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Lady Judge's accuser-in-chief is an academic who failed 11-plus

Born into a mining family in Stoke on Trent, Dame Joan Stringer was the first in her family to go to university – and the first to run one.


Born into a mining family in Stoke on Trent, Dame Joan Stringer (left) was the first in her family to go to university

Born into a mining family in Stoke on Trent, Dame Joan Stringer was the first in her family to go to university – and the first to run one.

She failed her 11-plus but went on to forge a hugely successful career in academia, which took her all the way to the role of vice-chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University.

Dame Joan, 69, who was widowed then remarried and has no children, never expected to study in higher education but credits her parents’ determination with getting her there.

Her father had worked in the pits – a job that saw her uncle go blind – and wanted a better life for his daughter.

After working in a telephone exchange and for a graphic artist as a teenager, Dame Joan got a job in local government. This broadened her horizons, encouraging her to read history and politics at Keele University.

‘I was the first in my family to go to university and my parents were extremely proud of me,’ she said in a 2012 interview.

As head of the Institute of Directors’ body tasked with deciding on the future of chairman Lady Judge (pictured), she is embroiled in the biggest row of her life

A rapid rise followed as a political scientist, taking her to the jobs of principal of Queen Margaret College in Edinburgh and then vice-chancellor of Edinburgh Napier in 2003.

She was made a dame in the 2009 birthday honours, an elevation she described as ‘a bit breathtaking’.

But this successful career has not been without controversy.

Dame Joan’s retirement from academic life in 2013 was overshadowed by a row with families living near the campus about plans to build 116 new homes on university land which featured historic buildings.

And now, as head of the Institute of Directors’ body tasked with deciding on the future of chairman Lady Judge, she is embroiled in the biggest row of her life.

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