Homerton appoint first Black male Head of an Oxbridge College

He was knighted in 2019 following his work on education access and ethnic minority political engagement

Homerton College has elected Lord Simon Woolley of Woodford as the next principal of the College.

He is the first Black man to be elected head of a College at Cambridge or Oxford, and the third Black head of college at Oxbridge, following the election of Sonita Alleyne at Jesus College, Cambridge in 2019 and Baroness Amos at University College, Oxford in 2020.

Simon Woolley is the Founding Director of Operation Black Vote, an NGO working 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.

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Credits: Homerton College Via Twitter

He has also formerly worked as an  Equality and Human Rights Commissioner and in 2018 Lord Woolley was appointed by Prime Minister Theresa May to create and lead the UK Government’s pioneering Race Disparity Unit, looking at how crime, education and health and affected by ethnicity.

Lord Woolley said in a press release “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.

Lord Woolley was in foster care as a small child, before being adopted and grew up in a council estate in Leicester, leaving school without any A levels. He later returned to education, gaining a BA in Spanish and English Literature at Middlesex University and an
MA in Hispanic Studies at Queen Mary University of London.

He is passionate about educational access, working with Magdalen College, Oxford to develop the “Pathway to Success” scheme, equipping future BME leaders with the tools and knowledge required for senior leadership.

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Credits: Operation Black Vote via Twitter

His work on educational access and political engagement saw him knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2019 and he was a life peer in December of the same year.

Lord Woolley succeeds Prof. Geoffrey Ward, the current principal who said “One of the glories of Homerton is that it is never the same today as it was yesterday, and I wish Simon every success in leading the College to ever greater heights.”

Joseph Saxby, President of Homerton Union of Students, reacted to the news saying “I am delighted that Simon will take the reins at Homerton. He has the passion and the experience to keep pushing Homerton in the pursuit of social justice and genuine diversity,
and I’m excited to see the waves he will make and the changes that will come.”

Lord Woolley starts the role on 1st October 2021 and said he is “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.”