The Oscars 2014: 13 universities up for Academy Awards

Which universities will have cause for celebration at the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday 2 March? Fiona Salvage looks at the institutions that have produced the most Oscar nominees

February 27, 2014

Source: Joe Seer/Shutterstock.com

“I’d like to thank the academy” will no doubt be a staple line for those picking up Oscars at the 86th Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles this weekend.

But how many of the nominees owe a debt of gratitude to the educational academy?

If you think actors have no need for higher education, then think again. Our analysis of the educational histories of the 2014 Oscar nominees shows that a large proportion attended university, or even went on to obtain postgraduate degrees.

To compile this list, we have looked at those institutions that count two or more Oscar nominees among their alumni. In total, 43 Oscar nominees graduated from 13 institutions. Our list only includes those nominees who graduated (and not those who attended or studied) from their alma mater.

Let’s start the countdown…


7= University of Edinburgh (two nominees)

The highest placed UK institution is the University of Edinburgh.

Recent master’s graduate Sara Ishaq’s film Karama Has No Walls, which formed part of her course, is nominated for an Oscar in the Documentary Short Subject category.

Ms Ishaq is a double graduate, with her undergraduate degree also coming from Edinburgh.

She is joined on the list by physics graduate Crispin Struthers, who is nominated in the Film Editing category for his work on American Hustle.

Academy Awards 2014 nominees
Documentary Short Subject

Karama Has No Walls
Sara Ishaq

Film Editing
American Hustle
Crispin Struthers


7= University of Texas at Austin (two nominees)

Famous for his method acting, University of Texas at Austin alumnus Matthew McConaughey lost three stone for his role in Dallas Buyers Club, for which he is nominated for the Actor in a Leading Role.

The university has a tradition of lighting the Main Building Tower in different colours to signify important dates, such as sports victories over local rivals Texas A&M University.

It remains to be seen how the tower will be lit in the event that one (or both) of its alumni receive an Academy Award.

Academy Awards 2014 nominees
Actor in a Leading Role

Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey

Documentary Feature
Cutie and the Boxer
Zachary Heinzerling


7= Stanford University (two nominees)

Both Oscar-nominated Stanford University graduates went on to further study: Alexander Payne (nominated for directing Nebraska) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Ron Yerxa (producer on the same title, which is also nominated for Best Picture) at the University of California, Berkeley.

Although they worked on the same film, they were not classmates at Stanford. Yerxa graduated in 1970 and Payne in 1984.

Academy Awards 2014 nominees
Directing

Nebraska
Alexander Payne

Best Picture
Nebraska
Ron Yerxa (producer)


7= Gobelins School of the Image (two nominees)

Among those flying the French flag at the ceremony is Gobelins l’ecole de l’image, a small Parisian institution dedicated to the visual arts.

It boasts two alumni nominees in the Short Film (Animated) and Animated Feature Film categories.

Academy Awards 2014 nominees
Short Film (Animated)

Room on the Broom
Jan Lachauer

Animated Feature Film
Despicable Me 2
Pierre Coffin


7= Syracuse University (two nominees)

Syracuse University alumni will be hoping the famous Oscars statuette takes on an orangey hue on 2 March as two graduates from the brightly branded institution are up for awards.

Craig Borten is nominated in the Writing (Original Screenplay) category for Dallas Buyers Club, while Chris Renaud will be hoping for success for his work on Despicable Me 2, nominated in the Animated Feature Film category.

Academy Awards 2014 nominees
Animated Feature Film

Despicable Me 2
Chris Renaud

Writing (Original Screenplay)
Dallas Buyers Club
Craig Borten


7= University of Oxford (two nominees)

The streets of Oxford are no stranger to film crews. The city of dreaming spires has been the setting for numerous silver screen offerings including Harry Potter, The Italian Job, Brideshead Revisited, Alice in Wonderland, The Golden Compass, Wilde and A Fish Called Wanda.

St Catherine’s College alumnus Tim Webber and Balliol College graduate Baldwin Li are representing the oldest university in the English-speaking world for their work on Gravity (Visual Effects) and The Voorman Problem (Short Film - Live Action) respectively.

Academy Awards 2014 nominees
Short Film (Live Action)

The Voorman Problem
Baldwin Li

Visual Effects
Gravity
Tim Webber


7= Rhode Island School of Design (two nominees)

Classmates Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden were both awarded bachelor’s degrees in illustration in 1994 from this small, specialist institution.

RISD was incorporated in March 1877 and, unusually for the time, was founded by women.

RISD now has almost 2,000 undergraduates and more than 550 faculty, including Mr Sousa, who works in the institution’s fine arts division.

Academy Awards 2014 nominees
Short Film (Animated)

Feral
Daniel Sousa

Short Film (Animated)
Feral
Dan Golden (composer /producer)


5= University of California, Los Angeles (three nominees)

The Oscar nominated graduates move closer to Hollywood with University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

A short drive through West Hollywood and Beverly Hills takes you from the studios and casting couches to The Hill, where more than 90 per cent of UCLA freshmen live.

Along with its 13 Nobel Laureates, UCLA is no stranger to Oscar success. Alumnus Francis Ford Coppola (master’s graduate, 1967) has won five Academy Awards alone for Writing, Best Picture and Directing as well as the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award.

Academy Awards 2014 nominees
Directing

Nebraska
Alexander Payne

Best Picture
Her
Vincent Landay (producer)

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Captain Phillips
Billy Ray

One that got away:
Music man to Hollywood John Williams (Harry Potter, Star Wars, Indiana Jones), who is nominated in the Best Original Score category for his work on The Book Thief, never graduated from his studies at the UCLA School of Theater Film and Television. A special mention goes to Jeffrey Karoff (nominated in the Documentary Short Subject category for CaveDigger), who studied filmmaking at UCLA, but did not graduate.


5= California Institute of the Arts (three nominees)

CalArtians Chris Buck and Chris Sanders will be competing against each other in the Animated Feature Film category for their work on Frozen and The Croods respectively.

A small, specialist institution, CalArts was established in 1961 by Walt and Roy Disney as the first higher education institution in the US to offer undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in the visual and performing arts.

Academy Awards 2014 nominees
Animated Feature Film

The Croods
Chris Sanders

Animated Feature Film
Frozen
Chris Buck

Production Design
Her
Gene Serdena (set decoration)


4 Columbia University (four nominees)

A strong school of the arts has secured Columbia University’s place in the top five, with two of its alumni holding master’s degrees.

The Columbia graduates worked on some the biggest films of 2013, receiving nominations for Frozen, 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle and Nebraska.

Among them is Judith Becker, who graduated from Barnard College (part of Columbia University) in 1978, who is nominated in the Production Design category for American Hustle.

Academy Awards 2014 nominees
Animated Feature Film

Frozen
Jennifer Lee

Best Picture
12 Years a Slave
Dede Gardner (producer)

Production Design
American Hustle
Judy Becker (production design)

Best Picture
Nebraska
Albert Berger (producer)


2= Harvard University (five nominees)

Always a strong performer in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Harvard University also scores highly in terms of Oscars nominees.

The university can lay claim to the most qualified individual Oscar nominee: Joshua Oppenheimer, nominated in the Documentary Feature category for The Act of Killing, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in filmmaking in 1996 and went on to receive both a master’s and a PhD from Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design in London.

Academy Awards 2014 nominees
Documentary Feature

The Act of Killing
Joshua Oppenheimer

Documentary Feature
The Square
Jehane Noujaim

Best Picture
Gravity
David Heyman (producer)

Short Film (Animated)
Get a Horse!
Lauren MacMullen

Best Picture
12 Years a Slave
Jeremy Kleiner (producer)

One that got away:
Richard Rowley, who is nominated for his work on Documentary Feature Dirty Wars, matriculated but never graduated after studying environmental studies.


2= Yale University (five nominees)

Of Yale University’s Oscar-nominated alumni, four out of five have both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

One - Thomas Newman (Music (Original Score) - Saving Mr Banks) - received both degrees from Yale.

Lupita Nyong’o is one of the most recent graduates on the list of Oscars nominees, having been cast in 12 Years a Slaveduring her final semester at Yale in 2012.

Academy Awards 2014 nominees
Music (Original Score)

Saving Mr Banks
Thomas Newman

Actress in a Leading Role
August: Osage County
Meryl Streep

Actress in a Supporting Role
12 Years a Slave
Lupita Nyong’o

Music (Original Song)
Frozen
Robert Lopez (music and lyric) for ‘Let it go’

Production Design
12 Years a Slave
Adam Stockhausen (production design)


1 New York University (nine nominees)

The Big Apple’s graduates take the biggest slice of the Oscar nomination pie, with nine graduates amassing 10 nominations over five award categories.

Martin Scorcese is the institution’s most decorated alumnus with a bachelor’s in English Literature from Washington Square College (now NYU College of Arts and Science) and a master’s in fine arts in film from the university’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Academy Awards 2014 nominees
Directing

The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese

Best Picture
The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese

Documentary Feature
Cutie and the Boxer
Lydia Dean Pilcher

Documentary Feature
The Square
Karim Amer

Music Original Song
Her
Karen O (music and lyric) for ‘The Moon Song’

Best Picture
American Hustle
Richard Suckle (producer)

Best Picture
Captain Phillips
Michael De Luca (producer)

Best Picture
Dallas Buyers Club
Robbie Brenner (producer)

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
12 Years a Slave
John Ridley

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
The Wolf of Wall Street
Terence Winter

One that got away:
Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years a Slave and nominated for both best picture and best directing, did not finish his master’s at Tisch School of Arts. He did, though, graduate from Goldsmiths College, University of London with a bachelor’s in fine art.

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Reader's comments (1)

Good list. Honorable mention to Georgetown University graduate Bradley Cooper who is one of the few US actors who can speak fluent French - and is brilliant in American Hustle

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