University of Essex Notable Alumni

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University of Essex Notable Alumni

University of Essex Notable Alumni

Notable Alumni

Our 95,000+ alumni work in a variety of careers all over the world. These are just a few of the ones who’ve gone on to have a public profile for their work.

Rt. Hon. John Bercow (BA Government, 1985)

John Bercow MP is the current Speaker of the House of Commons and has been Conservative MP for Buckingham since 1997. Before becoming Speaker, he served in the Shadow Cabinet and is a member of the International Development Select Committee.

“The three years that I spent at the University of Essex was hugely stimulating and enjoyable. The Government Department lecturers were an outstanding team and I have very warm memories of learning from and interacting with them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was very active in student politics at the University and I well remember taking part in union debates on countless occasions. I was lucky to have the chance to be at the University and I am pleased that I have periodic contact with Tony King, Ivor Crewe, Dave Sanders and Tony Barker to name but four!”

Blake Harrison (East 15 Acting School, BA Acting)

Blake Harrison is one of the stars of The Inbetweeners Movie, the fastest-grossing live action comedy in UK box office history. He studied BA Acting at East 15, and won his role in the TV series The Inbetweeners just months after graduating in 2007. He says: “I was very happy at East 15. I found it so stimulating working out how to play different characters.”

Many East 15 alumni have gone on to have successful careers. Read more.

Daniel Libeskind (MA Art History and Theory, 1972)

Daniel is an internationally renowned architect. His work includes museums, concert halls, convention centres, universities, housing, hotels, shopping centres and residential work. In 2003, he was appointed as master plan architect for the reconstruction of the World Trade Centre site. Daniel was awarded an honorary degree by the University in 1999.

Daniel says of Essex: “It was here that I met… many other people whose horizons opened to me a new understanding of what it means to think, to be aware of the importance of human relationships, particularly the effect of technical objects on our lives.”

Alison Steadman OBE (East 15 Acting School)

One of the most popular actresses in Britain, Alison is acclaimed for her stage, film and television work. Her screen credits include Abigail’s Party, Shirley Pride and Prejudice and Gavin and Stacey. The University gave Alison an honorary degree in 2003 for her contribution to the performing arts.

Lord Triesman (BA Government, 1968 and MA Philosophy, 1969)

David Triesman is Labour’s spokesman in the House of Lords on foreign affairs. His previous appointments include General Secretary for the Association of University Teachers, General Secretary of the Labour Party, Minister for the Foreign Office, Minister for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and a government whip. He is also a former Chairman of the Football Association.

David Yates (BA Government, 1987)

David Yates is a BAFTA award winning television and film director. He directed the final four instalments in the Harry Potter film series, The Order of the Phoenix, The Half Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows parts I and II. He has also worked extensively in British television, mainly for the BBC, helming high-profile drama projects such as State of Play, The Way We Live Now and The Girl in the Café. He was awarded an honorary degree by the University in 2012.

Dr Oscar Arias Sanchez (PhD Government, 1975)

Oscar Arias has twice been President of Costa Rica, from 1986 to 1990 and again from 2006 to 2010. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts to end the civil wars of several Central American countries. He is also a recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism and a trustee of the Economists for Peace and Security. In 2003, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Criminal Courts Trust Fund for Victims. He was awarded an honorary degree by the University in 1988.

Baroness Virginia Bottomley (BA Sociology, 1970)

Baroness Virginia Bottomley was a member of the House of Commons from 1984 to 2005, rising to take two Secretary of State roles in the 1990s: Health and National Heritage (now Culture, Media and Sport). She stepped down from the House of Commons when the 2005 general election was called, and in June that year became a life peer with the title Baroness Bottomley of Nettleston.

Dr Rodolfo Neri Vela (MSc Electronic Systems Engineering, 1976)

Rodolfo became Mexico’s first (and so far only) astronaut in 1985 when he spent seven days in outer space on the space shuttle Atlantis (on NASA/European Space Agency mission STS-61-B). He carried out a number of experiments on human physiology on board and helped to put the Mexican satellite Morelos 2 into orbit. He is the only alumnus (that we know of) who has been to space, and is now a professor for the Telecommunications Department in the Electrical Engineering Division of the Engineering Faculty, at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Sir Christopher Pissarides (BA Economics, 1970 and MA Economics, 1971 and 2012 Honorary Graduate)

Christopher Pissarides was born in Cyprus in 1948, and graduated from Essex with a First Class Honours degree in Economics in 1970 and gained a Distinction for his Masters the following year. He moved to LSE for his PhD in 1973, and joined the faculty there in 1976. He is now Regius Professor of Economics at LSE.

In 2010, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics, jointly with Peter A. Diamond and Dale Mortensen, for his contributions to the theory of search frictions and macroeconomics. In the words of the Nobel committee, they “help us understand the ways in which unemployment, job vacancies and wages are affected by regulation and economic policy”.

We are very proud to say that Christopher has maintained close links with the University, and launched our Cyprus Alumni Club in March 2013.

Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury MP (PhD Law, 2000)

Dr Chaudhury, a graduate of our School of Law, made history in 2013 as the first female speaker of Bangladesh’s parliament.

After LLB and LLM degrees from the University of Dhaka in 1989 and 1990, she was awarded a PhD in constitutional law and human rights from Essex in 2000. She became an MP in Bangladesh in 2009 and was State minister of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (Bangladesh) until her nomination for Speaker of Jatiyo Sangshad (Bangladesh’s parliament) in April 2013.

She has practised law for over 15 years, and won Asia Society’s Humanitarian Service Award in 2010 for her work to eliminate violence against women and improving women’s employment in Bangladesh.

Notable alumni

North Towers (student residences)

The former President of Costa Rica, Óscar Arias, completed his doctorate in Political Science at the University in 1973, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987. Ex-Vice President of Costa Rica, Kevin Casas Zamora, also completed his studies in Essex, earning a MA in Latin American Government and Politics in 1993. In October 2010, the Nobel Prize in Economics was jointly awarded to Christopher A. Pissarides, who had completed his BA and MA in Economics at the University of Essex in the early 1970s. Other political figures educated at Essex include the foreign ministers of Slovenia (Dimitrij Rupel) & Iraq (Hoshyar Zebari), Conservative Party MPs Virginia Bottomley and John Bercow, now Speaker of the House of Commons, Labour Party MP Siobhain McDonagh, Pakistani Social Activist Omar Asghar Khan, South African politician Thozamile Botha and Singapore social activist James Gomez (MA 1994). Two of those convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions connected to The Angry Brigade, Hilary Creek and Anna Mendleson, had been to Essex University but left without taking their degrees.

Notable alumni in the field of the Humanities and Media include Stephen Daldry and Mike Leigh, who both studied at the East 15 Acting School (part of the University of Essex since 2001), the Artistic Director William Burdett-Coutts (MA Drama), the Documentary Filmmaker Nick Broomfield, filmmaker David Yates, artist and art collector Robert Priseman, writer and graphic artist Tom Raworth, the TV comedy producer Geoff Posner, the Malaysian poet Kee Thuan Chye, the BBC Correspondent Brian Hanrahan, fashion designer and Fashion Revolution founder Carry Somers and the Booker Prize–winning novelist Ben Okri. Musicians include jazz guitarist John Etheridge and jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon.

In the field of architecture, world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, who was commissioned to rebuild the World Trade Center Site in New York City, attended Essex and completed an MA in the History and Theory of Architecture in 1972. The architectural historian Alberto Pérez-Gómez, subsequently head of the History and Theory of Architecture program at McGill University in Canada, obtained his M.A. and PhD degrees at Essex, graduating in 1975.

Many of the university’s graduates have gone on to staff university departments worldwide. These include Erkin Bairam (Economics, Otago), Kusuma Karunaratne (Sinhala, Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and Vice-Chancellor, Colombo), Farish A. Noor (NTU), Michael Taylor (Politics, Washington) and Jean Drèze (Economics, Delhi). It has been estimated that half of the sociology professors in UK Higher Education have completed all or part of their education at Essex. Some graduates have returned to Essex to hold positions within the university’s academic departments. These include the philosopher Simon Critchley, Dean of International Development, Martin Henson and the Director of Essex’s Human Right’s Centre, John Packer.