Former student is first black man to lead Oxbridge college

Former student is first black man to lead Oxbridge college

A former student at New City College’s Epping Forest campus has become the first black man to head an Oxbridge college.

Lord Woolley said he was honoured to have been elected Principal of Cambridge University’s Homerton College – and says it was all made possible by his decision to take an Access to Higher Education course at Epping.

Simon Woolley, who lives in the Woodford area, said: “Epping Forest College was where it all started for me. The staff gave us the belief that we could do great things. Many of us went on to university from there, and the rest is history!”

Founding director of campaign group Operation Black Vote (OBV), Lord Woolley has worked for many years with ethnic minorities in the UK to increase participation in politics and to promote equality and human rights.

As a child he was fostered and then adopted, growing up on a council estate in a deprived area of Leicester. He left school with no A Levels but when he moved to London, he decided to go back to study and joined Epping Forest College, in Borders Lane, Loughton.

He said: “The course was great and the college had a link with Middlesex University, so I jumped at the opportunity to progress there.”

At Middlesex he achieved a degree in Spanish and English Literature and then a master’s degree in Hispanic Studies at Queen Mary University of London.

Lord Woolley was knighted in the Queen’s birthday honours in June 2019 and was made a life peer in December of the same year.

He will take up his role at Homerton, which has the largest student body of any Cambridge college, on October 1 2021.

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.”