University alum becomes UK Prime Minister


A Leeds alum has taken up residence behind the UK's most famous front door at 10 Downing Street.

Following the General Election, the University can for the first time boast a Prime Minister among its graduates.

The country’s 58th Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer graduated from Leeds in 1985 with a degree in Law. He went on to become a barrister, and in 2008 was named the Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales. Sir Keir was knighted in the New Year Honours list in 2014. Elected MP for Holborn and St Pancras in 2015, he became Leader of the Labour Party five years later.

During his career, Sir Keir has maintained close links with the University and credits Leeds with playing an important role in his success.

"I absolutely fell in love with Leeds, and I've been in love with it ever since,” Sir Keir said during a visit to campus last October. “It absolutely formed me and changed my life.

“The three years here was something that went deep in my bones, and I’ve carried that bit of Leeds with me ever since.”

Sir Keir returned to campus to open the School of Law in 2011 and received an honorary degree in 2012. He sat on the advisory board for the School of Law from 2018 until 2022, and in 2020 took part in a Q&A session with students following in his footsteps at the School.

Sir Keir Starmer stands outside the Hyde Park house where he lived as a University of Leeds student.

Sir Keir Starmer revisits the Hyde Park house where he lived while a student at the University of Leeds (Credit: Duncan Elliott/University of Leeds)


In an interview with the University’s Leeds Magazine in 2023, Keir discussed how his three years at university influenced his career, and completely changed his life.

The lawyer-turned-politician explained that his career ambitions evolved from his determination to change things for the better.

“If things are really going to change, the only place that’s big enough for that change is politics. In the end, the only meaningful change would come through politics.”

Video transcript — Made in Leeds: Keir Starmer discusses his time at university

Professor Hai-Sui Yu, Interim Vice-Chancellor and President, said: “Our graduates make significant contributions across the globe in a wide range of sectors in addition to public life, including health, business, science and the arts.

“The transformative power of higher education should never be underestimated, and it is with enormous pride that we follow the careers and achievements of former students.

“Sir Keir has often noted how his time at Leeds provided firm foundations for his successful law career, and we are very proud that our community of alumni can now count a Prime Minister within their ranks.”

Other Leeds alumni who were returned to Parliament include:

•    Alan Campbell (PGCE Education 1979) retained his seat of Tynemouth for the Labour Party.
•    Daisy Cooper (Law 2002), deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, retained her seat of St Albans for the Liberal Democrats.
•    Bill Esterson (Mathematics and Philosophy 1990) retained his seat of Sefton Central on Merseyside for the Labour Party.
•    Allison Gardner (PGCE Biology and Science 1998) overturned a Conservative majority to win the seat of Stoke-on-Trent South for Labour. 
•    Nusrat Ghani (International Relations 1996) retained her seat of Sussex Weald for the Conservatives.
•    Leigh Ingham (MA Politics 2015) overturned a Conservative majority to win the seat of Stafford for Labour.
•    Andy MacNae (Environmental Pollution Control 1994) overturned a Conservative majority to win the seat of Rossendale and Darwen for Labour.
•    Jess Phillips (Economic & Social History & Social Policy 2003) retained her seat of Birmingham Yardley for Labour.
•    Mark Sewards (Law 2011) took the new seat of Leeds South West and Morley for Labour.
•    Alex Sobel (Information Systems 1997), formerly MP for Leeds North West, won the new seat of Leeds Central and Headingley, which includes the University campus.
•    Patrick Spencer (Political Science and Government 2010) held the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich constituency for the Conservatives.
•    Jon Trickett (MA Political Sociology 1974) held the seat of Normanton and Hemsworth for Labour.

Further information

Main picture: Sir Keir Starmer received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws at the University of Leeds in 2012 (Credit: University of Leeds)

For further details, contact the University of Leeds press via