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Alumna of the Year

Recognising the achievements of our amazing alumnae

We are delighted to announce that Dr Nirupa Murugaesu (Notting Hill & Ealing High School) has been announced as our 2018 GDST Alumna of the Year!

Read about all our incredible finalists below.

Afua Hirsch (Wimbledon High School)

Afua Hirsch is a writer, broadcaster, barrister and author of Sunday Times best-selling book, Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging.

She has worked in international development, law and journalism. 

An inspirational role model, paving the way for other young black women in particular to strive to be all they can be, Afua is consistently fearless in holding up a mirror to society, and in highlighting the issues that people often struggle to talk about, or prefer to sweep under the carpet.

Alexandra King (Nottingham Girls' High School)

Alexandra King is a journalist, working as part of CNN’s award-winning digital media team.

Her storytelling spans continents and genres - from video portraits of stranded Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, to profiles of children orphaned by mandatory minimum drug sentences, to interviews with female astronauts live from the International Space Station. 

Alex has achieved a huge amount in journalism, very quickly - often putting herself in dangerous, heart-breaking or challenging situations, and never letting barriers stand in her way.

Anna Appleby (Central Newcastle High School)

Anna Appleby is a composer who has achieved early acclaim, standing out in a field traditionally seen as a male preserve.

She believes in using music to give voice to the voiceless in society. She has worked extensively with community music groups, including Streetwise Opera, a charity which uses music to empower people who have experienced homelessness. She was the sixth and youngest-ever Music Fellow with Rambert Dance Company, and has premiered works with choreographers at the Southbank Centre and the National Theatre River Stage.

Anna continues to champion the work of female composers, including those she teaches.

Bettany Hughes (Notting Hill & Ealing High School)

Professor Bettany Hughes is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster. Her programmes for BBC, Channel 4, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, PBS and The History Channel are watched by 250 million worldwide every year.

After much campaigning, Bettany was the first female historian to present a history series on television - in the year 2000! She has long drawn attention to women’s position in society with series such as Call Yourself a Feminist. She was named as one of the BBC’s 100 Global Women, was asked to launch the UK’s Inspiring Women mentoring scheme, and has written extensively on the subject for national and international publications.

Dr Helen Scales (Sutton High School)

Dr Helen Scales is a writer, presenter and marine biologist who has searched for giant fish on the coral reefs of Borneo, waded through muddy mangroves in Madagascar and reported on endangered seahorses in Vietnam.

Having begun her career working with conservation organisations including WWF in Malaysia, Helen discovered a passion for writing and broadcasting. She has since written six books including a Guardian bestseller and a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. And over the last ten years Helen has become a regular on the BBC. She’s pondered the deep with Professor Brian Cox on Radio 4 and talked about strange fish with Chris Packham on BBC 2’s World’s Weirdest Events. 

Kate Phillips (Shrewsbury High School)

Kate Phillips is the Controller of BBC Entertainment, overseeing all entertainment strategy and programming across BBC Television channels. She has responsibility for over 60 shows a year including Strictly Come Dancing, Top Gear, Masterchef, The Apprentice, and big one off events such as Comic Relief, Children in Need and Eurovision!

She has also worked as the Creative Director of Formats for BBC Worldwide, where she was responsible for a formats catalogue of more than 200 titles, including The Great British Bake Off.  Prior to this she ran a training scheme for three years alongside her day job, offering fully funded training places to people who hadn’t worked in TV before.

Dr Nirupa Murugaesu (Notting Hill & Ealing High School)

Dr Nirupa Murugaesu is the Clinical Lead for Molecular Oncology at Genomics England. She provides clinical leadership and oversight of the Cancer Programme for The 100,000 Genomes Project, the groundbreaking genome sequencing project - set up to harness the power of genomics in the treatment of rare diseases and cancers.

The project involves sequencing the DNA codes of cancer patients, in order to be able to provide better, earlier diagnoses and personal care for sufferers. 

The project is transforming cancer care throughout the NHS.

Dame Rosemary Squire (Nottingham Girls' High School)

Dame Rosemary Squire is one of the most prominent women in British theatre, having co-founded the Ambassador Theatre Group, which has gone on to become the world’s leading live-theatre company. 

She is a National Member of the Arts Council England Board, Chair of South West Area Council, and together with her husband/business partner, Sir Howard Panter, has topped The Stage 100 for seven consecutive, record-breaking years. She was also the first ever woman to win the prestigious EY UK Entrepreneur of the Year (2014).

Dame Rosemary has been awarded an OBE and this year, was awarded a DBE (Damehood) for services to theatre and philanthropy.

Sonali Naik (Birkenhead High School)

Sonali Naik was named as The Times’ Lawyer of the Week in January of this year for her recent successful case in the Supreme Court, and appointed a QC in February (one of only 32 women of the 119 appointees this year). She is a board member of Liberty, Freedom from Torture, and sits on the Advisory Council of JUSTICE. She is also a patron of Clean Break Theatre Company.

With fewer than 15% of practising QCs being women, and only 7.1% from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, Sonali’s impact and success in this specialist area is outstanding.

The GDST Alumna of the Year Award was launched in 2011 to help recognise the many varied achievements of our alumnae. Alumnae and students vote for a winner from a shortlist of nominees. The winner is interviewed for our alumnae magazine, GDST Girl for Life, and is awarded £500 as a donation to a charity of her choice.


The award recognises achievements in these areas:

  • Championing a charitable cause
  • Achieving outstanding academic or professional success
  • Driving environmental or social change
  • Being a pioneer or achieving success in a challenging field
  • Being an inspiration to women or young people

Cressida Dick, 2017 winner

Cressida Dick CBE is the GDST Alumna of the Year 2017. An alumna of Oxford High School, she was was honoured for her outstanding contribution to policing.

Read more.

Jenny Beavan, 2016 winner

The winner of the 2016 Alumna of the Year Award was Putney High School alumna, Oscar-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan.

Read more.

Alison Maguire, 2015 winner

Alison Maguire, Head of Research at The Lily Foundation and alumna of Croydon High School, was our 2015 winner.

Terms & Conditions

Read the full T&Cs for the Alumna of the Year Award.

  • The nominated alumna must be over the age of 18
  • The Award is only open to living alumnae
  • The nominator must have the consent of the alumna being nominated
  • The nominee must agree that if they are successful in being shortlisted they consent to publicity relating to the award
  • The nominee must have attended a current GDST school – a list of current GDST schools can be found here