Famous alumni do not always provide useful marketing soundbites for their alma maters. When John Carey, professor emeritus of English literature at Oxford University, asked Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul what he had gained from his time at Oxford, the notoriously prickly author was blunt. "I got nothing," he told a meeting of the Royal Society of Literature this week. "I don't wish to say unkind things about anybody," he said with a straight face. "I had my own needs. That was a writing need.
And from that point of view Oxford gave me nothing."