Academy Awards nominations 2020: Where did the Oscar nominees go to university?

The film professionals nominated for Academy Awards for movies they have directed, produced, acted in, written and edited are a mixed bunch: these are the universities in the running to win the alumni Oscars

Rankings for Students
February 5 2020
Oscars statuettes for Academy Awards


This year will mark the 92nd anniversary of the Oscars, and we’ve taken a look at where this year’s nominees went to university to prep themselves for a career in the film industry.

Although some of the talent did not attend university, choosing instead to dive straight into work, there are 98 universities, theatre schools and specialist schools from all over the world on this list.

Unsurprisingly, universities and colleges in North America and the UK are common across the table, but universities from New Zealand, South Korea, Syria, India and North Macedonia also feature.

It is also important to note that universities and theatre schools were still included in this list even if the nominee dropped out part way through their course or transferred to another university part way through their degree programme – and some of the nominees’ education information was not available online at the time of publication.

University of Southern California: four nominated alumni

The University of Southern California came joint first in producing the highest number of nominees for the 2020 Oscars. Founded in 1880, it is the oldest private research facility in California. It is also, of course, very near the cinematic centre of Hollywood.

Among this year’s crop hailing from the University of Southern California are Thomas Newman (nominated for original score for the epic war film 1917), who attended the university for two years before transferring to Yale University, and Kathryn Hendrickson (nominated for best animated short film for her work on Kitbull).

Gary Rydstrom (nominated for sound mixing in the movie Ad Astra) attended the USC School of Cinematic Arts, which is a private media school within the University of Southern California.

Alumnus Film Nomination
Thomas Newman 1917 Achievement in music written for motion pictures (original score)
Gary Rydstrom Ad Astra Achievement in sound mixing
Rian Johnson Knives Out Original screenplay
Kathryn Hendrickson Kitbull Best animated short film

New York University: four nominated alumni

New York University, along with New York University’s Tisch School of Performing Arts, also claims four nominees this year.

On this list is Todd Phillips (nominated for best director), director of Joker, who attended the New York University Film School but dropped out.

Another best director nominee, this time an alumnus of the Tisch School of Performing Arts, is Martin Scorsese, nominated for his work on The Irishman.

Alumnus Film Nomination
Todd Phillips Joker Achievement in directing
Martin Scorsese The Irishman Achievement in directing
Nicki Ledermann Joker Achievement in make-up and hair styling
Jane Rosenthal The Irishman Best motion picture of the year

Columbia University: four nominated alumni

Another New York institute, Columbia University, also produced four of the nominees for this year’s Oscars.

Jinko Gotoh (nominated in the best animated feature film for Klaus), achieved a BS in applied maths, then an MFA in film from Columbia University. Two nominees in the best short documentary category, Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan, met while at Columbia University.

Alumnus Film Nomination
Jinko Gotoh Klaus Best animated feature film
Smriti Mundhra St. Louis Superman Best documentary short subject
Sami Khan St. Louis Superman Best documentary short subject
James Mangold The Irishman Best motion picture

Victoria University of Wellington: three nominated alumni

A somewhat surprising entry into this list is the Victoria University of Wellington, which isn’t usually a high performer here.

Director of World War Two comedy Jojo Rabbit Taika Waititi (nominated in best motion picture of the year and adapted screenplay categories) studied theatre at the Victoria University of Wellington. Another nominee in the adapted screenplay category, Anthony McCarten, studied creative writing at this New Zealand institution.

Almnus Film Nomination
Taika Waititi Jojo Rabbit Best motion picture of the year and adapted screenplay
Matt Aitken Avengers: Endgame Achievement in visual effects
Anthony McCarten The Two Popes Adapted screenplay

University of Texas at Austin: two nominated alumni

Best actress nominee Renee Zellwegger studied English at the University of Texas at Austin, while best animated short film nominee Karen Rupert Toliver studied liberal arts there.

Alumnus Film Nomination
Renee Zellwegger Judy Best actress
Karen Rupert Toliver Hair Love Best animated short film

San Francisco State University: two nominated alumni

There are two nominated San Francisco State University alumni: Jonas Rivera, in the best animated feature film category, and Steven Zailian, in the best adapted screenplay category.

Alumnus Film Nomination
Jonas Rivera Toy Story 4 Best animated feature film
Steven Zailian The Irishman Best adapted screenplay

Where did the rest of the nominees go to university?

University Number of nominees
University of Southern California 4
New York University 4
Columbia University 4
Victoria University of Wellington 3
University of Texas at Austin  2
San Francisco State University 2
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art  2
Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute 2
Academy of Art University 2
Wesleyan University 2
Rhode Island School of Design 2
AFI Conservatory 2
University of Cambridge 2
University of São Paulo 2
Barnard College 2
London School of Economics and Political Science 2
Stanford University  2
University of California, Berkeley 2
University of California, Los Angeles  2
Yale University 2
Harvard University 2
University of Indianapolis 1
Juiliard School 1
Chabot College 1
California State University, Sacramento 1
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama 1
University of Missouri 1
Southern Methodist University 1
Sheridan College 1
Fresno State University 1
University of Georgia 1
Boston University 1
University for the Creative Arts 1
Washington University in St Louis 1
Portland State University 1
School of Visual Arts 1
Bath School of Art and Design 1
Central School of Art 1
Los Angeles Trade Tech 1
Niagara Country Community College 1
Stony Brook University 1
University of Sussex 1
Royal College of Art 1
College of Arts and Science 1
Yonsei University 1
Antioch College 1
Super16 1
Aarhus University 1
Oberlin College 1
Jawaharlal Nehru University 1
University of Aleppo 1
Sts. Cyril and Methodius University 1
Academy of Dramatic Arts 1
Seoul National University 1
Imperial College London 1
Princeton University 1
University of California, San Diego 1
Emerson College 1
State University of New York College at Purchase 1
Cornell University 1
University of Auckland 1
National Film School in Lodz 1
Yonsei University 1
London College of Fashion 1
Iceland Academy of the Arts 1
Berlin University of the Arts 1
Los Angeles City College 1
Williams College 1
Los Angeles Pierce College  1
California State University, Northridge 1
California Institute of Arts  1
Brown University 1
Auckland University of Technology 1
Villanova University 1
Georgetown University 1
Vassar College 1
University of Memphis 1
University of Oregon 1
Massachusetts College of Art 1
Korea National University of Arts 1
Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague  1
University of Akron 1
University of San Francisco  1
California Institute of the Arts 1
China Central Academy of Fine Arts 1
Concordia University 1
Université du Québec à Montréal 1
Swarthmore College 1
Syracuse University 1
San Diego State University 1
Middlesex University 1
Hampshire College 1
Baker University 1
Massey University 1
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland  1
National Film and Television School 1

Read more: Where do Oscar-winning actors and actresses go to university?


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