Rowan Atkinson - Electrical Engineering, Newcastle University
Atkinson gained the highest marks in the year before going on to Oxford where he studied for an MSc – and where he fatefully met Richard Curtis. Prior to meeting Curtis and co-writing and starring in the Blackadder series, Atkinson believed his future lay in electrical engineering.
Flickr ( nathan wong.)
Kate Adie - Scandinavian Studies, Newcastle upon Tyne.
While at Newcastle the English broadcast journalist also partook in Gilbert and Sullivan productions. After completing a degree in Scandinavian studies she joined BBC radio Durham, and from there worked her way up. Throughout the 80s she was sent to cover conflicts all over the world, leading to the adage: "a good decision is getting on a plane at an airport where Kate Adie is getting off
Kate Beckinsale – French and Russian literature, New College, Oxford
The actress is now better known for playing vampires and hunting werewolves than for any profound love of literature. Allegedly her former Oxford tutors weren’t much impressed after she dropped out to pursue acting either: “She was such a nice girl. Went on to do something with vampires now” said one.
Michael Bloomberg – Electrical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University
Graduating in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science, he then went to Harvard where he studied Business Administration before heading into the world of banking. Mayor of New York, 7th-richest person in the US, and he can fly a helicopter. Not bad for an electrical engineering graduate.
Helena Bonham Carter – applied for Kings College, Cambridge
However, she was rejected, not on her academic merit – she was a student at the academically prestigious Westminster School in London – but because tutors feared she would drop out mid-way through her studies to pursue acting.
Getty. Frazer Harrison.
Dennis Bergkamp – Mechanical engineering, University of Bath.
Bergkamp took his degree while playing football for Arsenal, perhaps proving that Wayne Rooney’s idiocy and Joey Barton’s Twitter feed are not representative of intelligence in football. Perhaps.
Getty Images. Henri Swarc.
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Nick Clegg – Social Anthropology, Cambridge
Prior to bobbing along in Cameron’s shadow – press blunders aside – Clegg went to Cambridge University in 1986, studying Archaeology and Anthropology at Robinson College. He graduated with a 2:1 in social anthropology, coming second - again - to David Cameron’s first (PPE, Oxford).
Getty. WPA Pool.
George Clooney – Broadcast Journalism, Northern Kentucky University
Clooney says he mostly got As and Bs during school, but a passion for sport got him into Kentucky University. He dropped out to pursue acting, getting his big break playing an emergency doctor in ER.
John Grisham – Accounting, Mississippi State
And they say all accountants are boring. Well, they’re probably right, if Grisham’s abandonment of his original calling is anything to go by. He changed colleges three times before completing his first degree. Afterwards he studied tax law but was overcome by the “complexity and lunacy”. Working as a trial lawyer he wrote his first legal thriller, and has sold over 250 million books worldwide.
Getty. Brian Bedder.
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Harry Hill – Neurosurgery, University of London
Before the massive collars Hill wanted to go into medicine – and he remains on the General Medical Council’s list of Register Medical Practitioners. He quit medicine because he felt “it wasn’t really me.”
Getty. Gareth Cattermole.
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Russell Howard – Economics, UWE Bristol
Growing up his aspirations were firstly to be a Jedi warrior, then – briefly – Indiana Jones. Although he knew from 18 he wanted to be a comedian, he went to university to study Economics, narrowly missing out on a first. According to Howard: “I was only one per cent off a first.” He’d sneak out of his dorm to perform – never telling his friends when he first started out.
Getty. Mark Metcalfe.
Lisa Kudrow – Psychobiology, Vassar College
Kudrow intended to follow in her father’s footsteps, researching headaches alongside him for eight years while trying to break into acting. Eventually she did both: she’s best known for her role as the ditsy Phoebe but her research credit for cluster headaches is anything but airy.
Getty. Stephen Lovekin
Ashton Kutcher – Biochemical Engineering, University of Iowa.
Brains and beauty, Kutcher seems to have it all. He claims he was motivated to study biochemical engineering to help find a cure for his brother’s heart problems, but while at uni he got a reputation for hard partying and drinking, and eventually dropped out after he won first place in a modelling contract.
Bruce Lee – Drama, University of Washington
Widely considered the most influential martial artists of all time, Bruce Lee arrived in America and enrolled in a drama degree, not the philosophy one he later claimed to be on when he met his wife.
Flickr ( lwpkommunikacio)
Chris Martin – Greek and Latin, UCL
Martin, having attended Shrewsbury, headed off to UCL to complete a degree in those most relevant and useful of subjects: Greek and Latin. The geek-made-good dream come true, it was here he met fellow Coldplay band mates (who were studying suitably academic subjects such as Ancient History, engineering, maths, and anthropology). Despite being signed they refused to release an album until after their finals. Not only was the album, Parachutes, an international success but Martin also graduated with a first. No trouble there, then.
getty. ethan miller.
Brian May – Physics and Mathematics BSc, Imperial College London
Then enrolled in PhD programme studying the ‘radial velocities in the zodiacal dust cloud’, when unfortunately for his studies he got a little bit famous as the lead guitarist of Queen. He never let go of his scientific roots and in 2007 he returned to finish his PhD.
Getty. Ian Gavan.
James May – Music, Lancaster
‘Captain Slow’ and the butt of the majority of Clarkson’s jokes on TopGear was a choirboy at his local church and a keen pianist and flautist. After completing his degree he worked in the records office in a Chelsea hospital, and had a brief stint in the civil service, before finding his way into the motor industry.
Flickr ( iwpkommunikacio)
Jon Snow – Law, University of Liverpool
Snow started studying law, however was later ‘rusticated’ for partaking in a rooftop student protest against university investments in South Africa during the apartheid-era in the 1970s. Snow called it “the best thing that ever happened to me”. According to Snow he was on his way to being “an extremely mediocre and wonky lawyer.” He received an honorary degree from Liverpool, 40 years after being expelled, in 2011.
Getty. MJ Kim.
Mr T. – Mathematics, Prairie View A&M University
Mr T., born Lawrence Tureaud, won a scholarship to study but academic success was not for him and he was thrown out after only a year. Now known for his tough man personality and acting, after being thrown out of uni he joined the army, and then worked as a bodyguard, slowly developing the persona he’s now famous for.
Getty. Robert Cianflone
Christy Turlington - comparative religion and eastern philosophy, NYU
Before Lily Cole went and got that double first from Cambridge, there was Christy Turlington. Now most famous for modelling for Calvin Klein, she also earned herself a degree and is an active philanthropist.