Isobel Collyer (Law, 1982)
Isobel is a freelance Singer, Actor and Voice Coach, helping people of all abilities to unlock their full vocal potential.
I hadn’t made up my mind to go to university at all, and only signed up to look around Hertford because our history teacher was an alumnus and had offered us a trip in a minibus. No-one from my school had been to Oxbridge for as long as anyone could remember, nor had my parents attended university.
My school was in the process of dismantling the sixth form, and many teachers were leaving or disengaged. By the time I took my A levels there were only 36 students left and standards were slipping, with the inevitable result that many bright students performed quite badly. My French teacher never finished the syllabus, and we hadn’t read one of the set texts.
Of the 10 lawyers in my year at Hertford, only one or two had been to fee-paying schools. Most of my contemporaries had been to state schools and were often the only one from that school to have found their way to Oxford. Even then it felt like a privilege, but in the current financial climate it seems like a dream of a bygone era. I worked through the vacations and left college with no debt, which meant I was under no pressure to earn a substantial salary and thus able to work in the voluntary sector.
Hertford taught me how to think for myself, and to have courage in my own convictions and the strength to pursue a minority path through life. I owe to Neil Tanner the belief that all things are possible, to look for potential in anyone and any situation, and that education is for the business of living a full and useful life, not just for helping one to a career. Had I not applied to Hertford I might not have gone to university at all, and the mind-opening and artistic opportunities offered by Oxford life have been of enormous benefit in my performing life and in the many voluntary/charitable positions I now hold.