Baroness Shephard

Celebrating one year of the Alumni Voices podcast series

This month we celebrate one year of our Alumni Voices podcast series. Launched in May 2015, Alumni Voices showcases former Oxford students talking about their career highlights and memories of their student days. This innovative monthly series of 15-minute interviews offers an insight into the impact of an Oxford University education in the areas of economics, politics, medicine, entertainment, and even Olympic sports. 

The inaugural episode, recorded at the Alumni Weekend in Europe in Vienna, featured BBC foreign correspondent, Bethany Bell (Keble, 1987), talking about reporting assignments in the Middle East and her love of Vienna, where she is based. Since then, the series has grown from strength to strength, with other highlights including The Rt Hon the Lord Patten of Barnes, CH (Balliol, 1962), Chancellor of the University of Oxford and last governor of Hong Kong, doctor and champion of evidence-based medicine Dr Ben Goldacre (Magdalen, 1992), best-selling economist Tim Harford (Brasenose, 1992), and most recently, comedian and broadcaster, Ruby Wax (Kellogg, 2010). 

The interviews are wide-ranging and enlightening as alumni speak openly about how their careers have developed, often in unexpected ways. In his interview, Lord Patten describes how he did not have political ambitions while studying Modern History. However, the independent thinking fostered by the tutorial system helped prepare him for high office. He says: ‘I think it was that ability or encouragement to stand up for my own political opinions which made much more of an impact on my political life than anything I learnt about the consequences of the Thirty Years’ War.’

In her interview, Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE (St Hilda’s, 1970), a renowned neuroscientist, Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford and Senior Research Fellow at Lincoln College, explains her unorthodox route to a scientific career having passed the Oxford entrance exam in Classics. Baroness Greenfield says: ‘To see connections between disciplines is really rewarding and fulfilling, and it does get you to what we could regard as the truth.’

The interviews also feature professional preoccupations and challenging arguments, from the perceived negative impact of social media to the structural flaws in medical trials. They are interspersed with amusing anecdotes about Oxford, including punting on the Thames, and even the Rolling Stones playing at a ball in the 1960s.The interviews have been likened to BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs but without the discs. 

The series is presented by Guy Collender, Deputy Director of Alumni Relations at Oxford University, and Paull Hammond-Davies, Head of Alumni Communications and Marketing at Oxford University. 

To find out more about the Alumni Voices series or to stream the interviews, please visit the Alumni Voices page. If you have any comments please email

Alumni Voices in numbers

  • 14 episodes (including two special programmes recorded at the Alumni Weekend in North America)
  • Five men, nine  women
  • 205 minutes of interviews
  • 6,780 downloads 
  • Five interviewees studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), two Psychology, one Law, 1 English Language and Literature, one MBA, one Theology, one Physics, one Medicine, one Modern History