Andrew Tate’s ‘university’ capitalises on anti-education rhetoric

Notorious influencer draws on narrative that higher education isn’t worth the cost as he spends big on domain name

October 18, 2023
 Andrew Tate walks with bodyguards to illustrate Should we be worried about Andrew Tate’s ‘anti-university’ university
Source: Alamy

Andrew Tate is drawing on tropes about universities being a “waste of time” and unable to secure students a well-paid job as he seeks legitimacy for his own move into online education.

The influencer – under investigation in Romania on human trafficking charges – has bought the domain name via his “Real World” outfit and is seeking to sell $49 (£40) monthly subscriptions to followers, whom he promises to teach “real life skills”.

It represents a new incarnation of Mr Tate’s “Hustler’s University”, which was shut down in 2022, but this time he is more closely mimicking the trappings of real universities while also, somewhat paradoxically, drawing on a narrative that higher education is no longer relevant, according to those who have studied the former kick-boxer.

“This is about legitimisation,” said Sophie King-Hill, associate professor in the University of Birmingham’s Health Services Management Centre and a specialist in misogyny and its influence on young people. “A hustler is a person who rips you off, and he doesn’t want to give that impression any more.

“A lot of thought has gone into this, and for me it is about attracting a different cohort of young men. He is becoming a lot more strategic about who is aiming at; he wants to attract people with money and vulnerability.”

“The Real World” boasts “professors” who teach in areas such as copywriting or cryptocurrency via tutorials and other content such as quizzes.

While there is no graduation, learners are able to progress to higher levels of learning, particularly if they recruit others to the platform – prompting some to describe the venture as a “pyramid scheme”, something that Mr Tate has denied.

Visitors to the new website are currently shown a video of Mr Tate giving a graduation-style speech in which he says: “Traditional education is of out-of-date information which cannot help you, overpriced purposefully to keep you in debt.”

In publicity for the multimillion-pound deal to take on – previously a course comparison website that has been dormant for several years – The Real World claims to be seeking to “reimagine education” and “empower students to bridge the gap between academia and the professional world”.

A spokesperson said its acquisition was a “strategic move that will enhance our online presence and make our educational offerings more accessible to learners worldwide”.

Lisa Sugiura, associate professor in cybercrime and gender at the University of Portsmouth and author of The Incel Rebellion, agreed that the move appeared to show that Mr Tate was seeking a broader audience.

“I think this is about him further trying to validate what he is doing, add respectability to his course while also trying to show his power; that nothing is escapable from him,” she said.

“But I think there is a practical purpose to this as well. This university domain is more accessible, more readily available and can evade content moderation. If you are a concerned parent worried children are accessing Andrew Tate content, then they are going to have problems blocking something that is a university domain; it seems reputable.”

After first coming to public attention on reality television show Big Brother in 2016 and steadily building a following as an internet celebrity promoting an “ultra-masculine” lifestyle, his arrest in December 2022 propelled Mr Tate to international consciousness. He was, until recently, under house arrest in Romania – where he lives – as he awaits trial for rape, human trafficking and forming a criminal gang. He denies all charges, claiming they are part of a conspiracy to silence him.

Concern has particularly focused on Mr Tate’s influence among young men and boys. A survey by UK campaign group Hope Not Hate found earlier this year that 45 per cent of males aged between 16 and 24 had a positive view of him.

“At an age when young people are trying to cope with life and make big decisions, he is presenting something that is very seductive, a get-rich-quick alternative,” said Dr Sugiura.

“For somebody who is in two minds about university, who could feel daunted by the whole process, maybe this could be something that will distract them.”

Dr Sugiura added that the fact that similar views about university are often expressed by politicians and commentators “strengthens and validates” Mr Tate’s offering.

“He plays on not just the rhetoric around the problems with higher education but also the current economic climate, the cost-of-living crisis,” she said.

Dr King-Hill said emphasising the debt aspect of higher education might also have resonance among school-leavers.

“It is a precarious landscape at the moment for young people,” she said. “These kids are going to be in a lot of debt. Graduates are notorious for not being able to get jobs, so he is not saying things that are untrue.

“After the pandemic, young people live a lot of their lives online, and the in-person university experience may feel a bit daunting. He comes along and promises a quick win for money. He knows what he is doing; he always has.”

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