UEA graduate crowned King of Tonga

Queen Elizabeth II meets the King Tupou VI of Tonga and Queen Nanasipau'u at Buckingham Palace, cent

Queen Elizabeth II meets the King Tupou VI of Tonga and Queen Nanasipau'u at Buckingham Palace, central London. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The University of East Anglia has produced plenty of high-flying graduates in the UK, from radio personalities, to authors, to politicians. But internationally the university has a solid alumni presence in global politics and governance,

King Tupou VI of Tonga is greeted by The Master of the Household Air Marshal Sir David Walker (left)

King Tupou VI of Tonga is greeted by The Master of the Household Air Marshal Sir David Walker (left) as he arrives at Windsor Castle for the Sovereign Monarchs lunch hosted by Queen Elizabeth II to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee. Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The latest UEA graduate to hit the international news is Tupou VI, the King of Tonga, who was officially crowned on Saturday, three years after his ascension to the throne.

It isn't clear why the coronation came so long after Tupou's ascension, but there are suggestions that the wait was in order to make sure the 11 days of celebrations that accompany the traditional ceremony – which include street parties and feasts - go smoothly.

Tupou VI, 55, studied for a BA in development studies from 1977 -1980, making the UEA one of five UK universities to have produced a current monarch.

The British Council also found that one in 10 countries has a leader who studied in the UK.


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Kevin Monahan, who studied at the UEA at the same time as Tupou and is now having T-shirts printed to prove it, said: 'He was very quiet, and he was a big chap, but of course at that time he was just a prince.'

UEA graduates make up a sizeable proportion of international politicians, with at least 28 from the School of International Development alone.

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But others studied elsewhere, such as Turkish prime minister Murat Karayalcin (development economics, 1977) or Kiribati vice-president Teima Onorio (education, 1990).

Many of these degrees, however, do fall under the heading of social sciences, which the Complete University Guide found to be the third most popular subject studied by international students in the UK.

After leaving the UEA, Tupou began his military career and gained a masters from the University of New South Wales, before becoming part of the Tongan government in 2004.

The UEA has long been known for producing a succession of figures who go on to play leading roles in our national life, perhaps especially in the arts.

Less remarked upon is its impressive roster of graduates – or former lecturers – who have gone on to significant international roles.

These individuals – among them figures as varied as former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and Dr Rihab Taha, or 'Dr Germ', the Iraqi scientist detained by US forces after the fall of Saddam Hussein – have enjoyed varying fortunes since leaving Norfolk, it must be said.

Following his coronation as King of Tonga, we wish alumnus Tupou VI – and all his subjects – all our best wishes. Other graduates include:

• Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister who resigned following Sunday's bailout referendum was not a student at UEA, but he did teach economics at the university from 1986 to 1988.

• Tito Mboweni graduated with a development economics masters in 1988 and went on to become the eighth governor of the South African Reserve Bank, the first black South African to hold the post.

• Belgium-born Mathias Cormann studied for a year at UEA from 1993 to 1994, which is where he first learned to speak English before migrating to Australia and eventually becoming minister for justice and customs.

• Yahya Yahya Al-Mutawakel completed his PhD at the UEA in 1992. His thesis gained him experience with the World Bank and the United Nations before serving as minister of industry and trade in the cabinet of Yemen from 2007 to 2011.

• Dr Rihab Taha, an Iraqi microbiologist dubbed 'Dr Germ' by United Nations weapons inspectors, studied biology at UEA between 1980 and 1984. She worked in Saddam Hussein's biological weapons programme, with the USA Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Intelligence Agency naming her as one of the world's most dangerous women. She surrendered to coalition forces in 2003 and was then released without charge in 2005, two days after Iraq's national election.

Do you know of other high-achieving UEA graduates? Email geraldine.scott@archant.co.uk

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