'I've never refused to work with people who didn't share my views'

April 29, 2005

Estelle Morris has been appointed pro vice-chancellor of Sunderland, the 'Oxbridge of the new universities'

Estelle Morris, who famously resigned as Education Secretary on the grounds that she felt she was not effective enough, will become pro vice-chancellor of Sunderland University in June.

Ms Morris, who stood down as an MP, has visited the university several times as the guest of Lord Puttnam, Sunderland's chancellor. The university approached her to take on the two-day-a-week job to develop links with schools, colleges, communities and other partners.

She described Sunderland as "the Oxbridge of the new universities" because of its work in widening access while maintaining high-quality teaching and research. Ms Morris told The Times Higher : "One of the things that has always been important to me throughout my career as a teacher and politician is breaking the link between social class and underachievement."

Ms Morris went from a Manchester council estate primary to a girls' grammar school, where she failed her A levels. She went on to Coventry College of Education, followed by a BEd at Warwick University.

She did not believe that her background would brand her as partisan in her work for Sunderland. "I hope I've got a reputation for never having been a politician who refused to work with people who didn't share my views."

Ms Morris denied that fees undermined access, saying that in the era of free higher education, it was not working-class children who went to university. The important thing is to explain the financial support available to those from poor backgrounds, she said.

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