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Bedford Alumna Baroness Ashton named EU Foreign Minister

Posted on 20/11/2009

Baroness Ashton

Catherine Ashton, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, has been appointed as Europe′s first High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security and Vice-President of the European Commission, it was announced today, 19 November 2009.

Baroness Ashton, who graduated in 1977 with her BSc in Economics & Sociology from Bedford College, now part of Royal Holloway, University of London, became a government minister in 2001. She served as leader of the House of Lords, before replacing Lord Mandelson as EU Trade Commissioner in 2008.

She said: "I will make sure I represent our values across the world, and I will endeavour to do in my own way the best that I can. Judge me by what I do and I think you'll be pleased and proud of me."

Working to the 27 governments of the EU member states and chairing monthly meetings of foreign ministers, the new post combines the jobs of two current commissioners - for foreign policy and external relations. A key role will be to oversee the external action service, the EU's diplomatic service, which has almost 200 offices all over the world.

Welcoming the appointment, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "In this role, Cathy Ashton will have a unique role over the next five years in shaping the global Europe of the future."

After graduating, Catherine Ashton started her working life at the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and in the 1980s she was director of Business in the Community. She entered public service in 1998 as chairman of the Hertfordshire health authority, and was ennobled in 1999 as Baroness Ashton of Upholland. In 2001 she became junior education minister, having a key role in establishing the Sure Start network of children's centres, and joined the cabinet in 2007 as leader of the House of Lords.

Professor Rob Kemp, Acting Principal of Royal Holloway, University of London, said: "On behalf all of us at the College, I am delighted to offer warmest congratulations to Baroness Ashton on her historic appointment. She is not a grandstanding politician, but is widely admired for her warmth, humour, brisk efficiency and businesslike style. In many ways she embodies the ethos of our institution, which is founded to educate women to become leaders in all fields, and our motto 'esse quam videri' - to be rather than to seem."

Bedford College was founded by Elizabeth Jesser Reid in 1849 as the country's first higher education college for the education of women. Royal Holloway and Bedford College merged in 1985, and the Royal Holloway and Bedford New College (RHBNC) was inaugurated in 1986 by Her Majesty the Queen.

August 2010 marks the 25th Anniversary of Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London. A series of celebratory events will be held throughout 2010/11.

For a history of Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, see: http://www.rhul.ac.uk/About/history.html


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