A ground-breaking initiative from the University of Surrey is launching an inspiring innovation and digital enterprise academy, SurreyIDEA, to welcome individuals denied the opportunity of attending university due to social restrictions or those looking to deviate away from the traditional academic route.

The pioneering academy is the first of its kind in Europe, providing a novel and progressive learning experience that enables students to gain valuable skills in an interactive format free from prohibitive entry requirements based on academic achievement – recruitment will be based on potential. With under and post graduate programmes, the academy will offer development as an entrepreneur and funded scholarships to students who will join as part-owner of the business and intellectual property that they create on the programme.

With the fundamental objective of making higher education available to all, the faces behind SurreyIDEA are passionate about the fact that they are not an elitist platform closed off to large segments of society and thus further increasing the gap between rich and poor. Whereas the current education system prioritises academic achievement above all else, SurreyIDEA want to acknowledge the cornucopia of varied attributes possessed by so many other individuals which are essential in the workplace and welcome those without the ‘gold standard’ qualifications or CV.

Instead of charging students tuition fees like a conventional university, SurreyIDEA will invest in students’ enterprises and take a percentage of the profits. With no other business school in Europe having built an entrepreneurship programme on such a model, the expert panel of teachers will showcase their own experiences which have led to their involvement with the academy. As well as helping to shape the future of business education, the students can be part of history, too.

Founder and Head of the School, Andy Adcroft, says “We want to create a new generation of digital entrepreneurs that we call the Disrupters, the people that will transform the way we learn and get noticed in a less conventional way. University should be a life changing experience, if you leave the same person you were when you arrived, we have done it wrong.

I know what it is to be met by a preconceived opinion based on my postal code, it’s an unfair judgement and doesn’t reflect the individual’s capabilities and strengths. This must change. Equality of opportunity should be a running theme in all areas of education and business to prevent the distance between the wealthy and poor from increasing further, and SurreyIDEA aims to help encourage this.”

Gavin Whichello, Visiting Professor and Founder of leading training provider Qube Learning, says “I came from a background that didn’t present life changing opportunities. Growing up in south east London, I went to a grammar school but didn’t fit in. I went on to spend time working on building sites but it was ambition that drove me finally to gain a degree and pursue a career in the computer science industry. Having trained as a teacher and worked in schools in London for four years, I became frustrated that ‘brilliant’ pupils from poorer backgrounds were still leaving with no future.

I’m passionate about supporting young people and giving them the chance to change the world. Our students, the Disrupters, will be active participants, not spectators passively sitting in a lecture theatre taking notes. SurreyIDEA is not here simply to impart knowledge; we aim to change lives. Great entrepreneurs are willing to take risks and learn from their mistakes. If you aren’t getting it wrong, you won’t know how to improve.”

SurreyIDEA was inspired and developed from Surrey Business School’s highly successful Young Person’s University programme, which has run at the school every July since 2015. The 30-40 Year 12 and 13 students who attend each year are motivated and often incredibly entrepreneurial. Many don’t come from traditional university-going backgrounds so are dropping out of the system after A-levels. However, after a week with Surrey Business School, most go on to apply to university and usually get in.