Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Top 20 Celebrities with Degrees in Philosophy and Religious Studies

One of the teachers at my old school had in his classroom a set of posters of celebrities who studied History at university, including such luminaries as Gordon Brown, Michael Palin, and Shakira.

I thought the posters were a great idea, and was impressed by the amount of time my colleague had obviously spent putting the posters together. So, deciding that it was time for the RS department to step up to the plate, I set about creating my own set of posters of celebrities who'd studied Philosophy or Religious Studies. I was right about it being a time consuming business: It took me hours to track down the names and create the posters.

To my slight annoyance, my colleague later told me that he'd found all his posters on the internet. History teachers eh? Always cutting corners...

Anyway, I still think that knowing that there are a few celebrities who've studied Philosophy or Religion is a good way to help students think about the question "what could I do with a degree in this?" So in no particular order, my top 20 famous people who studied Philosophy or Religion at university are:

Win Butler - Musician (Arcade Fire). Studied Religious Studies at McGill University.
Bill Clinton - Former US President. Politics, Philosophy and Economics, University of Oxford.
Iris Murdoch - Author. Philosophy, University of Oxford.
Katy Brand - Writer, comedian. Theology, University of Oxford .
Ricky Gervais - Comedian. Philosophy, University College London.
Christy Turlington - Model and businesswoman. Comparative Religion and Eastern Philosophy, New York University.
Aung San Suu Kyi - Burmese politician and Nobel Laureate. Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Oxford.
Yvette Cooper - Shadow Home Secretary. Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Oxford.
David Cameron - Prime Minister. Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Oxford.
Miles Jupp - Writer, comedian. Divinity, University of Edinburgh.
Ed Miliband - Labour Party Leader. Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Oxford.
Martin Luther King Jr - Civil Rights Leader. Theology, Boston University.
Matt Groening - Creator of The Simpsons. Philosophy, Evergreen State University.
Bruce Lee - Actor and martial artists. Philosophy, University of Washington.
Moby - Musician. Philosophy, University of Connecticut.
Yann Martel - Author (Life of Pi). Philosophy, Trent University.
Justin Vernon - Musician (Bon Iver). Religious Studies, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Mike Brierley - Former England cricket captain. Classical and Moral Sciences, University of Cambridge.
JB Gill - Musician (JLS). Theology, Kings College London.
General Sir Richard Barrons - Commander, Joint Forces Command. Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Oxford.

There are a number of other names I could have added: There are dozens of other politicians with Oxford PPE degrees, but I'm not sure our current crop of MPs are the best advert for the study of Philosophy. Footballer Joey Barton is studying Philosophy at Roehampton University, but I've left him off my list because, well, he's Joey Barton. Another footballer, former Charlton Athletic defender Richard Rufus, apparently studied Theology, but doesn't appear because I can't find the details of where he studied or at what level. There  also seems to be a bit of doubt about whether Bruce Lee actually attended Washington, but the rule of cool keeps him on my list.

I'd be keen to hear about any other names I could add to my list, particularly if they are well-know in the UK, female (not enough on my list at the moment), or from a field that isn't currently represented.

The original set of posters I created can be downloaded here (you'll need a TES login).


  1. Great list, many thanks for your leg work on this. If I come across any more as I continue my search I'll pass them back to you.

    1. Thanks, that would be great! Apparently Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal both have RS type degrees.

  2. Lana del Rey has a degree in Metaphysics from Brooklyn

    1. Thanks! Will add her to my list and posters next time I update them.