Sian Williams says male BBC colleagues were stunned she was ‘bright’ without Oxbridge past

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Sian Williams, who recently left her 5 News presenting role and will be replaced by Dan Walker, was producing BBC Radio 4 shows at the start of her career, but now admits she “needed a bit more confidence” after a difficult conversation she’d had with two male colleagues. They had complimented her and another one of her female colleagues on their intelligence, but the experience had left her feeling she “didn’t quite belong”.

‘How dare they not be from Oxford or Cambridge and actually have a sort of modicum of common sense?’

Sian Williams on the attitude of two make colleagues

“These two blokes looked [at] me and Katie, this other girl who hadn’t been to a university… they were all Oxbridge and they went: ‘Do you know what, I look at Katie and Sian and think sometimes I feel they’re the brightest among us”,” she recalled.

“It was such a sort of ”How on earth could they be bright from their humble beginnings?’

“‘How dare they not be from Oxford or Cambridge and actually have a sort of modicum of common sense?”” she exclaimed.

“At every turn it felt like: ‘Yeah you don’t quite belong so you’re going to have to fight for your place’ and so there was a lot of fighting.”

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However Sian added that the experience spurred her on to achieve greater qualifications in order to prove her skillset.

In her 50s, she received a doctorate in counselling psychology from City University of London, demonstrating that it’s never too late to master new skills.

The 57-year-old had initially come into the world of presenting after achieving a degree in English and History from Oxford Brookes University.

Oxford Brookes has less rigorous grade requirements than Oxford University, meaning that more school-leavers are eligible to apply.

Her colleague Katie, meanwhile, who the Oxbridge graduates at the table had also paid the backhanded compliment to, hadn’t been to a university at all.

However, Sian exclaimed “kudos to her”, in spite of what others may have said.

She went on to enjoy a successful stint at BBC Breakfast from 2001 to 2012.

She then joined the Five News at 5 team, before leaving earlier this year.

Dan Walker, who attended the University of Sheffield, has enjoyed a similar career path to Sian, after both had originally worked on BBC Breakfast, before switching to Channel 5.

Dan’s announcement that he’d be making the career move led to criticism from members of the public, who questioned why he was leaving suddenly.

However, he was adamant in his comments that his decision had “never been motivated by money”.

The ex-Strictly star had posted on his own Twitter account, in view of a follower list that is rapidly approaching 800,000, that he had quit after Channel 5 had announced “big ambitions” for him, and that he hoped not to close the door on working for the BBC.

Telling viewers that he would try his best to “maintain [Sian’s] incredibly high standards”, he explained: “Channel 5 came along with big ambitions, big plans – and I don’t think opportunities like this come around very often in TV.”

“Dan Walker, welcome to your new home!” Sian had later announced in a video.

“I know what it’s like to move from the BBC Breakfast sofa to the Channel 5 news show. I absolutely loved it – and I think you will too!”

She punctuated her point by telling the 45-year-old to “have fun”.

Dan quickly saw her shout-out and replied appreciatively: “Thanks Doc!”

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