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Read about our inspirational former students who have influenced and shaped the world in which we live.

Nobel Prize winners

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Studied during the 1960s and 1970s
Died 2013
Nobel Peace Prize

Arguably our most famous former student is Nelson Mandela. He spent many of his years of imprisonment studying law with the University of London. He passed the London Intermediate exams in 1963, but the conditions imposed by the South African authorities prevented him from completing his degree.

In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom (1994), Mandela wrote of studying during the Rivonia trial in 1963-4:

"In the days before we were to reconvene, I wrote papers for a set of University of London examinations… I had continued my studies throughout the trial and I wanted to make the examination… I later realised that it was a way to keep myself from thinking negatively."

Ronald Coase

Ronald Coase

Graduated in 1929
Died in 2013
Nobel Prize for Economics

Ronald Coase took the London Intermediate exam as an external student in 1929, while at grammar school in London.

This exam covered the first year of a Bachelor of Commerce degree, which he then completed on campus at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Coase’s most famous works are "The Nature of the Firm" and "The Problem of Social Cost", which contributed to him being awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1991.

Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka

Graduated in 1954
Nobel Prize for Literature

Wole Soyinka became the first person of African descent to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986.

Soyinka graduated from University College Ibadan, Nigeria, with a University of London degree. He then went on to study in the UK, where he wrote his early plays.

He is considered one of Africa’s greatest contemporary writers, writing plays, poems and novels and memoirs.

Dr Rolph Payet

Dr Rolph Payet

Graduated in 2006
Joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

Dr Rolph Payet was a joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

His work on global oceans and island policy has achieved international recognition and he continues to work towards advancing issues on climate change and biodiversity.

Payet holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Environmental Economics from the University of London and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 2016.

Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins

Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins

Graduated in 1890
Died in 1947
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Winner of the Nobel Prize in 1929 for the discovery of what are now known as vitamins, Hopkins graduated in 1890 as a ‘non-collegiate’ student of the University of London.

Sir Frederick was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1905 and was a member of the first Medical Research Committee.

Sir Charles Kao

Sir Charles Kao

Graduated in 1956
Nobel Prize for Physics

Chinese-born Sir Charles Kao was awarded half of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics for his ground-breaking use of fibre optics in telecommunications.

He was awarded a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of London in 1965, while working at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories (STL) in England. It was here that he made his breakthrough discovery, through his realisation of the potential of fibre-optics as a telecommunications medium.

Sir Charles spent much of his life in Hong Kong, founding the Department of Electrical Engineering at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and later serving as Vice-Chancellor.

Sir Derek Walcott

Sir Derek Walcott, KCSL, OBE, OCC

Graduated in 1953, died in 2017
Nobel Prize for Literature

Our second graduate to win the Nobel Prize for Literature was the Honorable Derek Walcott, a Saint Lucian writer and visual artist.

He is considered the foremost West Indian poet and dramatist working today and was the first Caribbean person to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.

His oeuvre includes Omeros, a retelling of the Homeric legend in a Caribbean context, and White Egrets, for which he won the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry in 2011.

Ministers and Heads of States

ANR Robinson

ANR Robinson

Graduated in 1949
Died in 2014
Former President of Trinidad and Tobago

Between 1946 and 1970, a number of universities across the Commonwealth were granted the ability to award University of London degrees.

The University College of the West Indies produced a number of well-known graduates, including the Honourable ANR Robinson, who graduated with an LLB in 1949.

ANR Robinson was Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago from 1986 to 1991 and President from 1997 to 2003. He is credited with helping to establish the International Criminal Court by proposing a permanent organisation to deal with the illegal drug trade in 1989.

Judge Christopher Weeramantry

Judge Christopher Weeramantry

Graduated in 1949
Died in 2017
Former Vice-President of the International Court of Justice

Judge Christopher Weeramantry received an LLB (1949) and a BA History (1951) from the University of London in Sri Lanka.
He was a Justice of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka before being appointed a Judge of the International Court of Justice in 1991.

During his retirement, he founded the Weeramantry International Centre for Peace Education and Research (WICPER) and was President of the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms. He was also the UNESCO Peace Education Laureate in 2006.

Eleni Mavrou

Eleni Mavrou

Graduated in the 1980s
Former Mayor of Nicosia, Cyprus.

Eleni Mavrou graduated with a BSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of London while living in the UK.

She entered politics on her return to Cyprus, serving as a councillor on the Nicosia Municipal Council from 1986-96.

Eleni Mavrou represented Cyprus at the European Parliament after it joined the European Union in 2004. She was elected Mayor of Nicosia in 2006 for a five-year term.

Lord Frederick William Mulley

Lord Frederick William Mulley

Graduated in 1946
Died in 1975
Former Secretary of Defence

During the First and Second World Wars, the University of London enabled British servicemen to study while serving in the Armed Forces or in prisoner-of-war camps.

Lord Frederick William Mulley was the son of an unemployed factory labourer and could not afford to go to university. He was given the opportunity to study for a BSc Economics as a Prisoner of War in Germany. This led to a scholarship to study at Oxford.

He went on to become a barrister, a Member of Parliament, and eventually served in the cabinet of two Prime Ministers. Under Prime Minister Harold Wilson, he was appointed Minister of Transport and, following this, Minister for Education and Science. Under Prime Minister Jim Callaghan, he was appointed Secretary of State for Defence.

Dr Dipu Moni

Dr Dipu Moni

Graduated in 2005
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh

In 2009, Dr Dipu Moni became the first female foreign minister of a South Asian country when she was appointed the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Bangladesh.

A doctor by profession, she graduated with a Master of Laws (LLM) from the University of London in 2005. Since entering politics, her focus has been women’s rights and entitlements, health legislation and human rights.

Luisa Diogo

Luisa Diogo

Graduated in 1992
Former Prime Minister of Mozambique

Her Excellency, Luisa Diogo, Prime Minister of Mozambique from 2004 to 2010, is one of several senior officials from Mozambique to have studied the MSc Financial Economics degree from SOAS through online, blended and flexible learning.

Ms Diogo has been a strong advocate for free reproductive health and general health services in Africa. She has also driven economic and judicial reform and improved social services in Mozambique.

In 2005 she was listed among Forbes’ ‘100 Most Powerful Women in The World’.

Gisela Stuart

Gisela Stuart

Graduated in 1993
Member of UK Parliament

Born and raised in Germany, Gisela Stuart gained a University of London LLB in 1993. Without it, she says she would never have become an MP.

She described the graduation ceremony at London’s Barbican Centre as ‘one of the most moving and magnificent experiences of my life’.

She served as a Member of Parliament for Birmingham Edgbaston between 1997 and 2017 and sat on the European Convention’s 13-strong steering group.

Inspirational figures

Dame Dianne Thompson

Dame Dianne Thompson

Graduated in 1971
Former CEO, Camelot Group

Dame Dianne Thompson studied for a degree in French and English with the University of London at Manchester Polytechnic.

She was Director of Marketing at retail chain Woolworths and ran her own advertising agency before joining the Camelot Group.

After helping Camelot overcome competition for the lottery license in 2000, she was promoted to Chief Executive, a position she held until 2014. She was elevated to Dame in 2015 New Year Honours list for charitable services.

Dato Shyamala Alagendra

Dato Shyamala Alagendra

Graduated in 1995

Prosecution Trial Lawyer with the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Shylamala achieved her Bachelor of Laws degree with Honours at just 19 years of age. She is an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaysia and is acting Defence Counsel for the Deputy President of Kenya before the International Criminal Court (an institution proposed by fellow alumni, A.N.R. Robinson).

Alagendra practises from her legal firm in Kuala Lumpur, as well as before all international criminal courts.

Louise Creighton

Louise Creighton

Graduated in 1880
Died in 1936
Writer

Louise Creighton became one of the University of London’s first female graduates, passing the University of London’s Special Examination for Women with honours.

She became a social activist and writer, campaigning for votes for women and a greater role for women within the Church of England. She also served on two Royal Commissions and the Joint Committee of Insurance Commissioners.

She helped promote the work of women missionaries and took a leading role chairing the women's meetings at the Pan-Anglican Congress of 1908.

Aare Afe Babalola

Aare Afe Babalola

Graduated in 1950s and 60s
Honorary Doctorate, 2015

Aare Afe Babalola has over 50 years’ experience in legal practise. His chambers have trained more than 1,000 lawyers, producing 15 Senior Advocates for Nigeria.

After completing a BSc in Economics, he studied for a LLB with the University of London. In 1963, he was called to the Bar in England and went on to become a registered member of Lincolns Inn, London.

He made a substantial contribution to higher education in Nigeria as the Pro-Chancellor of Lagos University, a position he held from 2001-2007. In 2009 he set up the Afe Babalola University.

Judge Andrew Chan

Judge Andrew Chan

Graduated in 1989
Deputy High Court Judge

Hong Kong’s Andrew Chan was a pharmacist before he graduated with a University of London LLB in 1989. He was called to the Bar in England and Hong Kong in 1990 and worked in private practice until being appointed as a Magistrate in 1998.

He was elevated to District Judge in 2007 and is now a Deputy High Court Judge.

Honorary degree holders

Professor Sergey Yakovlev

Professor Sergey Yakovlev

Honorary Doctor of Economics, 2015

Sergey Yakovlev is an innovative leader in Russian and international higher education.
He graduated in Economics at Moscow State University (MSU) in 1972, and completed a postgraduate award in 1975. He taught Economics in Portuguese at the State Law Institute, Guinea-Bissau, before returning to MSU as Vice-Dean.

During his tenure, the Faculty of Economics established connections with three top European universities: the London School of Economics, the Sorbonne, and Tilburg, which has helped to foster internationalisation and modernisation of higher education within Russia.

Lee Kwok Cheong

Lee Kwok Cheong

Honorary Doctor of Science, 2016

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Lee Kwok Cheong won a place at MIT to pursue a degree in Management and Computer Science.

In the 1980s, Dr Lee was given the opportunity to revolutionise the use of IT in Singapore’s civil service. He then exported this expertise during the dot-com era as founding Chief Executive Officer of ACS PTE Limited 1996-2005, one of Southeast Asia’s largest IT solutions providers.

Dr Lee is now Head of the Singapore Institute of Management’s Global Education, which offers degree programmes in partnership with universities including the University of London.

Martin Bean CBE

Martin Bean CBE

Honorary Doctor of Laws, 2013

As former Vice-Chancellor of the Open University and General Manager of Microsoft’s Worldwide Education Products Group, Martin Bean has a wealth of experience in learning innovation.

He has won numerous awards in the US and UK for his contribution to education and was awarded a CBE in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list for services to higher education. He is currently Vice-Chancellor and President of RMIT University.