Written by Milpark Communications 

With four degrees under his belt, including two from the most recognised universities in the world, Richard Wilkinson is the definition of “distinguished”. It hasn’t been an easy road, but he’s learnt the art of perseverance throughout his tertiary education.

Richard, 35, grew up in Johannesburg and attended St Stithians College in Sandton. After matriculating, he went on to study a BCom and LLB at the University of Cape Town. Thereafter, he got accepted into an MSc Social Science of the Internet at the acclaimed Oxford University and immediately after that, he completed his Master of Laws at Cambridge University.

Armed with three degrees, Richard initially worked at a law firm before joining the PwC tax department. “Before I joined PwC, I worked in an obscure part of tax and had not developed. When I arrived at PwC, I was far behind my colleagues and hated not knowing the technical details of what was going on. My strongest colleagues tended to be CAs but I always thought it was beyond me or not possible unless I went back to university. BUT, when I heard that I could do it online, in my own time, while working, that sounded ideal,” he says.

This was in 2019. Richard had found out about Milpark Education via a social media advert and initially signed up for the Advanced Accounting bridging course. His only previous experience in accounting was in 2007 when he completed Accounts 1 at UCT. “I did really well in it [but] I never did Accounts 2 or 3.”

With very little prior knowledge of the subject, Richard dived into the bridging course – while still working at PWC. “I did the bridging course while working and I did PGDA full time. The biggest challenge in both cases was time and energy. The course is exhausting and draining. If you have a job on top of that – [it’s] doubly so,” he says.

For this reason, Richard took a trying 18 months to complete his bridging course and another two and a half years to complete his PGDA. He says that, although each piece of the course isn’t specifically too difficult, the workload can increase over the weeks and feel daunting to complete. “You realise that all you need is more time. If you spent time and money achieving 50%, 75% or 90% through the course, you might as well finish it!”

In comparison to his previous traditional tertiary experience, Richard believes that Milpark is one of the best studying experiences he’s had. “Milpark is far better than a “traditional” university. The teaching is very high quality. The fact that lectures are recorded as YouTube videos means that you can access them anywhere, anytime, and watch them as many times as you like. That means your data absorption rate is close to 100% compared to maybe 20% if you’re listening in person to a one-off lecture.”

Richard also believes that institutions like Milpark are already producing the highest number of CAs in the country. “The CA Connect programme through Milpark is excellent. I think that it will replace traditional universities by the end of the decade because the product is simply far better than [that offered by] a traditional university.”

What about his future? While completing his PGDA qualification, Richard worked as the legal advisor to the mayor of Ekurhuleni, Tania Campbell, and, thereafter, to the mayor of Tshwane, Cilliers Brink. He is now completing his articles at an audit firm. “I use my auditing, tax and accounting skills on a daily basis. If I go back into tax consulting, I hope to use tax knowledge gained from the CA course because the tax module is very detailed and intense. If I go into business, I hope to use knowledge from all the modules, including management accounts and finance, which develop your business intelligence skills in really interesting ways.”

Richard Wilkinson is proof that one can never be too qualified to be challenged differently. At the same time, under-qualification can be a motivator to inspire. As Bill Johnson said, “When you’re willing to do what you’re unqualified to do, that’s what qualifies you.”