Surprising degrees celebrities did at university

The Telegraph, 01/05/13, reviews surprising degrees read by celebrities at university many of whom were educated at HMC schools.

Chris Martin, musician, read Ancient World Studies at University College London, after his education at HMC School: Sherborne School

Moody rocker Martin hasn’t always been successful in his musical pursuits, and was booed off stage in his debut performance with teenage band The Rocking Honkies aged 15.

He went on to read Ancient World Studies at UCL, where he met his fellow Coldplay-ers, and secured himself First Class Honours as well as a raft of student gigs in local pubs. The band has been together for some 17 years, and undertook their most recent world tour in 2012.

Sacha Baren Cohen, read History at Cambridge after his education at HMC School: Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School

The image of Ali G buried in books at Cambridge University might seem unfathomable, but creator Sacha Baron Cohen spent his formative years reading History at one of the world’s leading academic institutions.

Before simultaneously delighting and horrifying the world with comic creations such as Borat (pictured) and Bruno, Baron Cohen was quite the young thesp, acting in am-dram performances of Bergerac and Fiddler on the Roof during his degree. This paved the way for his theatrical ambitions, most recently on display in Les Misérables – in a role marginally less offensive than his usual fare.

Rowan Atkinson, actor, read Electrical Engineering at Newcastle University after his education at HMC School: St Bees School.

Long before Mr Bean came crashing into existence, Rowan Atkinson seemed to be headed down a somewhat different path. Undertaking his first degree in Electrical Engineering at Newcastle University, he then pursued a Master’s in the same subject at Oxford University, where he met future collaborative comedy partner Richard Curtis. 

After starring in a number of sketch shows as a student, Atkinson went on to achieve major small and silver screen success in the likes of BlackadderNot the Nine O’clock News and Johnny English.

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, read History and Law at Cambridge after his education at HMC School: Eton College.

A former oil worker might have seemed an usual choice for Britain’s theological figurehead, but a call to the church in 1989 saw the archbishop make a dramatic career change. 

Following his schooling at Eton, Welby had read History and Law at Cambridge, and spent 11 years working in the oil industry before deciding to undertake a Theology degree at Durham, after which he became ordained. He was enthroned as the 105th archbishop in 2013, 10 years after joining the priesthood.

Brian May, musician, read Maths and Physics at Imperial College after his education at Hampton Grammar School now Hampton School (a HMC school).

Queen legend Brian May might have had a career as an academic had musical superstardom not got in the way. Following his first degree in Maths and Physics at Imperial College London, May went on to pursue a doctorate, before abandoning his studies due to musical commitments.

More than 30 years after starting his research, May completed his PhD in Astrophysics in 2007, and now has an asteroid named after him.

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