Woolley was appointed by former Prime Minister Theresa May to lead the Race and Disparity Unit in 2018David Johnson

Lord Simon Woolley of Woodford will replace Professor Geoff Ward as the next Principal of Homerton College on 1 October 2021, marking the first election of a Black man as head of an Oxbridge College, it was announced this morning (31/03).

Lord Woolley is also the third Black person to be elected as head of an Oxbridge College, with two Black women - Sonita Alleyne as College Master at Jesus College, Cambridge, and Baroness Amos as Master of University College, Oxford - both being appointed since 2019.

Woolley, who grew up on a council estate in Leicester and left school without pursuing A-level studies, returned to education at a later date through an access course and gained a BA in Spanish and English Literature at Middlesex University, followed by an MA in Hispanic Studies at Queen Mary University of London.

He is also the Founding Director of Operation Black Vote (OBV), a non-governmental organisation which seeks to ensure “greater racial justice and equality throughout the UK”, and “to inspire BME communities to engage with our public institutions in order to address the persistence race inequalities we face in areas such as: education, health and employment.”

Woolley, previously an Equality and Human Rights Commissioner, was also appointed by former Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018 to create and lead the UK Government’s pioneering Race Disparity Unit, which “collect[s], analyse[s] and publish[es] government data on the experiences of people from different ethnic backgrounds in order to drive policy change where disparities are found.”

He proceeded to receive a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2019, and was made a life peer in the House of Lords in December 2019, where he sits as a crossbencher. Woolley also holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Westminster.

In a statement from Homerton’s website, Lord Woolley said of the appointment: “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 [...] I’m excited for the next part of Homerton’s journey.”

Dr Louise Joy, Vice-Principal of Homerton, added: “We could not be more thrilled to have elected Simon Woolley as our next Principal. Simon’s own inspiring story and his commitment to promoting social justice and nurturing talent across the social spectrum resonates with Homerton’s core values. Simon will be a standard-bearer for the aims of the College.”