My wife, Beverly Sand, who has died aged 76, will be remembered as a committed and fiercely intelligent advocate for widening access to learning opportunities for those failed by their earlier experiences of the education system.

Born in Barking, Essex, to Bob Sand, a hairdresser, and Stella (nee Schneider), an administrative officer, Bev grew up on the then new Harold Hill estate, near Romford, though the family traced its English roots to the Jewish community in the East End of London. She maintained an affection for London, and for the East End in particular.

On leaving Harold Hill grammar school, Beverly spent a year at the Lycée Français in London before working in Paris for two years in the late 1960s. From this experience grew a passion for France. She bought a house in the south-west of France in 1990 and spent time there every year until her death.

Returning to Britain, she went to Leicester University, where she gained a first class degree in English and sociology as a mature student. After university, she taught for many years at Wulfrun College in Wolverhampton on Access to HE courses and became a leading advocate for setting up these programmes across the West Midlands. Beverly and I met at an Access to HE conference in Leamington, Warwickshire in 1987; we lived together for 35 years, marrying in 2015.

After Wolverhampton, Beverly was part of the team that helped gain university status for the Derbyshire College of Higher Education in 1992. She became dean of lifelong learning at the new University of Derby and established a national reputation in her field. She was a key figure in both the Access to HE and Open College Network movements. In 1993 she became the first professor of lifelong learning in the UK.

Shortly before her retirement from Derby University in 2009, Beverly became a magistrate and she served for several years in Nottingham before her enforced retirement from the bench at 70. Over the past decade, we divided our time between Nottingham and London, and Beverly worked as a volunteer guide at Tate Modern. Bev made full use of the cultural riches of London, and rediscovered a love for her native city.

Beverly was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in August this year. Her prognosis was terminal and, knowing she only had a few months of life left to her, she took her own life. Despite the shock of her death I am proud to have been the husband of this brave and principled woman who had the courage to lead her life to her own impeccable standards.

She is survived by me and by her younger brother, Robin.


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