Employability & Enterprise: High achieving graduates

Employability & Enterprise

Introduction

What use is an English degree? How does studying English improve my career prospects? Why should the public subsidise students so that they can enjoy subjects of no practical benefit to society? At a time when students, parents, funders and policy makers seem to be questioning the value of humanities subjects, the Subject Centre thought it timely to gather some examples of ‘high achievers’ who studied English. We’ve found that there are high achieving English graduates in many walks of life, not just the arts and creative sectors, demonstrating the broad relevance of the degree. English graduates can be found in the upper ranks of the diplomatic service, the banks and the police service and occupy senior positions in charities and public sector organisations. In December 2010, 28 MPs in the House of Commons had English or Creative Writing degrees.

We hope that the evidence presented here will useful in two contexts. Firstly, in pointing out to young people that studying English is as good a preparation as any for pursuing the broad range of careers that don’t require a specific vocational qualification. Secondly, at a time when the humanities feel under threat and called upon to justify their relevance and impact, being able to point to a number of high-profile individuals who have built on the skills in creative and critical thinking developed by their studies demonstrates how the disciplines contribute to the strength and vitality of business, culture and society through their graduates.

Background

In 2010 the Subject Centres for English, History and Philosophical & Religious Studies were interested in developing and appraising a current perspective of alumni in their respective disciplines.  Whilst statistics on graduate destinations are available from sources such as the Prospects website, it was felt important to highlight some of the more unusual, and high profile paths that people have taken, revealing the diverse impact and opportunities that degrees in these humanities subjects can bring.  The aim was not to concentrate on the famous, but to look at the scope of alumni in business, the public sector and enterprise .

Methodology

By sharing the workload, the three Subject Centres were able to conduct thorough searches across disciplines of the following:

  • University Alumni sites
  • Dod’s Parliamentary Companion
  • FTSE 100 companies
  • Who’s Who

Database of High Achieving Graduates

The results are available in two Excel spreadsheets:

  • one for English graduates,
  • and one for graduates in humanities_alumni_database 2010 covered in the search (English, Creative Writing, History, Philosophical and Religious Studies).

When using the database, please note the following:

  • Joint honours degrees were included (but specified).
  • The subject of study noted for each individual relates to the higher level of study attained – undergraduate or postgraduate.
  • ‘Yes’ in the ‘typical’ column relates to a graduate who may not be described as a ‘high achiever’ but for whom there is an interesting profile
  • The dataset was compiled, and was accurate at the end of 2010.

A Quick Selection…

One of the questions the Subject Centre is often asked, especially by school teachers and those running open days, is “Can you tell me the names of some famous people who studied English?”  We offer a few examples from the dataset below.

Living

ackford

Paul Ackford England rugby international and columnist (Kent)

barber

Frances Barber Actress (Bangor)

barker

Clive Barker Writer of Horror Fiction (Liverpool)

barr

Debra Barr Contestant in the BBC’s The Apprentice 2009 (Royal Holloway)

baker

Mike Baker BBC Education Correspondent (Emmanuel, Cambridge)

blair

Lord Blair Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner (Christ Church, Oxford)

blake

Quentin Blake Author and illustrator of children’s books (Downing, Cambridge)

boyle

Danny Boyle Film Director (Bangor)

ellingham

Mark Ellingham Co-founder and publisher of the ‘Rough Guides’ (Bristol)

esler

Gavin Esler BBC TV journalist (Kent)

fry

Stephen Fry Actor, director, writer (Queen’s, Cambridge)

green

Charlotte Green BBC radio newsreader (Kent)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colin Greenwood Musician with Radiohead (Peterhouse, Cambridge)

Colin Greenwood
Musician with Radiohead (Peterhouse, Cambridge)

 

Susan Hill Novelist (King's College London)

Susan Hill
Novelist
(King’s College London)

Ian Hislop Editor of Private Eye (Magdalen, Oxford)

Ian Hislop
Editor of Private Eye (Magdalen, Oxford)

Natasha Kaplinksy TV newsreader (Oxford)

Natasha Kaplinksy
TV newsreader
(Oxford)

Jemima Khan UNICEF Special Representative (Bristol)

Jemima Khan
UNICEF Special Representative (Bristol)

Mark Knopfler Guitarist and singer with Dire Straits (Leeds)

Mark Knopfler
Guitarist and singer with Dire Straits
(Leeds)

"Deborah

Sally Lindsay Actress (Hull)

Sally Lindsay
Actress
(Hull)

Caroline Lucas First Green Party MP in the UK Parliament (Exeter)

Caroline Lucas
First Green
Party MP in the
UK Parliament
(Exeter)

Alistair McGowan Radio presenter and TV actor (Leeds)

Alistair McGowan
Radio presenter
and TV actor
(Leeds)

Michael Morpurgo Writer of children's fiction (King's College London)

Michael Morpurgo
Writer of children’s fiction (King’s College London)

Mary Nightingale ITN News anchorwoman (Royal Holloway)

Mary Nightingale
ITN News anchorwoman (Royal Holloway)

Jennie Page(CBE) former CEO of the Millenium Dome (Royal Holloway)

Jennie Page(CBE)
former CEO of the
Millenium Dome
(Royal Holloway)

 

 

 

Rosamund Pike Actress (Oxford)

Rosamund Pike
Actress
(Oxford)

Emma Thompson Actor and screen writer (Newnham, Cambridge)

Emma Thompson
Actor and screen writer
(Newnham, Cambridge)

Tom Wilkinson Actor (Kent)

Tom Wilkinson
Actor
(Kent)

Deceased

 

Douglas Adams Writer of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (St John’s College, Cambridge)

Douglas Adams
Writer of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
(St John’s College, Cambridge)

Richard Burton Actor (Exeter College, Oxford)

Richard Burton
Actor
(Exeter College, Oxford)

Sidney Gilliat Film director and screen writer (London)

Sidney Gilliat
Film director and screen writer
(London)

Russell Harty Television broadcaster, (Exeter College, Oxford) (he “was taught by Nevill Coghill, who noted of an early essay, ‘Sex in the Canterbury Tales’, ‘Energetic and zealous but very naïve’”.)

Russell Harty
Television broadcaster, (Exeter College, Oxford) (he “was taught by Nevill Coghill, who noted of an early essay, ‘Sex in the Canterbury Tales’, ‘Energetic and zealous but very naïve’”.)

Derek Jarman Film-maker Painter and campaigner for homosexual rights (King’s College, London)

Derek Jarman
Film-maker Painter and campaigner for homosexual rights (King’s College, London)

David Montagu Merchant banker and Liberal peer (Trinity College, Cambridge). He studied English literature “having tried law and economics but found them too dull”.

David Montagu
Merchant banker and Liberal peer (Trinity College, Cambridge). He studied English literature “having tried law and economics but found them too dull”.

Naomi Porter Fashion designer, (Royal Holloway )

Naomi Porter
Fashion designer, (Royal Holloway )