The maths genius who joined Cambridge Uni at 15 and took his GCSEs at 5

Arran Fernandez made history when he arrived at Cambridge University as a 15-year-old in 2010, making him the youngest undergraduate since 1773.

It was the obvious next step for a boy who mastered GCSE Maths at the astonishing age of five.

He spent eight years at Cambridge University, earning the title of “senior wrangler” for coming top of his year in the maths exam, before completing a Masters then a PhD in 2018.

Now, he is an assistant professor of mathematics at the Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) in Cyprus.

“It’s a strange story I suppose,” said Arran, 25, “because who would expect to come out of Cambridge and come here of all places?

“But I’ve been happy here, I didn’t make a mistake by coming.”

Arran arrived in Cambridge a decade ago in a media flurry, being the youngest person since William Pitt the Younger to study at the elite university.

While he was easily recognised by other students, Arran said that “most of the time it wasn’t that big a deal to be younger than other people.”

He said: “Because for me it’s natural to socialise and be friends with people of all different ages.”

Earning the title of “senior wrangler” was an extraordinary achievement for the then 18-year-old student.

“It’s something I can describe to people to show some of the strange traditions that Cambridge has,” Arran said, recalling the day he awaited his BA result at the Senate House.

Arran has been enjoying the beach side location of the EMU in Cyprus
(Image: Arran Fernandez)

For those unfamiliar with this archaic ceremony, the examiners stand on a balcony reading out students’ names alphabetically.

When they come to the name of the student with the highest first – the senior wrangler – the chief examiner gives a discreet tip of his hat.

Arran, watching carefully from the throng of students below, was “surprised” and happy to receive that honour.

He finds the word “prodigy” unhelpful, preferring to focus on the training and hard work that went into his amazing achievement.

“I believe that it’s all in nurture rather than nature,” said Arran, who was home-educated by his parents from younger than he can remember.

At EMU, Dr Fernandez’s passion for making higher education more accessible shines through. He regularly visits local schools to inspire children with the beauty of maths.

This outreach work also helps boost the reputation of the young Cypriot university (founded 1979).

“The kids see that if somebody from Cambridge went to EMU then it must have something good going for it.”

Arran’s star status was immediately recognised: when he wrote to EMU asking for a postdoc position in 2018, strings were pulled to give him the assistant professor role.

Arran jumping for joy with his GCSE Maths result which he sat aged five
(Image: Mirrorpix)

“I suppose it gives me something to live up to,” Arran says of his exceptional start in life.

“Which is good in a way. It could be bad if I felt a lot of pressure, but I don’t feel pressure to do things I’m not interested in.

“So if it makes me live up to being a good researcher, I’m okay with that.”

In Cyprus, Arran’s campus address is on William Shakespeare street – a nod to the fact that the playwright’s Othello was set in Famagusta.

“We have a university beach club – that’s an advantage over Cambridge,” he jokes.

And the 25-year-old is regaining his confidence on the bike – something he avoided in Cambridge for fear of being “one of those bad cyclists that everybody hates”.

Arran said: “I’m hoping my story can be somehow inspiring to people.

“That it can help people to believe they could do that or something similar in their own field.”

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