

    There seems to be a bit of a trend emerging here. Aside from all having a 2:2 or below, all of these celebrities can reasonably be described as intelligent, eloquent and successful.

    It's almost as if employers are more concerned with your skills, and not just how well you did at uni...

    For the past 40 years or so, David Dimbleby has basically been the face of the BBC's political coverage.

    Beyond hosting the flagship political debate show, Question Time, for 24 years, he's anchored the Beeb's coverage of every single general election from 1979 right up until 2019 (when he was succeeded by Huw Edwards). This, as anyone who's ever tried to stay up and watch one of them will know, is no mean feat.

    And where did it all begin? With a third-class degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford.

  5. Hugh Laurie

    hugh laurie

    Credit: Kathy Hutchins – Shutterstock

    Hugh Laurie (or Hugh Laurie CBE, to give him his full title) is one the biggest names in British comedy, British television, British cinema... well, one of the biggest names in Britain.

    Laurie first found fame as one half of Fry and Laurie – the comedic double-act he formed with his close friend, Stephen Fry. The two met while they were studying at the University of Cambridge, where Laurie ended up graduating with a third in Archaeology and Anthropology.

    Proving once again that getting a first or a 2:1 isn't the only route to success, Laurie's leading role in House made him one of the highest-paid actors on television (£250,000 per episode, no less). In 2011, the Guinness Book of World Records ranked him as the most-watched leading man on TV.

    While that's obviously impressive, the high point of his career was undoubtedly playing the dad in Stuart Little. Little hi, little low. Little hey, little ho.

  6. King Charles

    prince charles

    Credit: Bart Lenoir – Shutterstock

    We might be being a little cheeky on this one. After all, King Charles didn't get where he is today thanks to his degree.

    But if anyone tries to tell you that a 2:2 isn't something to be proud of, it's pretty cool to be able to say that you got the same grade as the King of the United Kingdom.

    King Charles graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1970 with a 2:2 in History, Archaeology and Anthropology. In fact, he became the first monarch or heir to the throne to complete a university degree.

    Again, not strictly relevant to where he ended up in life, but an impressive feat nonetheless.

    If a 2:2 is good enough for the King, it's good enough for anyone.

  7. J.K. Rowling

    jk rowling

    Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency – Shutterstock

    You may know J.K. Rowling as the woman who gave the world Harry, Ron and Hermione. But, before she authored the best-selling book series of all time and became the world's first billionaire author, Rowling was just your run-of-the-mill student at the University of Exeter.

    It was there that she studied French and Classics. This is the subject in which she ultimately earned her 2:2 degree in 1986. Little did she know at that point that a handful of copies of her first published book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, would go on to be worth a huge amount of money.

  8. Jo Whiley

    Jo Whiley

    Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency – Shutterstock

    Jo Whiley's 2:2 degree in applied languages from Brighton University (previously called Brighton Polytechnic) surely didn't hold her back. She went on to have a very successful radio and television career.

    However, after getting her degree, she wasn't immediately set on a career in radio. It was a conversation with a lecturer who got her a job on a radio show called Turn It Up.

    This is where she found her passion and she went on to host the Jo Whiley Show on BBC Radio 1. After quitting this, she started her own weekend evening show on Radio 2.

  9. A.A. Milne

    A.A. Milne, or Alan Alexander Milne if we're being formal, is best known for creating the world of Winnie the Pooh. This literary classic has drawn in readers of all ages for many years.

    He graduated with a third-class degree in Maths from the University of Cambridge.

    His enchanting tales of Winnie the Pooh captured the hearts of readers across the globe proving once again that success is not down to your degree classification.

A whole load of big names who dropped out of uni

oprah winfrey lady gaga

Credit: Ron Foster Sharif (left), Featureflash Photo Agency (right) – Shutterstock

If you still don't believe that a 2:2 or a third is no burden to success, try to remember that there are arguably even more examples of mega-successful people who dropped out of university altogether.

Whether it's Mark Zuckerberg, Ellie Goulding, Ellen DeGeneres, Jon Snow (the newsreader, not the Game of Thrones character), Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt or Lady Gaga, it feels as though you can't move for celebrity dropouts.

So although, on average, going to uni will still earn you more money (no matter what grade you get), some of the richest and most successful people to have ever walked the Earth dropped out of uni, and they did ok.

Turns out you don't need to go to a top, top uni to earn top, top dollar either. Check out this list of where celebrities went to university and find out for yourself.

Tom Allingham

WRITTEN BY Tom Allingham

Tom joined Save the Student in 2017, initially heading up the editorial team before becoming Communications Director. He has appeared as a Student Finance expert on a range of TV and radio stations including the BBC, ITV and Sky, sharing his top tips for saving money and cutting student bills.
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