Lord Woolley of Woodford


College position:


Simon Woolley outside Homerton College
Simon Woolley outside Homerton College

Simon Woolley became Principal of Homerton College on 1 October 2021.

He founded Operation Black Vote, the internationally renowned campaigning NGO, in 1996 and served as its Director until 2021. OBV 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 served as an Equality and Human Rights Commissioner from 2009 to 2012, and in 2018 he was appointed by Prime Minister Theresa May to create and lead the UK Government’s pioneering Race Disparity Unit. The Unit collects, analyses and publishes data on how crime, education and health are affected by ethnicity.

Fostered and then adopted as a small child, Lord Woolley grew up on a council estate in Leicester, and left school without A-levels, working first as an apprentice mechanic and then in marketing for the Rank Organisation. He later returned to formal study via an access course and gained 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 and the importance of recognising and supporting marginalised potential.

Lord Woolley has a track record of addressing representational imbalances, transforming institutions, and nurturing individuals. His cross-party and cross-sector work with Operation Black Vote has seen the number of MPs from black and minority ethnic backgrounds rise from 4 to 65 over the past two decades. In collaboration with Magdalen College, Oxford, he has been instrumental in the development of Pathway to Success, a programme designed to equip future BME leaders with the tools and knowledge required for senior leadership.

Repeatedly recognised in the Black Powerlist, Lord Woolley is dedicated to promoting opportunity for underrepresented communities and individuals, and to building consensus across political and community lines.

Simon Woolley was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2019 and was created a life peer in December of the same year. He sits as a crossbencher in the House of Lords. He has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Westminster in 2012, and the University of Leicester in 2023, and is an Honorary Fellow of Harris Manchester College and Magdalen College in the University of Oxford. He is a regular contributor to newspapers nationally and internationally on topics relating to equality, diversity and social justice.