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Who needs university?

Got no points or passion for further study?

The world is full of people who have gone on to greatness without being rubber stamped with a university degree. Simon Cowell started in the mailroom of a music publishing company -- and who needs reminding that the X Factor judge and music executive is now worth in excess of €200m.

If Riverdance brought its creator Moya Doherty to the headlines, the Donegal entrepreneur and founding director of the radio station Today FM, originally saw her own name in bright lights as an actress.

She eschewed the degree route to train with Team Educational Theatre Company, and went on to front arts and features programmes for RTE.

Along with her Riverdance co-creator and husband John McColgan, Moya is thought to be worth in excess of €50m, and the couple reportedly own homes in Florida, Cape Cod and the south of Spain.

Meanwhile, Richard Branson dropped out of school at the age of 16 and started his first successful business venture, Student Magazine. Today, he is owner of the Virgin brand and its 360 companies, including Virgin Megastore and Virgin Atlantic Airlines -- and according to Forbes' 2010 list of billionaires, is worth some €5bn.

Having a Midas touch helps of course, yet our achievers in the university of life show that a lack of formal third-level qualifications isn't necessarily a barrier to success.

>THE ROCK STAR "We started a rock band to avoid college, now look where we ended up," U2 lead singer Bono joked to a roaring crowd of students at a gig in Fordham University in New York last year.

Added drummer Larry Mullen Jr: "I'm so pleased for my dad because he's going to see this sometime soon and he's going to say, 'My son Larry finally made it to college.'"

Bono has also revealed that his late father, Bob, was relaxed in his expectations of his son. He said: "I think he thought, either join the civil service, like he did, or [be] a travelling salesman. A lot of our family were travelling salesmen. And, of course, that is what I have become. I sell songs from door to door, from town to town. And in my political work, I sell ideas."

He added: "I can't blame my father for not seeing my future as being bright." We've lost count of the millions Bono has, or is it zillions?

>THE innovator Sarah Newman is a dotcom millionaire and the only female dragon on RTE's Dragons' Den. She left school at 16 with very few formal qualifications and went on to develop a multi-million euro business with Needaroom.com.

She noticed a niche in the hotel market when travel agents didn't carry a huge range of hotels. She soon had access to 25,000 hotels worldwide and could offer savings of between 40 and 50pc to customers.

She struck gold when she contacted the then fledgling Ryanair and convinced them to let her use their call centre to offer hotels to Ryanair customers at massively discounted rates. The hard slog paid off and the eventual sale of Needahotel.com made Sarah one of the most successful businesswomen in Ireland.

>THE TV STAR Amanda Byram may be said to have traded on her looks as a model, yet her charm and cool attitude under pressure is behind her TV career. She began her television career presenting on Ireland AM with TV3, and has also hosted The Swan series, a popular reality show in the States.

She began her modelling career at the age of 16, and her career in front of the camera was cemented when she hosted the Miss World pageant in 2003. The Castleknock beauty recently fulfiled a dream by guest-presenting ITV's This Morning.

>THE RETAILER Niall O'Farrell is another star of RTE's Dragons' Den, and he is best known as the owner of Blacktie, the successful formal-wear chain which has branches around the country.

His property portfolio has also been impressive over the years -- as well as investments in Dublin and London, the dapper dresser has, at times, owned houses in some of Dublin's leafiest areas, including Blackrock and Dalkey.

He has said: "I didn't want to go to university. I wasn't the university type. I couldn't wait to leave school, to throw the school books away."

Instead, this son of a Ranelagh-based estate agent began work at Frewen & Aylward, one of the old-school tailoring houses in Dublin.

He was only allowed to sell socks at the beginning, but quickly impressed and was promoted to shirts. Keen to earn more money, he acted on a niche he saw in the market, deciding suit-hire could be a business all on its own.

He started Blacktie with €2,000 savings from part-time jobs, while availing of an enterprise scheme which gave him a grant of €30 a week for six months.

The rest, as they say, is history for this multi-millionaire.

>THE CHOCOLATIER "It was very different times when I didn't go to university and I'd hate to be seen to be discouraging people from getting an education," says Lily O'Brien's Irish Chocolates' founder Mary Ann O'Brien. "And while I have the drive and vision and madness which keeps Lily's up and running, I have also surrounded myself with knowledge. Every one in my finance department to my engineers is highly educated and it's together as a force that we make the company work," Mary Ann says.

"I travelled extensively from the ages of 19 to 23, including France and America, and I worked with all kinds of people and with all kinds of challenges, and I consider that experience as my university.

"I was in Cape Town, recuperating from an illness, when I came across a chocolate maker, and got the idea to start the company. I was open to the idea which presented itself to me, that's the secret," she says. "It's when we are calm that we are open to ideas, and it's true that ideas present themselves to all of us."