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No, your degree class does NOT determine your future success


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An Oxford graduate is suing the university for £1m claiming that poor quality of teaching cost him a first class degree and thus prevented him from having a successful legal career. 

Faiz Siddiqui studied history at Brasenose College and graduated in 2000 with a 2:1 degree - a very commendable result from any institution, let alone Oxford.

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The university has dismissed his claims as baseless because of the number of years that have passed since Siddiqui graduated, an argument that makes both logical, and probably legal, sense. 

However, if I were part of the legal team representing the university, I would instead argue that Siddiqui’s claims are baseless for one reason alone: he cannot prove that the lack of a first class degree is the determining factor in his failure to lead a successful career.

It has been 16 years since he sat his final exams. It is more likely that subsequent decisions, or even twists of fate, are to blame for his lack of success. Why should his degree classification take special precedence over any other factor?

At the end of the day, supreme levels of career and financial success are not directly correlated with one’s class of degree.

There are numerous celebrity examples that prove this fact: David Dimbleby obtained a third class degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Oxford; Hugh Laurie obtained a third class degree in Archaeology & Anthropology from Cambridge; JK Rowling only obtained a 2:1 from Exeter University and was described by her lecturers as a ‘daydreaming student’; and Christopher Hitchens, an eminent thinker and the author of over thirty books, also obtained a third class degree.

Despite this, their names will be etched in the annals of history because they embodied the true ingredients of success that apply to everybody: drive, ambition, confidence, and the pursuit of subjects that one truly enjoys. 

I believe, now, I do not need to list the examples of successful people who did not even go to university, or dropped out altogether (*cough* Richard Branson).

By putting too much importance on degree classifications, one misses out on all the other important factors that truly determine success, not just in one´s career, but in personal life too.

One of the most important of these factors, especially whilst studying, is the exploration of interests and activities that will form the basis for one’s future career.

Siddiqui’s frustration is understandable. Nowadays many firms, especially in the sector within which he works, put much weight on the specific degree classification of a potential candidate. He shouldn’t be fooled, however, into thinking that this one aspect of his university career determines success in any real way, shape, or form.

Images by Remi Mathis and Kenneth Yarham 

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