Famous Graduates From the University of Essex

Much is written of those who have graduated from Oxford and Cambridge, but all universities have their share of famous and celebrated alumni. The University of Essex is no exception. For a less famous UK university, it has a diverse range of internationally successful graduates who are each masters of their own field.

Oscar Arias is the president of Costa Rica in Central America. He graduated from Essex in 1974 with a doctorate in Political Science but since then has received over fifty honorary degrees from other institutions. In 1987 he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his impact on civil wars and fighting in and around the region. He is also commended for his reintroduction of SATs to the Costa Rican education system. In recent years and amidst some controversy Arias has been re-elected as president of Costa Rica.

In a different industry altogether Mike Leigh has no less of a social conscience. After graduating from – and meeting his wife at – the East 15 Acting School in Essex he went on to start writing and directing his own plays in 1965. In 1977 he wrote Abigail’s Party, a social critique of the new middle class of the time. Leigh then moved into feature films and in 1984 directed the movie, Meantime, which is also notable as being the acting debut of a young Gary Oldman. He won the Best Director award at Cannes in 1993 for Naked and Best Film at Venice
Film Festival in 2004 for Vera Drake.

Another notable Media graduate from Essex is documentarian Nick Broomfield…but he didn’t actually graduate in Media. Interestingly, like Arias, Broomfield graduated in Political Science before picking up his trusty boom-mic. It was in 1988 with his film, Driving Me Crazy, that Broomfield truly established his signature style, the movie almost focuses as much on the processes of making the documentary as the story and subject itself. His influence on documentary film making is broadly realized when one notes the recent work of Michael Moore
and Morgan Spurlock.

Our final famous graduate from the University of Essex is Ben Okri. Although arguably lesser known in the UK, Okri is widely regarded as one of Africa’s greatest writers. In 1991 he won the Booker Prize for his novel The Famished Road, a story of magical realism about a spirit child living in an unnamed Nigerian city. Now living in London. In 2007 he released his 11th novel: Starbook.