Lord Simon Woolley is the first black man to head an Oxbridge college and puts his success down to studying at New City College’s Epping Forest campus.
Simon Woolley says his journey started when he was a student at the college in Borders Lane, Loughton, where he took an Access to Higher Education course.
He was elected Prinicpal of Cambridge University’s Homerton College in April 2021 and 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 of Woodford 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.
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 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.”