Ngaio Crequer

Higher education correspondent
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The Independent Online

Ngaio Cheryl Crequer, journalist: born Crawley, Sussex 6 June 1951; married 1980 Colin Robinson (one son, one daughter); died Carshalton, Surrey 28 September 2006.

Ngaio Crequer was one of the most brilliant education journalists of her generation. She played a pivotal role in exposing the then secret garden of academe to wider public scrutiny in the pages of the Times Higher Education Supplement and then The Independent in the 1980s.

She was afraid of nothing and nobody, including editors, and uncovered facts and issues that others would have preferred to remain unreported. More than one career hit the buffers as a result of her determined probing. Yet she earned the lasting respect of many leading lights in the universities, notably Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer, chairman of what was then the University Grants Committee.

When The Independent launched in 1986, Crequer was the first recruit to a three-strong education team. She was among a galaxy of iconoclasts who joined the paper at its birth: Francis Wheen (diary), James Fenton (South-East Asia), Andrew Marr and the late Anthony Bevins (politics) Alexander Chancellor (Washington), Richard North (environment), Andrew Brown (religious affairs) and Donald Macintyre (labour), to name just a few. She brought The Independent scoop after scoop.

Universities were then moving, at dizzying speed, into a new era. Financing, student numbers, teaching and research were all under scrutiny from a government that thought academics had been cosseted for too long. Crequer led Fleet Street on this story, as well as on some of the wider education reforms planned by Kenneth Baker, the then Education Secretary.

One of four children from a working-class background in Crawley, Sussex, she was the first member of her family to go to university. At Manchester University she read Politics and Modern History and later became president of the students' union.

She joined the Birmingham Post and Mail group as a graduate trainee journalist and in 1976 became municipal correspondent. She went to the THES two years later and became chief reporter in 1981 and news editor in 1984.

After nearly eight years at The Independent, she became press officer at the Association for Colleges and then briefly a freelance education journalist before she joined the further education desk at The Times Educational Supplement in 1997. Here, she returned to her old scoop-breaking form, most notably with articles which led to the much-publicised departure of Roger Ward, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (the result of a merger involving the body for which she formerly worked). She left the paper in November 2004 and retrained as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language.

A Manchester United fan, she gave some of her secret contacts football pseudonyms. TES staff were frequently amazed that she received phone calls from "Ryan Giggs" and "Gary Neville". Her passion for Man Utd was matched by her passion for the Beatles, and particularly for Paul McCartney. He was not, however, forgiven for marrying Heather Mills. Crequer rarely did things by halves: total loyalty could be succeeded by fierce enmity. She was exceptionally warm in friendship, but those who crossed her (particularly men who presumed to call her "love") did so at their peril.

Ngaio Crequer was a lifelong vegetarian and a devotee of old-fashioned bibulous lunches. Fond of dogs, she had two - first Hermione and in recent years Lincs, whom she took for long walks on Mitcham Common, near her home in Surrey.

Her dedication to journalism was exceeded only by her devotion to and pride in her children. She leaves a husband, Colin Robinson, a son, Aaron Robinson, and a daughter, Kiri Crequer, now in their final years at Aberdeen and Liverpool universities respectively.

Peter Wilby and Simon Midgley