Speaker Profiles

Julie Arliss

Julie Arliss is a highly accomplished teacher, author and well-known international educator of gifted students with a gift for making the complex simple and the simple complex. She is committed to the provision of world-class extension activities for these students, to extend their reach well beyond the curriculum to new areas of knowledge. 

Julie Arliss lectures at King’s College and works in close association with Oxford University and Exeter University. She organises and lectures at the best attended student study days in the UK for 15 – 19 year olds. Internationally she works with students in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore and is the joint author of a number of books and academic articles including The Thinker’s Guide to Evil. She is regularly invited to be the keynote speaker at events and recently gave the Hobhouse Lecture. She is Principal Examiner in Cambridge combining a strong commitment to young people with academic rigour.

In 2018 Harris Manchester College Oxford awarded Julie a Farmington Fellowship.  She is a former principal examiner for Cambridge International Examinations and founder of Thriving Minds.

Professor Jeremy Black

Jeremy Black is Professor of History at Exeter University.
He is a prolific lecturer and writer, the author of over 100 books. Many concern aspects of eighteenth century British, European and American political, diplomatic and military history but he has also published on the history of the press, cartography, warfare, culture and on the nature and uses of history itself. He is passionate about young people being empowered with the historical knowledge they need to understand the world in which they find themselves.

“A person who does not know the history of the last 3,000 years wanders in the darkness of ignorance, unable to make sense of the reality around him”
“He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth.”
― Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von

Professor Tom Greggs

After being awarded a starred Double First Class Honours Degree from Oxford, Tom completed his Phd at Cambridge. He has taught at Manchester Grammar school but is now a university lecturer and researcher with a commitment to making his work accessible to young people. He has a weekly slot on radio 4 and holds various political offices at local regional and national levels with a general focus on education policy. He is widely regarded as a ‘rising star’.

Professor Keith Ward

PROFESSOR KEITH WARD is Regius Professor Emeritus of Divinity at Oxford and was Professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion at King’s College, London. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and a member of the Executive Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy.

Dr. John Frye

DR. JOHN FRYE is chief examiner for the Cambridge Pre-U Philosophy paper and principle examiner for A level. In addition he is the chairman of the Morris Minor club, has a black belt in Karate, plays concert standard violin and is currently working on his first Science Fiction novel. He has an awesome intellect and a very engaging wit. He is well known for offering academic lectures which never fail to entertain and inform.

Dr. Stephen Law

Previously the Junior Research Fellow in Philosophy at Queen’s College, Oxford, Dr Stephen Law is now the Provost of the Centre for Enquiry UK, and Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London. He is the editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy Journal Think, and has published a wide range of literature in Philosophy, and has a gift for producing work that is both academic and popular.

Professor Raymond Tallis

Professor Raymond Tallis was identified by the Economist magazine as one of the world’s leading polymaths. He began his academic life at Oxford University, where he studied Medicine, before working as a physician and clinical scientist. He is now a full-time writer with 23, mainly philosophy, books to his name; a poet, with 3 published volumes; and a novelist. A recent work ‘Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity’ (2011) was a Guardian Book of the Year. Professor Tallis is also a widely respected academic and cultural critic with over two hundred scientific articles and in addition many pieces published in magazines and newspapers such as Prospect and The Times Literary Supplement. He is a well known humanist, of great intellectual pedigree, famous for his engaging and inspiring talks. This is an opportunity not to be missed by all who are serious about understanding and cultivating gifted students in our schools.
“One of the most intriguing figures in the current intellectual scene.” – The Times Higher Education Supplement

Dr Andrew Pinsent

Research Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Religion and Science, Oxford University

Dr Pinsent is a former particle physicist at Oxford University, being a named author on thirty-one papers of the DELPHI experiment at CERN and a member of the United Kingdom Institute of Physics. Dr Pinsent left CERN to run his own consultancy business, was later ordained and, after completing a second doctorate in philosophy, became the Research Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, a Research Fellow of Harris-Manchester College and a member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at Oxford. He is ‘interested in everything’ and visits schools to encourage the young to be ambitious and courageous in their thinking. He is committed to a broad view of education in which gifted students can maximise their full potential.

Dr Mark Lewney

Dr Mark Lewney, the Rock Doctor, is a guitar physicist. He has appeared on Radio 4’s Material World, on BBC’s Newsnight and on BBC’s Xchange! as well as on the Money Programme. He lectures around the UK, being introduced as a cross between Einstein and Jimi Hendrix. Mark has conducted a tour for the Institute of Physics, featured in the Guardian and Physics World and also performed at the Tokyo International Science Festival.
“A cross between Einstein and Jimi Hendrix”
“A gust of fresh air” Times Higher Education Supplement

Dr. Tim Mawson

Dr. Tim Mawson was educated at St Peter’s College and then The Queen’s College in Oxford. He held a number of temporary lectureships at other Oxford colleges before returning to St Peter’s in 1998, where he is now one of two Philosophy Fellows. He is currently Secretary to the British Society for the Philosophy of Religion. Tim will be lecturing for Richard Huish student conferences in the next academic year.

Dr. Julian Baggini

Dr. Julian Baggini is one of Britain’s foremost philosophers and a highly respected international academic. He is an energetic and enthusiastic lecturer who works widely with sixth form groups where he is able to make his work colourful, visual and accessible to students. He lectures internationally and is widely published in the field. In addition he edits the Philosophy Magazine.

Professor Alister McGrath

Professor McGrath gained first class honours from Oxford University in Chemistry and first class honours in Theology. He holds an Oxford DPhil for his research in Molecular Biology and a DD from Oxford University’s Faculty of Theology for his work in Historical and Systematic Theology. A former atheist, he has established a reputation as one of the leading apologists for Christianity. Author of Christian Theology, Wiley-Blackwell, Theology: the Basics, Blackwell and The Dawkins Delusion, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Professor McGrath is a modern day ‘great thinker’ and his work is a fundamental part of A level study.

Dr Steven Shakespeare

Dr Steven Shakespeare is a senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool Hope. He has a PhD from Cambridge and is widely published with books such as Radical Orthodoxy: A Critical Introduction (SPCK, 2007); and Derrida and Theology (T & T Clark, 2009). His current interests include the philosophical importance of the boundaries drawn between human and animal, machine and organism, flesh and spirit. He has published on transhumanism, black metal theory, philosophy of religion.

He is a fellow of the prestigious Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and Patron of the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals.

Peter Baron

Peter Baron read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford before completing his M Litt. He is a popular and energetic speaker who has worked for many years with more able students both in schools and as a personal tutor. He is chief editor and principle author of philosophical investigations, a popular online community for philosophy which is an excellent resource for students. He also runs his own publishing house and is the author of a number of popular books. He is an educational consultant for Critical Thinking and has worked closely with Thriving Minds for many years.

Brian Poxon

Brian Poxon, Wells Cathedral School, teacher trainer in Australia, participates in discussion at Thriving Minds Teacher event.

Professor Daphne Hampson

Daphne Hampson is Professor Emerita of Divinity at the University of St Andrew’s, an Associate of the Department of Theology and Religion at Oxford University, and a Life Member at Clare College, Cambridge. She has published widely on Post-Christian thought with an emphasis on feminist criticism, combining her commitment to theological realism with an ethical critique of Christian mythology. Her latest work focuses on the role of religion in contemporary Western society, the underrepresented field of Lutheran thought, and an introductory exposition on the work of Kierkegaard.

Professor Johannes Zachhuber

Professor Johannes Zachhuber is an historical and systematic theologian specialising in the Eastern Patristic tradition of theology, and modern theology from the Reformation to the present. His recent published works include comprehensive treatments of 19th Century German thought in relation to theology, philosophy, and individuality. He supervises a wide range of graduate research projects at Oxford University where he is a Fellow and Tutor in Theology at Trinity College.

(late) Professor Sir Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton is a philosopher and public commentator. He is widely published with popular works such ‘I Drink Therefore I am’; ‘A Philosopher’s Guide to Wine’ and ‘The Uses of Pessimism’. As a political and cultural commentator he is often interviewed on TV and is famously outspoken with views which never fail to challenge public perceptions. He is a fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and of the British Academy and is currently a visiting professor at the University of St Andrews and Oxford University. Professor Scruton has an enduring interest in gifted education and runs an exclusive ‘conversation’ group for students who really want to think, and not just to pass exams, at Oxford University. He is patron of the UK Philosothon movement where students meet to have conversations about big ideas. This is a unique opportunity for gifted co-ordinators to hear Professor Scruton share his thoughts and ideas about how best to cultivate gifted students in a school environment.

“There are few more valuable thinkers in Britain – or indeed, the world – today.” – Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times. (Roger Vernon Scruton, philosopher, writer and activist, born 27 February 1944; died 12 January 2020)

Jeffrey Hodges

Jeffrey Hodges is an internationally recognised speaker, author, educator and performance coach for elite athletes.

Jeffrey has organised and lectured at the annual ‘Gifted & Talented’ student conferences for senior students throughout Australia and New Zealand, which since 2010 has provided over 15,000 gifted students with a stimulating day of extension thinking activities. He has also lectured at the Gifted & Talented study days for senior students in Oxford, Cambridge, London and in other major centres throughout the UK.

A prolific and popular writer, Jeffrey has written 11 books, including the best selling ‘Sportsmind – An Athlete’s Guide to Super-performance through Mental & Emotional Training’, and ‘Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings’, and has contributed informative articles to numerous sports magazines and newspapers including Australian Tennis, Golf Australia, Pistol Australia, Blitz, Sports Coach, Ultrafit and many others.

He holds a Bachelor of Science and a Masters Degree with Honours in Social Science, as well as educational qualifications from both Melbourne University and the University of New England. He is a NLP Master Practitioner, and his landmark thesis involving 1,158 athletes from 32 different sports established the effectiveness of NLP techniques for mental skills training in sport, and he was among the first trainers in the world to adapt and apply NLP methodology to sports performance enhancement.

Dr Chris O'Neill

Dr O’Neill is a fellow of Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford and is a polymathic thinker. He is a psychologist, registered psychotherapist and trained counsellor. He initiated the large-scale MYRIAD research project in Oxford University investigating resilience and well-being in young people. He has forty years’ experience of working with students and staff in schools and is an exceptional educator.

Mike Grenier​

Alumni of St Peter’s College, Oxford, who works with highly able students at Eton College where his students rate him as ‘a legend’. He is a radical thinker who leads a number of initiatives all focused on finding the optimal challenge for each student: “Teachers need to find our precisely which bowl of porridge suits every student – not too hot too cold, too big or too small.” Widely published in the education world and passionate about a broader view of education which goes well beyond marching bright young students through examinations on the basis of their date of birth. He argues that this risks ‘dehumanising each and every one of them.’

Professor Charles Foster - Oxford

Charles Foster is a writer, traveller, veterinarian and barrister. He is a Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford. His books cover many fields. They include books on travel, evolutionary biology, natural history, anthropology, theology, archaeology, philosophy and law. Ultimately they are all attempts to answer the questions ‘Who or what are we?’, and ‘what on earth are we doing here? His latest book is ‘Being a Beast’, which is published in the UK by Profile Books and in the US by Metropolitan Books. He read veterinary medicine and law at Cambridge, and is a qualified veterinary surgeon. He holds a PhD in law/bioethics from the University of Cambridge. He teaches Medical Law and Ethics at the University of Oxford.

Dr James Orr - Cambridge

Dr James Orr left corporate law ten years ago to become a student again and has recently secured a lectureship at Cambridge University. Formerly McDonald Postdoctoral Fellow at Christ Church, Oxford, Dr Orr holds a PhD and MPhil from St. John’s College, Cambridge, and a Double First in Literae Humaniores from Balliol College, Oxford. His publications and policy papers cover many fields including ‘The Discarded Mind’ ‘Created Equal’ and ‘Being and Eternity’. An impressive polymathic mind keen to inspire curious young minds in the search for knowledge.

Richard Biggs

Richard Biggs grew up in South Africa, and after completing his degree in physics, he won a scholarship to University of Oxford where he read mathematics and philosophy at Pembroke College. He has recently retired from being headmaster of Kings College Taunton where he was heavily involved in establishing several new schools in Kenya, the Middle East and India and is currently CEO of Global Education Ventures, establishing world class schools across the globe. He is an outstanding communicator, polymathic in approach and committed to taking the life-affirming richness of education to students across the UK and beyond. He is also an accomplished cook, furniture maker and chorister.

Major Alexander Fogassy

Major Fogassy is not the typical leader; his almost 12 years as an Air Force officer has equipped him with a well-rounded and impactful leadership skillset. As an accomplished F-16 pilot with multiple operational tours (and deployments) under his belt, Major Fogassy has taken on challenges unique even in the exceptional profession of a combat aviator. As part of his Professional Military Education, he is currently studying for a DPhil at Oriel College, University of Oxford, furthering his leadership abilities and decision-making processes as part of a rare USAF sponsorship. In Oxford Maj Fogassy competes on the University Athletics team, rows for his college, and plays American Football (he was a member of the university team for the 2021-2022 season). After departing Oxford, Maj. Fogassy will advance with his career, with possibilities ranging from returning to the cockpit to taking on a strategic advisory role within the Pentagon.

Liam Bekirsky

Liam Bekirsky holds the position of Vice President at the Oxford Artificial Intelligence Society, a dynamic organisation dedicated to fostering an inclusive and interdisciplinary Artificial Intelligence community. The society’s mission encompasses education, collaboration, networking, and employment opportunities, all with the aim of propelling innovation and fostering enduring societal benefits.

Liam is concurrently pursuing a doctorate at the Oxford Internet Institute, where his research resides at the intriguing intersection of sociology and network analysis, knowledge mobilisation, user experience design, and education making him a truly multi-talented expert in this field. Liam Berkinsky will passionately advocate in favour of AI.