List of Notable Oxford Alumni (Oxonians)

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Mrunmayai Bobade
Updated on Feb 28, 2022 09:08 AM IST

Oxford wears its Badges of Honor in the form of its long list of notable alumni called Oxonians, be it prime ministers, Nobel Prize winners, international leaders, or Olympic medalists. Check out the list of notable Oxford alumni (Oxonians) below.

List of Notable Oxford Alumni (Oxonians)

The University of Oxford is the second-oldest surviving university in the English-speaking world. Known informally as Oxford, it is derived from a Latin term with the same meaning i.e., Universitas Oxoniensis. The University of Oxford was established in England, the United Kingdom, and Oxford in the 16th century, but it has no known origin/foundation date. Though the earliest evidence of teaching in Oxford dates back to 1096, it is not clear at which point the university took shape or came into existence. 

Over 10,000 international students attend various programs at the University of Oxford, making up nearly half of the total student body. The university holds the #1 ranking in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, 2021, with an endowment of 1.2 billion GBP.

There are 50 undergraduate programs and more than 350 graduate courses offered through 45 colleges at the university. These colleges accept applications from prospective students through the UCAS application process.

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Oxford University Notable Alumni

As one of the world’s most iconic and historic institutions, Oxford is correspondent with captaincy, encouragement and eminence in education. At least 28 British Prime Ministers, 55 Nobel Prize winners, 30 international leaders and 120 Olympic medalists have studied at the University. Oxford is formed of 38 colleges, each with its own heritage and tradition.

No one knows the exact date of Oxford's foundation, but teaching commenced there in 1096 and took off after Henry II prohibited English students from attending the University of Paris in 1167. 

According to records, most of the notable alumni or Oxonians were born in the late 13th and beginning of the 14th centuries. Furthermore, the university sets no age limit records for old-age pensioners or the ones who seek knowledge with an earnest heart. Thus, Gertrud Seidmann, 91-years old, was the oldest alumnus/Oxonian to receive the ‘Certificate of Graduate Attainment’.

Also Read: Timeline for May Intake 2022 for International Students to Study in the UK

Top 13 Notable Oxford Alumni/Oxonians

Oxonians are nicknames given to alumni of Oxford University. The university has been home to a long list of noteworthy individuals, including world leaders, prominent explorers, etc. that have been entitled to call themselves “Oxonians”, the name given to the school’s alumni. Listed below are the 13 most notable Oxfordians throughout its history. Let’s start by backpedalling a bit.

13. Thomas Hobbes, 1588-1679

Oxford University is where Hobbes obtained his degree in 1608. Though he has published assorted works on both philosophy and science, Leviathan is one of his most renowned works. A famous quote by Hobbes depicts that a life without a structured society would be ‘short, poor, brutish, solitary, and nasty’.

According to him, there is a contract between a society's rulers and those they rule over, in which the king's job is to ensure the welfare of the people he rules, and society's members promise loyalty to him in return.

12. Cecil Rhodes, 1853-1902

A year after graduating from Oxford University in 1881, Rhodes was instrumental in the founding of De Beers, an immense diamond mining company. Rhodes helped the British Empire extend its influence in South Africa.

As part of Rhodes' policies, the native population of South Africa was further segregated from white colonists. Rhodes, therefore, is often viewed as the person who laid the foundation for Apartheid. This is the reason Rhodes Scholars Scholarships are named for him.

11. Adam Smith, 1723-1790

Political economists and economists, in general, have regarded Smith as one of the most important philosophers in these fields. His academic career began at Glasgow University. As soon as he graduated, he received a scholarship to pursue his postgraduate learning at the University of Oxford. 

He is best known for his book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, in which he outlined his perspectives on economics, morality, and politics. In today's world, Smith's work forms the foundation of contemporary economics or is sieved as the basis for modern economics education.

10. Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900

Oscar Wilde was an author, scriptwriter (playwright), and poet. In 1878, he graduated from the University of Oxford. He is best known for his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and for his plays, such as The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere's Fan. 

In his time, Wilde was a strong advocate of aesthetic art, which was extremely popular in England. He was tried and convicted of sodomy and received a prison sentence for it. Unfortunately, he did not have a happy ending to his life. He passed away from meningitis three years after being released.

9. J.R.R. Tolkien, 1892-1973

With a BA in 1915 and an MA in 1919, Tolkien completed his education at the University of Oxford. He was probably best known for the two famous works in his body of work, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, which were ultimately adapted into blockbuster films in the first two decades of the 21st century. 

Tolkien, besides his renowned works, was also a teacher of English language and literature, and actually worked briefly for the Oxford English Dictionary.

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8. Lester B. Pearson, 1897-1972

Lester Bowles "Mike" Pearson was a Canadian politician, diplomat, academic, and statesman who served as the 14th prime minister of Canada from 1963 to 1968. He earned a BA in modern history from Oxford in 1923, as well as an MA in 1925. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his grand idea in 1957, which established the foundations of modern UN peacekeeping.

His greatest diplomatic achievement came during the 1956 Suez Crisis when he proposed that UN-backed international peacekeepers be deployed to oversee the withdrawal of British and French troops that had attacked Egypt to obtain the Suez Canal. 

7. Rupert Murdoch, 1931

A 1952 Oxford graduate, Rupert Murdoch was born in Australia. In 1979, he founded News Corp., a media holding company, and in 1985, he acquired 20th Century Fox Film Corp. He is now one of the most influential media moguls in the world. 

Later, Murdoch founded Fox News, a right-wing news outlet broadcasting 24 hours a day. His company, 20th Century Fox (now 21st Century Fox) including Fox News, was sold to Walt Disney Company in 2019.

6. Aung San Suu Kyi, 1945

Burmese democracy proponent Aung San Suu Kyi has long been known as Burma's (Myanmar) leading pro-democracy figure. In 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1967, she graduated from the University of Oxford after studying in Burma. The university also conferred her an honorary degree in 2012. 

Her reputation, however, has been wrecked since she was appointed State Counselor, the de facto head of Burma's government, as she failed to speak out or act against the atrocities committed against that minority by Burma's military. Due to this incident, in 2017, a painting of her was removed from Oxford University's buildings.

5. Benazir Bhutto, 1953-2007

Benazir Bhutto has inked her name as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. She was the first female leader of an Islamic nation. In 1977, she earned a degree from the University of Oxford after attending Harvard University.

In 1988, Bhutto was elected for the first time as Pakistan's prime minister, then again she got re-elected in the year 1993. As a candidate in the 2007 parliamentary elections in Pakistan, Bhutto returned to her homeland after years of exile. Assassinated during a campaign rally by a suicide bomber, she lost her life in December of that year.

4. Tony Blair, 1953

The United Kingdom was led by Blair for ten years, from 1997 to 2007. His bachelor's degree in law was obtained from Oxford University in 1975. The Good Friday Agreement, signed in 1998 to end decades of conflict in Northern Ireland, is one of his legacy accomplishments as Prime Minister. 

The bill enables Scotland and Wales to have home rule, to create parliaments in their respective countries, and to take more control of their own affairs. He is perhaps most known for his support of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003, a war in many circles that was unpopular. 

3. Albert Einstein – Nobel Prize-winning Physicist

Christ Church College was the place where Albert Einstein studied briefly before he immigrated to the United States in the 1930s. His 'Theory of Relativity' transformed Physics as we know it today, earning him the title of 'Person of the Century' by Time Magazine. One of its most esteemed institutions is Christ Church College. There are 13 former British Prime Ministers among its alumni, including King Edward VI of England.

2. Indira Gandhi – Former Indian Prime Minister

Indian Prime Minister Indra Gandhi was the first woman to hold the post. In fact, she served twice as Prime Minister, making her the second-longest-serving Indian leader. During her time in the UK, she decided to pursue tertiary education at Oxford University. Despite enrolling at Somerville College, she was not able to complete her degree due to ill health.

She was later awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Oxford University in 1971. Her excellence was further recognized in 2010 when she was named one of the ten Oxonians, illustrious Asian graduates from the University of Oxford.

1. Dr Manmohan Singh – Former Indian Prime Minister

Between 2004 and 2014, he served as India's 13th Prime Minister. While earning his DPhil at Nuffield College from 1960 to 1962, he studied Economics. As a result of his doctoral thesis, he later wrote a book entitled "India's Export Trends and Prospects for Self-Sustaining Growth". Moreover, he served as finance minister for the government of India.

Dr Manmohan Singh Scholarship is available to any student interested in studying for a doctorate at St John's College, Cambridge University and/or an undergraduate degree at the university. This scholarship program has been established in honour of Dr Manmohan Singh.

Also read: Popular Scholarships for Indian Students to Study in the UK

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