Balliol – Graham Greene
Graham Greene is one of the most important English novelists of the 20th century, penning such classics as Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory and The End of the Affair. Greene’s fellow author and contemporary at Oxford, Evelyn Waugh, said of him: ‘he looked down on us, and perhaps all undergraduates, as childish and ostentatious. He certainly shared in none of our revelry.’ Ok, so maybe he wasn’t a barrel of laughs, but his contributions to cultural life are undeniable.
LMH – Nigella Lawson
Despite changing schools nine times in as many years, Nigella Lawson secured a place at Oxford to study French and Italian. She spent her year abroad in Florence, where the Italian cucina inspired her to unleash her inner domestic goddess. Despite the revelations about her extremely lavish lifestyle and penchant for class-A drugs, she still charms the public with her florid writing style, personable TV manner and sex symbol looks.
Christ Church – Richard Curtis
Christ Church may have produced 13 prime ministers, but perhaps its biggest boast is the king of rom-coms, Richard Curtis. While at university, he was an active participant in the Oxford drama scene, scriptwriting for the Experimental Theatre Club and collaborating in the Oxford Revue, with his pal, Rowan Atkinson. Since then he has shown that he has a keen sense for the comic (Blackadder, Mr. Bean and The Vicar of Dibley) as well as for the sentimental (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Notting Hill, and Love Actually).
Exeter – Alan Bennett
Another member of the Oxford Revue, Alan Bennett came to Oxford on a scholarship and stayed on for a few years after graduating to teach Medieval History. But alas, he soon realised he wasn’t cut out for academia. Nor for the clergy, which he had always assumed he would join, for the sole reason that he looked a bit like a clergyman. He is best known for his play, The History Boys, about a group of boys applying to Oxbridge, a tale no doubt inspired by his own experience.
Lincoln – Dr Seuss
The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham may not seem like particularly highbrow literature, but their creator, Theodor Geisel (alias: Dr Seuss) spent two years at Oxford, studying for a PhD in English Literature. His children’s books bring up important social and political issues veiled in Aesopian language: The Lorax advocates environmentalism and anti-consumerism, The Sneetches encourages racial equality and Yertle the Turtle criticizes Hitler and authoritarianism. Something to think that next time you’re reading about The Hoober-Bloob Highway and Daisy-Head Mayzie!
New – Kate Beckinsale
Kate Beckinsale had a more intense undergraduate experience, than most, balancing her study of French and Russian literature with a demanding acting career. During one summer vac she went to Tuscany to film Kenneth Branagh’s big screen adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing and while studying in Paris on her year abroad she filmed the French language Marie-Louise Ou La Permission. Drifting from smaller productions to Hollywood blockbusters, Kate Beckinsale appeared in Pearl Harbour, which, despite being poorly acted and historically inaccurate, gave her an opportunity to snog both Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett.
Brasenose – William Golding
William Golding spent two years studying Natural Sciences at Brasenose, before realising that he didn’t actually like science and swapping to English Literature. His book of Poems was published the year he graduated, but it was 20 years before he wrote his first novel and magnum opus: Lord of the Flies, which was adapted for stage and put on by a group of Oxford students last Trinity. His literary works won him a Nobel Prize, a Booker Prize and a knighthood.
Magdalen – Andrew Lloyd Weber
Another Oxford alumnus whose cultural endeavours were recognised by Queen Liz herself, Andrew Lloyd Weber dropped out of his History degree at Oxford after just a term. His awards and honours are as innumerable as his contributions to musical theatre. Now this impresario is a regular on daytime TV, appearing as a judge on reality TV shows, in which people audition for the main role in his West End shows, like The Wizard of Oz and Jesus Chris Superstar.
Somerville – Dorothy L. Sayers
Dorothy L. Sayers was one of the first women ever to receive an Oxford degree, a few years after she graduated from Somerville with a first in Modern and Medieval literature. She went on to write a series of detective novels set in the interwar years featuring the English toff and amateur sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey, whom she described as a mixture of Fred Astaire and Bertie Wooster. Though she is best known for her crime fiction, she herself considered her best work to be her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Teddy Hall – Terry Jones
Culture may not be the first thing one associates with Teddy Hall, but cracking banter probably is. So, it makes sense that the college’s most famous culturally-inclined alumnus is a member of Monty Python. During his time at the Hall he performed comedy with future Monty Python castmate Michael Palin in the Oxford Revue. He is best known for his conceptual jokes and depictions of middle-aged women. Terry Jones also takes humour from absurd situations, for example, the famous sketch in which he plays a cheesy game show host who asks contestants to summarise Marcel Proust’s 3000-page work À la recherche du temps perdu in 15 seconds.
Keble – Katy Brand
Katy Brand decided to study Theology at Oxford after embracing the faith on a holiday in Cornwall with some Evangelical Christian friends. However, she quickly lost her religious beliefs and later said: ‘After about a year, I realised it was mostly rubbish and that things are never as simple as they seem when you are 13’. However, during her time at Oxford she met friends who helped her launch her career in television. Now she is one of England’s most beloved comediennes.
St Peter’s – Hugh Dancy
One of the biggest pieces of eye candy ever to have walked the cobbled streets of Oxford, Hugh Dancy is a successful actor on the stage, the small screen and the big screen. He studied English at Oxford under the tuition of poet and playwright, Francis Warner, before being scouted in a café in London. To the disappointment of womankind, he recently tied the knot with slightly-more-famous-than-him actress, Claire Danes.
Worcester – Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch owes both his birth and his downfall to newspaper publishing. His parents met after his father spotted a debutante photograph of his mother in one of his own newspapers. Now the News of the World tycoon faces police and government investigations into bribery and corruption by MI5 and the FBI. In between these two events, Rupey read PPE at Worcester and managed Oxford Student Publications Limited, which is in charge of that paragon of student publications, Cherwell.