Willesden Green’s Baroness Amos is first black education leader

Baroness Valerie Amos, from Willesden Green, is the first black female to be made leader of a UK uni

Baroness Valerie Amos, from Willesden Green, is the first black female to be made leader of a UK university - Credit: Archant

Willesden Green is home to the first black female to lead a UK university who hails the borough’s diversity and potential of its residents.

Baroness Valerie Amos has been made director of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (SOAS) following senior level positions as a United Nations official and former Cabinet minister.

The first black woman to sit in Cabinet and go on to lead the House of Lords, she said she was excited by this new role.

She added: “What excites me about SOAS is it’s an organisation that specialises in research and teaching around Africa, Asia and the Middle East. These are parts of the world where there are a lot of global challenges and opportunities and SOAS is an institution which is very well placed and has a large body of research, cultural knowledge and understanding to make that contribution. It’s an exciting place to be.”

Originally from Guyana, Lady Amos is no stranger to the academic world, having set up the Amos Bursary following the death of her parents, who were both teachers. The charity focuses on young men of African or Caribbean descent, who she says have the highest drop out rates in further education. “It’s about aspiration, and realising their potential,” she said.

Living in Willesden Green for over 30 years, Lady Amos was made a life peer as Baroness of Brondesbury in 1997, choosing the title because it best reflected diversity and connectivity she felt in the borough.

She added: “I get really concerned when people talk about Brent in negative rather than positive terms. There are factors we need to address in Brent but at the same time it’s advantage is its diversity, we don’t celebrate that enough. People in Brent have huge potential and ability to achieve in their chosen areas. I’ve been able to demonstrate that and others have as well, so that’s something else we should be celebrating in the borough.”

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Having just stepped down from a highly pressured humanitarian position in the UN, she’s currently involved in a lot of briefings to before she steers SOAS in September. She added: “I do like the challenge; it’s a lot of hard work but one where I can learn a lot. I like a challenge and I like to find solutions.”