FAMOUS actors, athletes, musicians and politicians have received their degrees from Essex University over the years.

The university, based in Colchester, has an array of well-known faces among its alumni who studied there before becoming renowned figures in their field.

Here are nine of the most famous people to have attended and graduated the university, as well as those who have received honourary awards for their services.

Helen Mirren

National treasure Dame Helen Mirren was awarded an honorary degree from Essex University back in 2014.

The award-winning actress, from Leigh, is one of the few performers who have achieved the Triple Crown of Acting in America.

Some of her most outstanding roles include Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen, Magdalene "Queenie" Shaw in Hobbs and Shaw as well as Chris Harper in the 2003 hit Calendar Girls.

In 2014 she accepted the honorary doctorate at a graduation ceremony attended by students from the literature, film and theatre studies department as well as those from Loughton's East 15 Acting School.

In her acceptance speech, Dame Helen said she was delighted with the honour and congratulated the students.

She told the Gazette at the time: "I am proud to be the bearer of the badge Essex girl and I am delighted to have got this award."


Priti Patel

Home Secretary Priti Patel studied economics at Keele University and went on to study British government and politics at Essex University.

The 48-year-old has been Witham's MP since 2010, and has served as the Home Secretary to Boris Johnson's Conservative government since 2019.

She became inspired to get involved in politics by the Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and considers herself to be a "Thatcherite".


John Bercow

John Bercow is best known for serving as Speaker of the House of Commons from 2009 to 2019.

He was the first MP who was elected Speaker without previously serving as Deputy Speaker since Selwyn Lloyd in 1971.

The 57-year-old graduated with a first-class honours in government in 1985 and has been involved in politics ever since.

Mr Bercow is Essex University's chancellor, and since stepping down from the role of Speaker her has described Brexit as “the biggest foreign policy mistake in the post-war period”.

Stephen Daldry


Olivier Award-winning director Stephen Daldry is another famous alumni of the university.

He studied at the university's East 15 Acting School and since then he has gone onto become one of the nation's most successful directors.

The 60-year-old's portfolio includes Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader and smash hit Netflix TV series The Crown.

During his career he has received eight Bafta nominations, three Oscar nominations and two Golden Globe nominations.

Speaking to the Gazette in 2018, he said: “East 15 releases the individual and actually allows them to be who they want to be and in that sense it is independent and rather wonderful.”


David Yates

David Yates shot four Harry Potter films and received an honorary degree from Essex University in 2012.

He directed the last four films in the franchise and won a BAFTA for the final movie in the series.

He graduated from the university in 1987 with a BA in government.


Max Whitlock

Great Britain’s most successful gymnast Max Whitlock was awarded an honorary degree two years ago.

Max, who holds 19 major medals and is a double Olympic champion, received his degree during the graduation ceremony for more than 400 students from the university’s School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences.

After the ceremony Max thanked the university for acknowledging his achievements saying it was "an honour to be in there at the ceremony and share it with graduates".


Annie Lennox

Singer and activist Annie Lennox has also received an honorary degree at the university for her human rights works and political activism

She was presented with the honour by the University’s Chancellor on the university’s Colchester campus in 2013.

During the ceremony Annie was praised for her wide-ranging humanitarian projects, which have made vital, practical, life-saving differences especially in South Africa.

Her ‘SING’ campaign, which works with women and children with HIV, was also celebrated.


Laura Trott

Olympian Laura Trott received her honorary degree with Annie Lennox.

Laura, who was born in Essex and won gold at the 2012 Olympics, was recognised for her achievements in European, World and Olympic cycling.


Trevor Brooking

England football legend Sir Trevor Booker played for West Ham more than 630 times, scoring 102 goals, and he also played for his country nearly 50 times.

Sir Trevor, whose football career spanned almost 20 years, received his honorary degree from Essex University in 2001.

He now works as director of football development in England.