In the news: Maggie Woodrow

October 19, 2001

Education secretary Estelle Morris's acceptance that the perception of student debt was preventing many people from going to university would have been welcome to Maggie Woodrow.

Ms Woodrow, who was executive director of the European Access Network, died suddenly last week.

Described as a "tireless campaigner" and "a fearless thorn in the flesh" of those who failed to promote the interests of the underprivileged, her work informed the Cubie review of student finance that led to the reintroduction of the maintenance grant and the abolition of up-front fees in Scotland.

She had a fierce sense of social justice. She said: "Our system does not simply reflect inequalities in society, it helps to polarise them by ensuring that those with higher social status participate in higher education relatively more than others. It is time to recognise that talent and ability are not allocated in direct proportion to income level."

Ms Woodrow's determination to extend the privileges of a university education to the poorest in society led her to found the European Access Network in 1991, based at the University of Westminster. She was previously head of access at the University of North London and at South Bank Univer-sity. Before that, she worked in further education. Her husband is a further education lecturer.

Ms Woodrow's strengths lay in her ability to turn fair words into firm action. She moved from individual action at a single institution to making waves at a global level. Her report From Elitism to Inclusion , published in November 1998, "really did make an impact" according to one observer. Universities UK is due to publish an updated version next month.

As a consultant to the Council of Europe, Ms Woodrow contributed to its project on lifelong learning and social inclusion. She co-edited Update on Inclusion and Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning .

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