Alumnus aces Cambridge Classics degree with top mark in the year

It’s a great pleasure to hear stories of success from former students. The Languages Department is celebrating news of alumni who excelled here at Emmanuel and are now excelling at Oxbridge…

Alumnus Douglas Thomas achieved a ‘First’ in each year of the course and gained the best mark in the finals exams of his Classics degree at Girton College, Cambridge.

Douglas left Emmanuel in 2014 with A Levels in History (A), Latin (A*), Maths (A*) and Physics (A*) and an AS in Philosophy (A).  With a solid academic grounding in the Sixth Form, he was ready to embrace the challenges of the three-year course, which includes intensive language teaching in the first two years, as well as the study of the literature, history and philosophy of Classical Greece and Rome.

“The biggest challenge was learning Ancient Greek from scratch in the first year of the degree, which meant I had more work initially than many students who had already done Greek to A Level at school,” said Douglas.  “I have really grown to love the language now, though, and often read the New Testament in Greek on my own.”

Douglas benefited from a travel grant from the Faculty of Classics to go to Rome in the summer of 2016, and enjoyed a trip to the British Library last year, where he was able to do hands-on research on centuries-old manuscripts of ancient texts for his dissertation.  He had specialised in textual criticism, the study of manuscripts and the transmission of texts in his final year.

Alongside the rigour of academic studies, Douglas found time for a whole range of co-curricular activities.  “I was involved with the Christian Union, where I led a group of students at Girton College for a year,” he said.  “I also captained the Girton College Badminton Club 1st Team for a year, leading the team to promotion to the top division of the college league.”  Douglas represented Emmanuel in Badminton as well, so it’s great to see him building on the foundation laid at school.

Douglas expressed gratitude to Emmanuel for helping him develop the skills and attitudes vital for success.  “Academically, I learned a lot in the Sixth Form about working independently, about taking responsibility for my own time, and for producing good quality work,” he said.  “I felt that I was pushed in all my subjects to try to achieve excellence, and having developed this attitude helped me a lot at Cambridge.”

“Looking back to earlier in school, I am grateful for the enthusiasm of Mrs Allen in helping me to love Latin grammar,” he said.  “I remember with fondness her sense of humour and unusual methods of teaching noun and verb tables.”

Douglas feels that his Emmanuel education has also given a head-start spiritually.  “I greatly appreciated the emphasis which teachers placed on humility and integrity – values which they modelled in their own lives – and the ways in which we were encouraged to use our gifts not for ourselves, but for the good of others and for the glory of God,” he explained.

With his sights set high for a career in academia, Douglas has embarked on a one-year MPhil in Classics, also at Girton College, Cambridge, after which he hopes to go on to a PhD.

Douglas is one of several students in the year group who went to Oxbridge to study languages.  Jacob Armstrong, Callum Jessop, Joel Willmore and Peter Winch are nearing the end of their degrees, Jacob and Joel in their final year, and Callum and Peter currently on their year abroad, having both spent a year in German before starting their studies.


Studying German and Classical Greek at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, Peter has managed a clean sweep of ‘Firsts’ every year so far.  It’s all the more incredible, given his staggering array of extra commitments: 1st VIII+ College men’s rowing team member, 1st XV College men’s rugby team member, College Charities Officer, College Christian Union Rep, Chapel advisory committee member, German and Dutch Faculty Student Representative, and freelance translator for two Berlin-based firms!

“I am so grateful for my time at Emmanuel,” said Peter.  “The many opportunities to develop a good work ethic and to learn how to balance extra-curricular and academic commitments were invaluable preparation for university.”

“I am particularly thankful for the high standard of teaching in the German Department which stood me in good stead to pursue German as a degree.  The German exchanges organised by Emmanuel were also pivotal experiences, showing me the possibilities that are opened up by learning a modern language.  I am still in contact with many of my teachers and friends from Emmanuel, and am sure that these friendships will continue for many years to come.”