I took GCSE at 5 and went to Cambridge at 15 – but I believe it’s nurture not nature’

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When Arran Fernandez moved into his student digs at the University of Cambridge, his proud dad Neil was unpacking a suitcase too.

In 2010, at just 15, the genius became the youngest student at the university since William Pitt the Younger in 1773.

But having his dad living with him and obviously not being to enjoy the boozy side of student life meant Arran’s university experience was very, very unusual – but he never felt like he was missing out.

Speaking at the time, he said: “I don’t feel I’m missing too much. Even if I was 18 I wouldn’t want to go out drinking.

“It isn’t the youngest bit that is so important to me – I’m more interested in actually going to Cambridge.”

Arran’s university success was hardly a surprise, as he got his first GCSE when he was just five, reports Cambridge Live.

Tutored by his Phd-educated father at his home in Surrey, he became the youngest pupil to pass a GCSE in 2001, when he got- top marks in a foundation paper in maths aged five.

The previous record had been held by Rajaei Sharma who passed a GCSE in Information Technology a year earlier at the age of six.

Arran, who sat the paper at Ryde College, near Watford, Herts, sat the intermediate GCSE paper the next summer and gained A* in the advanced level paper in 2003.

He also sailed through higher maths and physics A-levels with top grades, earning him the place at Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam College.

But Arran, who loves bird watching, finds the word “prodigy” unhelpful, preferring to focus on the training and hard work that went into his amazing achievement.

He explains: “I believe that it’s all in nurture rather than nature.”

Arran became a bit of a campus celebrity, and was regularly recognised by other students.

However he said it wasn’t an issue, adding: “Most of the time it wasn’t that big a deal to be younger than other people.

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

He spent eight years at the university and at 18 earned the title of ‘senior wrangler’.

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 said: “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.”

But what happened next?

Asked what he wanted to do when he grew up when he passed his GCSE aged five, he told journalists he wanted to be a “a mathematician, lorry driver or space explorer”.

After leaving Cambridge, Arran, now 25, took up a job as an assistant professor of mathematics at the Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) in Cyprus.

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

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

He’s also passionate about making higher education more accessible and he regularly visits local schools with the hope of inspiring pupils with his love 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.

“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.”