As one of the world’s most prestigious universities, it’s no surprise that the University of Oxford has been producing famous graduates since the 13th century. Oxford differs from other British universities, apart from Cambridge, in that it operates on a collegiate system. This is where students accept places at one of the 38 independent colleges which are linked to the main university in a federal system. The beautiful architecture of the buildings is as famous as its list of star Oxford alumni, which includes the following notable names.
The Oxford University notable alumni have made their names in many areas of excellence.
The billing of actors who attended Oxford is a long one, and although it contains many serious Shakespearean thespians, there are plenty of glamorous faces on it too. Silent Witness star Emilia Fox studied English at St Catherine’s College before she pursued a career in acting. Oxfordfordshire native Emma Watson returned to her home county for a year while she was studying English at Brown University in the States to study at Worcester College and is now a visiting fellow. Gone Girl star Rosamund Pike is also an Oxonian and honed her craft acting in plays there. And everyone’s favourite bumbling Englishman Hugh Grant is an Oxford graduate, as is English actor Hugh Dancy.
There was no stint at catering college for Britain’s two poshest celebrity chefs. Both Nigella Lawson and Hugh Fernley Whittingstall showed no signs of their future careers in food when they accepted places to study at Oxford University. Nigella’s degree in medieval and modern languages was the stepping stone to her first career in newspapers – she became deputy literary editor of the Sunday Times in 1986. Hugh Fearnley Whitingstall took the well-trodden upper class path from Eton to Oxford where he studied philosophy. Straight after university, he got a job in the kitchen of the River Café, the London restaurant where Jamie Oliver was famously spotted by a TV producer. Hugh was reportedly sacked by the River Café after just six months, but that didn’t stop him from rising to the top of his field.
Class of Comedy
Thanks to its famous Footlights Theatre, Cambridge University is traditionally the top choice for ambitious young comedians. That said, Oxford has its fair share of comedy greats on its graduate list too. Mr Bean star Rowan Atkinson studied for an MSc at Oxford after completing an electrical engineering degree at Newcastle University. Monty Python star turned travel film maker Michael Palin bucked the trend by opting for Oxford. More recently, comedy star Katy Brand scaled the heights of the comedy circuit after studying theology at Keble College, where she lost the strong Christian faith that had previously shaped her life.
Oxford to Westminster
Thanks to the notorious Bullingdon Club photographs that resurfaced to haunt them, recent Conservative power players David Cameron, George Osbourne and Boris Johnson are well known as Oxford alumni. In fact, going to Oxford seems to be a rite of passage for Britain’s Prime Ministers, with Theresa May and Tony Blair also on the list of Oxonians. And even though she lacked the privileged background of many of her more aristocratic peers, Grantham grocer’s daughter Margaret Thatcher also went to Oxford to study chemistry. The dreaming spires of Oxford are also a popular choice for leaders of other countries. Former Australian PM Tony Abbot studied at Oxford, as did the late Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto and former president of the USA, Bill Clinton.
An Oxford Story
Of all the achievements of its alumni, conquering the literary world is one of its most consistent. Early 17th century poet John Donne is one of the first names on the long list of Oxford’s prestigious poets, with Oscar Wilde, Percy Bysshe Shelley, W H Auden, Philip Larkin and John Betjeman being just a few more notable names. Novel writing is a strong area too with the Chronicles of Narnia author C S Lewis and The Lord of the Rings creator J R R Tolkien being two of the university’s best-loved literary names. More recently the hugely popular children’s poet and education campaigner Michael Rosen, Bridget Jones creator Helen Fielding and the His Dark Materials writer Philip Pullman have all emerged from the halls of Oxford University.