Simon first black man to head an Oxbridge college
CAMPAIGNER AND RIGHTS ACTIVIST GREW UP ON THE ST MATTHEW’S ESTATE IN LEICESTER
A POLITICAL and equalities activist has become the first black man to be elected head of an Oxbridge college.
The Leicester-born activist is the founding director of campaign group Operation Black Vote and will be the next principal of Homerton College, Cambridge.
Lord (Simon) Woolley was fostered and then adopted and grew up on the St Matthew’s estate in the city.
He left school without A-levels but returned to formal study via an access course, gaining a degree in Spanish and English literature at Middlesex University, then a master’s degree in hispanic studies at Queen Mary University of London.
He launched Operation Black Vote in 1996. It works with ethnic minorities in the UK to increase understanding of civic society, participation in parliament and public life, and to promote equality and human rights.
He is now the third black person to be elected as head of a college at Oxford or Cambridge.
Sonita Alleyne was named as head of Jesus College, Cambridge in 2019 and Baroness Amos at University College, Oxford, in 2020.
Lord Woolley of Woodford will succeed poet and author Professor Geoffrey Ward as head of Homerton, which has the largest student body of any Cambridge college, on October 1.
Formerly an Equality and Human Rights Commissioner, Lord Woolley was appointed by then-Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018 to create and lead the government’s Race Disparity Unit.
The unit collects, analyses and publishes data on how crime, education and health are affected by ethnicity.
Lord Woolley was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2019 for his services to race equality and was created a life peer later that year after being nominated by Theresa May. He sits as a crossbencher in the House of Lords. He said: “What a truly great honour to be appointed the next principal of Homerton College.
“Its history, from its origins in the East End of London, and its values of inclusion, dynamism and integrity, along with its vision to be a beacon of hope and academic excellence, make this a must-have role.
“It’s a great privilege to follow in the footsteps of Professor Geoff Ward, and I hope
I can balance the college’s friendliness and warmth with ambition, as he has done so well.
“I’m excited to get to know the staff and students in Homerton and the wider University of Cambridge and I’m excited for the next part of Homerton’s journey.”