Univ Dates: 2000-2003
Degree: BA PPE
Degree Level: Undergraduate
Occupation: Principal Research Analyst, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London; formerly, diplomat, British High Commission in Nigeria
Biography: Nigel Holmes began his career as a Research Assistant at the Forum of Private Business in Cheshire from 2004-2005. He then joined the Ministry of Defence as an Analyst, and moved to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 2012. In 2014 he moved to Nigeria to work for the British High Commission as a Political Officer. He is currently employed by the FCO in London as a Principal Research Analyst. He has completed an MLitt in International Security Studies at the University of St Andrews (2003-4), and an MSc in Development Studies at Birkbeck, University of London (2007-9). At Univ he was a member and captain of the Univ Football Team 2nd XI and Univ Table Tennis Club.
Can you still remember your first day at Univ?
I do, I remember the trauma of my dad getting the car into the right part of Oxford, and then being unable to park on Logic Lane – a stressful occasion for anyone. I remember seeing someone from my interview, who intercepted me, and suddenly all my qualms and concerns dropped away.
Did you have any real expectations?
I had expectations in that I was very aware of the privilege of coming and I was rather alarmed in terms of what might be expected of me for academic work. I was concerned and rather intimidated by everyone that was here at first… It was, I suppose, a combination of a little bit of fear and nerves, a little bit of self-doubt but also excitement to be getting on with things.
I had chosen Univ on the basis of a few things: location and history, but also the tutors in PPE. I was really looking forward to meeting and working with them. I have very fond recollections of being put through my paces but really being extremely interested in the areas that I was pursuing, the diversity particularly in terms of the politics which was, and remains, my first interest. The opportunities that come from being at Univ are amazing.
What is it that you do now?
I’m a Senior Research Analyst in the Foreign Office, where I am a specialist in international terrorism. Research analysts in the Foreign Office are a small cadre of experts who have studied and worked professionally in that business area and we have nine different groups covering all parts of the world. I’m one of the ones who cover international terrorism and national security and it’s our job to be a repository of expert knowledge to bring a different perspective and constructively engage with policy and critique it if necessary – to connect the Foreign Office to other outside experts too, academia, think-tanks, that sort of thing.
Before this I spent two years as a diplomat in Nigeria covering Northern Nigeria and it was an amazing time to be there. Before that I was a research analyst also – so, as a specialist, you can spend your entire career in your field if you like, but still be part of the Diplomatic Service; going oversees to work in that specialism and then come back and put that knowledge in to practice.
Did you particularly see yourself in this position?
At every stage I have been fortunate in that opportunities have opened up that I hadn’t really anticipated. I remember explicitly thinking, when I was revising for my finals, that I wanted to work for the Foreign Office or United Nations or as an international journalist or that I wanted to work in an overseas facility or in foreign regional affairs. At various points it looked like it may not happen, but fortunately it very much has.
What do you see as the importance of this gallery project?
It’s a great idea – the more outreach that Univ does the better. I strongly believe in this project and I’m excited and feel privileged to be here. The more that can be done to make lives after Univ tangible and give a sense of achievable reality to those careers the better.