Alumni Services

John Lloyd

Journalist John Lloyd has sound advice for current students based on his own experiences of life at Edinburgh and beyond.

Name John Fortune Lloyd
Degree Course MA Honours – English Literature
Year of Graduation 1967
John Lloyd

Your time at the University

I had recently turned 17 when I came to university, after some months working as a caddie in Canada (I had taken my Highers at 16).

It was too young: and like many who were the first from their family to go to university, I had too little background and had done too little preparation. The school - Waid, in East Fife, a comprehensive - was a good one, with some very good teachers: but to take university seriously, you need to think more carefully than I did about how to approach and benefit from it.

I wanted to be a writer - and settled on journalism, which became my trade for much of my life. That meant that I spent long hours in the second year at The Student newspaper, first as an assistant, then as editor. My studies suffered, of course. I made up some way in the third and fourth years - and got a 2:1. But I read too little, thought too little.

I worked in every holiday: as a farm worker, a waiter, a relief refuse collector. I was lucky to get a small flat, in a tenement off the Pleasance, which were being cleared and rented to students while waiting for development to start: the rent was £1.10s a week - a godsend for a slim budget.

A neighbour was a prostitute, who didn’t have a heart of gold but was friendly enough. I wrote a play, “The Sound of Flesh”, for the DramSoc and had a story read on the BBC R4. I hung out with other would-be and present writers: my closest friend, Mark Hill, now dead, was a fine poet, who won a prize for his poetry but turned to Buddhism and didn’t write again. We started a magazine, Chrysallis, which ran for three issues.

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

I wanted to write the great Scottish novel; came to London, took a job as a nightwatchman in a warehouse, tried to write it, but didn’t.

I slid into journalism - through the ‘alternative’ press - Ink, Time Out - then a short spell on the Evening Standard (fired); a longer stretch on the new all-news radio station, LBC; two years on a TV current affairs programme , “Weekend World”; then the FT, on which Ive been Labour Editor, Industrial editor, East European Editor, Moscow Bureau Chief, founder and editor of the Weekend magazine and now - off the staff - a contributing editor.

I've come and gone - in between, I edited thje New Statesman. In the last eight years, I co-founded the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, which, after a bad start, has become a success. I've written several books - one on new technology and work; one on the 1984-5 miners’ strike; one on Russia; one on the media and politics.

I was Journalist of the Year in 1984 and Specialist writer of the year in 1985; won the David Watt prize in 1998; and the Biagio Agnes prize for international reporting in 2013. I’ve had a full life in journalism, and still live in it: I do a column for the Rome daily La Repubblica and another for Reuters, as well as writing still for the FT.

I wanted to write the great Scottish novel; came to London, took a job as a nightwatchman in a warehouse, tried to write it, but didn’t.

John Lloyd

I didn’t put enough into the university to get enough out of it (see wisdom below).

I did have good professors: John Sutherland, who went on to be Regius Professor of English Literature at University College London - and who married a classmate of mine (they’re divorced now); Stephene Mulrine; John Butt, the great Pope scholar; and others.

I made friends, a few of whom remain. I grew up a bit. But most of my education - in reading, in learning to be a journalist at home and abroad, in learning languages, in coming to grips with the world - was after.

Alumni wisdom

One piece of advice is: think before you enter university about what you can take from and give to it. Find someone on whom you can depend who can advise - and listen. It’s a disorienting time, and needs to be given a purpose and a framework. Edinburgh is a very great university: it offers a vast amount, and you have to learn how to take it.