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People :: Alumni :: Tessa Jowell (nee Palmer)


Tessa Jowell

Diploma in Social Study 1969

Graduated: 1969

Tessa Jowell - then Palmer - was born in London in 1947 but educated at St Margaret's School for Girls in Aberdeen after her family relocated to Scotland when she was five years of age. On leaving school, she went on to Aberdeen University where she undertook a general MA degree, studying Arts, Psychology and Sociology. Following her graduation in 1968, she came to Edinburgh University where she successfully completed the one-year postgraduate Diploma in Social Study in 1969. She subsequently worked in child care in Craigmillar (a council housing estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh) and then, after moving to London, in Lambeth. She then trained as a psychiatric social worker at Goldsmith's College, University of London.

Tessa worked as a psychiatric social worker at the Maudsley Hospital between 1972 and 1974 before becoming Assistant Director of the voluntary sector mental health charity, Mind, a post that she held until 1986. For the next four years she was director of a community care special action project in Birmingham. From 1990 until her election to parliament she worked for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and was a senior visiting fellow at the the King’s Fund, a health and social care charity. Tessa's switch to full-time politics was a gradual one. She worked as a Labour councillor for 15 years before first entering parliament in 1992 as MP for Dulwich (later Dulwich and West Norwood). She went on to hold various ministerial positions before being made a member of the Privy Council in 1998 and a dame in 2012, joining the House of Lords in 2015.

Tessa was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017 and died in 2018.

Sources: University of Edinburgh records and obituary in The Guardian newspaper, available at: