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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?

ricky gervais wearing a graduation hat in front of the union jack

Credit: Sam Aranov - Shutterstock

Dreaming of making your millions, but still 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 become a millionaire yourself (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 wealthiest celebrities – plus full deets on what they studied, where they graduated from and how they got where they are today.

How many millionaires are there in the UK?

According to Credit Suisse, there are almost 2.85 million millionaires in the UK. Since these rankings compare the number of millionaires between countries with different currencies, they consider someone a millionaire if they have over one million dollars worth of assets (instead of pounds). That's still a lot of money, though!

It won't quite make you a millionaire, but join Save the Student and you'll have the chance to win a £250 gift card!

UK millionaires list

These are some of the most famous British millionaires and the lowdown on where they went to uni:

  1. Rowan Atkinson

    rowan atkinson mr bean

    Credit: magicinfoto - Shutterstock

    The Johnny English star is now worth around a whopping £118 million. But 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.

    While 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.

  2. Christopher Nolan

    christopher nolan

    Credit: BagoGames - Flickr

    As the award-winning director of Inception, Interstellar and the Batman trilogy, Christopher Nolan has come a long way since his uni days.

    He graduated from University College London (UCL) in 1993 and is now worth nearly £200 million. 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.

  3. Gemma Chan

    gemma chan

    Credit: Tinseltown - Shutterstock

    Gemma Chan got her first big break with 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 around six million smackers!

  4. J.K. Rowling

    jk rowling

    Credit: JStone - Shutterstock

    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. And got a 2:2!

    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 an estimated net worth of around £875 million!

  5. Sacha Baron Cohen

    sacha baron cohen

    Credit: GIO_LE - Shutterstock

    Very nice! From Ali G to Les Miserable, Sacha Baron Cohen truly is a 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. While 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 just around £125 million, despite one of his Cambridge tutors remembering him as "quiet, friendly and studious, but not exceptional". There's hope for us all yet.

  6. M.I.A.

    singer M.I.A

    Credit: Shutterstock

    M.I.A. is a rapper, songwriter, visual artist, record producer, activist, filmmaker, 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 thought to be worth around £11 million. Pretty fly.

  7. Ricky Gervais

    ricky gervais jane fallon

    Credit: Sam Aroniv - Shutterstock

    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 in her own right, Jane Fallon (pictured), whom he's been with since 1982.

    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 just over £125 million, and Jane's is thought to be around £1.3 million. Not too shabby, the pair of them.

  8. Chris Martin

    chris martin on stage

    Credit: Andrea Raffin – Shutterstock

    Chris Martin, Coldplay's singer, songwriter, pianist and guitarist, wouldn't be where he is today without attending university. It was during his first week at University College London (UCL) that he met the other future members of Coldplay.

    He graduated with first-class honours in Greek and Latin, but it was his success in music that earned him a net worth of around £160 million. The other members of Coldplay haven't done too bad either, accumulating net worths of over £100 million each.

  9. Iain Stirling

    iain stirling

    Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency – Shutterstock

    The BAFTA-winning Scottish comedian, Iain Stirling (also known as the iconic narrator for ITV's Love Island), graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a Law degree.

    He started doing stand up during his final year at university, and ended up in the finals of the Paramount Funniest Student and Chortle Student Comedian Of The Year competitions.

    Apart from being a TV presenter and comedian, he also streams on Twitch and has gained over 65,000 followers. His estimated net worth is over £3 million.

  10. Benedict Cumberbatch

    Sophie Hunter and Benedict Cumberbatch

    Credit: Tinseltown – Shutterstock

    With roles as Sherlock in BBC's Sherlock and Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's no surprise that Benedict Cumberbatch's net worth is well into the millions. Around £30 million, to be more precise.

    He graduated from the University of Manchester with a Drama degree and started training as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) afterwards.

    At the start of his career, he used his middle name (Benedict Carlton) as he was worried his actual last name would cause problems in his career. Needless to say, it wasn't as big of an issue as he'd imagined.

You're much better off working for your millions – a lottery win is seriously unlikely!

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 first-class degree and getting involved in some extracurricular activities while you're at uni.

The first step to millionairedom – exceptional money management.

Jess Aszkenasy

WRITTEN BY Jess Aszkenasy

Alongside editing for Save the Student, Jess Aszkenasy has shared great tips on saving money related to meal planning, finding deals online and more. Based on first-hand experience of being an international student, she shared guidance on studying abroad.
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