Univ Dates: 2005-2010

Degree: BA History and MPhil International Relations

Degree Level: Undergraduate and Postgraduate

Occupation: Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Biography: Nick was a member of Oxford University Fencing Club 2005-2010. He won a half blue, was Club President in 2007-8, and helped Univ win fencing Cuppers in 2006-7. He also fenced for Great Britain at junior international level while at Univ.

He was Social Secretary of the MCR in 2009-10, and a telethon caller in 2009. He made a brief, not terribly successful, appearance in the Univ netball team in 2006.

After leaving Univ, Nick joined the FCO. After time on the Russia desk and in a cost-cutting programme, he was posted to the UK Perm Rep to the EU in Brussels 2012-15. There he worked on EU foreign policy in its Neighbourhood during the Ukraine crisis and the aftermath of the Arab Spring. He was Head of the Eastern Mediterranean Team before becoming the Foreign Secretary’s Private Secretary covering Europe and the former Soviet Union in August 2015.


Why did you choose Univ?

My preconceptions of Univ in particular were formed entirely by a visit prior to applying, when then Head Porter Dusty’s brilliant welcome convinced me to come there over any of the other seemingly near-identical colleges I had visited. Dusty left after my first year, but I owed him a lot for convincing me to apply!


What were your preconceptions of Oxford before you started here?

I was fortunate enough to have parents who had met at Oxford. Given this was a time of gender-segregated colleges, I suspected their memories were somewhat out of date, but I didn’t really know by how much or in what ways.


What do you remember about your first day at Univ?

A series of rather unmemorable speed dating conversations, more than a couple of conversations about my height, and a first trip of far too many to the dance floor at The Bridge.


Was there anyone at Univ who really inspired you?

It may be clichéd, but both as an undergraduate and postgraduate I made friends with two great groups of people. In a whole variety of different ways, they have inspired me to try new things, see new perspectives, and have fun along the way.


How do you think Univ shaped you?

Studying at Oxford more broadly developed many essential skills. But I think I learned as much from my contemporaries at Univ. Talking about the world with them, I hope, made me better able to understand others’ points of view and find common ground. Our range of interests developed in tandem, feeding off each other. And the friends I made there have been a great source of support and friendship then and now.

The College itself fostered an environment in which this was encouraged, helping you to make the most of the opportunities available, whether formal or informal, to learn from those you lived and studied alongside.


Did you know what you wanted to do after Univ?

Although my career so far seems the product of a grand plan, it was not something I’d thought through to begin with. I stayed on for the MPhil out of a desire to continue studying and a growing interest in contemporary global politics. I considered staying for a doctorate, but I was also interested in seeing how diplomacy worked in practice and the non-partisan approach of the Civil Service appealed. So I put in an application for the graduate Fast Stream scheme, and was lucky enough to get a place at the FCO (the Foreign Office).