Celebrities at University
Why A-listers are swapping stardom for studying
At the end of October, at a Q&A session with fans, musical powerhouse Adele revealed her plans to go to university to study English Literature in 2025, after completing a Las Vegas residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. The singer confessed, “I really want to get a degree in English Literature… I wish I had gone to university, I wish I’d had that experience”.
Stating that she already uses her “passion” for English Literature to write lyrics and tell stories in her music, the singer confirmed that she would not be using her degree to find a job. Indeed, Adele is already a multi-award-winning and world-famous singer, having earned a Grammy, Oscar, and Emmy. She is just shy of a Tony award, granting her the rare American entertainment ‘EGOT’ status. So why would she need to go back to a stage often seen as a stepping stone into the real world?
The joy of learning obviously seems to be Adele’s motivation. During a 2021 television special, she professed that her teacher, “Ms McDonald”, had inspired her to love English Literature and was “so bloody cool, so engaging, she really made us care”. After McDonald magically materialises from the crowd to reunite with a teary-eyed Adele on stage, the singer tells her “You really did change my life”. Adele later asserted that McDonald had made her “fall in love with books,” adding, “if I hadn’t made it in my singing, I think I would definitely be a teacher”.
This story of Adele brings up debate over the true purpose of university. For many people, higher education is a means to a career. For others, like her, it is to acquire and develop knowledge in a subject area that they are truly passionate about. And of course, how could we forget those so unsure of what they want in life, they use university to defer reality. Conversely, for a celebrity, who has already succeeded in life by most definitions (perhaps not the ones that count) university can only be for the pure enjoyment of knowledge. Equally, we may wonder if it is a means to prove that they are more academically inclined than the dimwitted celebrity stereotypes profess them to be.
Indeed, Kim Kardashian is in the process of getting a law degree, passing the baby bar exam this year after previously failing it three times. There is much controversy over the true reasons behind her academic endeavours. Does she really want to help those wrongly convicted? Or does she want to prove to the world she is more than her extravagant looks? After Kardashian helped secure mercy for Julius Jones, who was convicted of a 1999 murder and spent 20 years on death row, she confessed, “once I realised I could make a difference, it was really hard to stop”. It seems that for all the media attention this venture grants Kardashian, there is still true good being achieved.
Adele and Kardashian are not the only A-listers to crack open the university textbooks after finding fame. After earning superstardom with the Harry Potter films, Emma Watson famously attended Brown University in 2014 to attain a degree in English Literature. Other actors who went back to education as celebrities include Natalie Portman and America Ferrera.
However, this romantic view of university may be far-removed from many students’ realities. To study at university for pure passion requires a certain amount of privilege. Not everyone can afford to not have the plans of a career lighting the end of the university tunnel. Afterall, most students go into huge debt to attain the so-called ‘university experience’. The Times reported this year that, in the UK, “the amount owed in student loans is also rising quickly, with 6,000 graduates now owing £100,000 or more compared to just 200 graduates a year ago”.
In the end, we may hope for the university experience to be for both academic passion and job prospects. We can learn from these celebrities choosing a path of learning for the sake of learning. When deadlines seem to circle our heads like vultures and modules are reduced to just the fulfilment of mandatory credits, we must remember the nuggets of academic joy and excitement that may be unearthed in our studies.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons