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Self-employment + Freelancing = Uber-economy?


With UK unemployment at only 5.4%, why has there been a 700,000 increase in self-employment since 2008? Significantly, this increase is not just in carers, cleaners and taxi drivers but also students and graduates are increasingly turning to self-employment and freelancing as a career option.

Interestingly, PolicyBee recently compared the experience of graduates from Post-1992 and Russell Group universities, finding that:

  • 61% of Post-1992 university graduates had undertaken some freelance or self employed work during their studies compared to 53% of Russell Group graduates
  • 46% of Post-1992 university graduates are ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ considering a career as a freelancer or in self employment versus 39% at Russell Group institutions

Although, this may not reflect the support for entrepreneurship on campus. Of the 132 UK universities in the UK, 24 are members of the Russell Group of “research-intensive world-class" universities. In spite of representing less than 20% of UK universities, 4 of the 10 shortlisted for the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards Duke of York Award for University Entrepreneurship and 2 of the 6 shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Entrepreneurial University of the Year award are in the Russell Group.

My own experiences at the University of Leeds (the only university to be shortlisted for both!), highlights the growing support for student and graduate enterprise with over 1200 students studying enterprise as part of their degree; over 850 engaging in start-up support, 48 student businesses launched and an on-campus incubation Programme. Our recent Enterprise Impact Report details how enterprise is spreading throughout the university.

The idea of a ‘portfolio of career’ has been around for awhile but with increasing numbers of people choosing self-employment we could be moving to uber-careers and an uber-economy faster than you can hail a taxi!

Professor Nigel Lockett
Professor of Enterprise at Leeds University Business School