Famous faces who studied at Newcastle and Northumbria Universities, from movie stars to royalty


With A-Level results day Just around the corner, many students will have their university of choice in sight while waiting for their exam results.

If you’re thinking of studying in Newcastle at one of the city’s world-class universities, you’ll be in good company – both Newcastle University and Northumbria University have hosted many famous faces over the years. From screen stars to icons of the music scene, several entertainment icons are former Newcastle or Northumbria graduates.

Universities have also helped launch the careers of alumni who have dominated the worlds of sports, fashion, technology, politics, and more. Here are some of the most famous graduates students will follow if they come to Newcastle to study this year.

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Newcastle University

Ranked 122nd in the QS World University Rankings for 2023 – not bad considering there are nearly 1,500 institutions on the list – Newcastle University has long been a popular choice for students. Over the decades, countless alumni have achieved success in their fields, landing top jobs in business, law, science and health.

Graham Wylie co-founded Sage, the UK’s largest software company, after earning a degree in Computer Science and Statistics at Newcastle. And more in the world of Politics Labor MP Lisa Nandy and former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron both studied politics at university.

Whitley Bay Born journalist Kate Adie, who was BBC News’ chief correspondent between 1989 and 2003, is also a former Newcastle student. And there are plenty of famous faces who went on to the world of arts, culture and entertainment after studying at Newcastle.

Newcastle graduate Rowan Atkinson starred in Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Lion King and new Netflix movie Man Vs Bee

One of the university’s most famous alumni is Blackadder, Johnny English and the star of Mr Bean Rowan Atkinson , who studied electrical and electronic engineering. Actor Chris Vance, known for his roles in Prison Break, Dexter and Hawaii Five-0, also graduated from Newcastle with an honors degree in civil engineering.

Some notable personalities from the music world have also studied at Newcastle – including County Durham -born star Bryan Ferry, who studied fine art at the University from 1964 to 1968. Rocker Paul Smith teamed up with fellow Newcastle graduates Archis Tiku, Lukas Wooller and Tom English to form Maximo Park in 2003, with their debut album nominated for The Mercury Prize.

And they’re not the only Newcastle alumni you might recognize in the entertainment world. Architect George Clarke , known for his Channel 4 shows including George Clarke’s The Restoration Man and Amazing Spaces, graduated in 1995 with an honors degree in architectural studies. Meanwhile Dr Zoe Williams, who is a resident doctor on ITV This morning and presented shows like The One Show and Trust Me I’m A Doctor, graduating from Newcastle Medical School in 2007.

Princess Eugenie studied at Newcastle University from 2009 to 2012
Princess Eugenie studied at Newcastle University from 2009 to 2012

There are plenty of other Newcastle graduates whose faces may not be as well known as other screen alumni, but you’ll definitely have heard of their work. Take TV producer Dianne Nelmes, dubbed the “Queen of Daytime TV” who was behind This Morning, You’ve Been Frame, Stars In Their Eyes and Loose Women.

In fact, Newcastle graduates are responsible for creating a whole host of on-screen entertainment, from creative director James Honeyborne whose projects with the BBC’s Natural History Unit include the BAFTA Blue Planet II award, to Debbie Horsfield who adapted the Poldark novels for the popular BBC series. There’s also former Newcastle student turned screenwriter Peter Straughan, whose writing credits include the films How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, The Men Who Stare at Goats and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Newcastle University is not only fit for entertainment royalty, but also for reality royalties too. Princess Eugenie graduated in 2012 with a BA in English Literature and Art History.

Northumbria University

Wallsend-born Sting is one of the region's biggest stars - and a Northumbrian graduate
Wallsend-born Sting is one of the region’s biggest stars – and a Northumbrian graduate

Newcastle University is not the only institution in the city to have attracted up-and-coming famous faces over the years. There are a number of notable people who started their careers as Northumbria graduates.

Perhaps the most famous is North Eastern icon Sting, also known as Gordon Sumner, who qualified as a teacher after studying at what was then the Northern Counties College of Education from 1971 to 1974. Lighthouse Family singer-songwriter Tunde Baiyewu also earned a Northumbrian accounting degree.

The university also has a few sports stars on its list of alumni, including Olympic gold medalist cyclist Victoria Pendleton and track and field athlete Steve Cram. Other graduates went on to dominate their fields, such as Louise Trotter who held senior positions at Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Lacoste after studying fashion at Northumbria.

Meanwhile, business and graphic design graduate Amanda Sonia Berry became chief executive of BAFTA, and industrial design alumni Jony Ive was named Apple’s design director from 1997 to 2019. Budding politicians will also be in good company in Northumbria – Bibiano Aido, Spain’s youngest minister and prime minister for equality, studied there as part of an exchange programme.



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