Jay Blades appointed first chancellor of Buckinghamshire New University
Jay Blades, who presents The Repair Shop, said he was “absolutely honoured” to have been appointed the first chancellor of the university he attended as a mature student.
The furniture restorer studied criminology and philosophy at Buckinghamshire New University (BNU), where he was diagnosed with dyslexia.
He grew up on a council estate in Hackney, left school at 15 with no qualifications and is still learning to read.
“This has come as a huge surprise. I’m dyslexic, I’m from Hackney. Everyone can do something to turn their life around,” he said.
Mr Blades, who is based in Shropshire, said he agreed to becoming chancellor as long as the university reinstated its furniture and restoration course.
He also asked to start a scholarship programme and will sponsor several students each year.
“These people might be the first ones in their family to go to university. I’m going to stay in touch with them and support them.
“I’m definitely not your typical chancellor but I’m making sure everything I do is to make this world a better place,” he said.
Mr Blades spent his 20s working in factories and as a labourer before going back to education aged 30.
“I wanted to set myself a challenge of doing something that I didn’t like, which was school. I was bullied and there was a lot of racism, and there’s a lot of fighting I had to do at school,” he said.
The 52-year-old opened up about living with dyslexia in a BBC documentary in January. Until recently he had the reading age of an 11-year-old and still has reading lessons twice a month.
“I’m slowly getting there with the reading. I’m determined to conquer this, I will get there but it will take me some time,” he said.
He hosts the popular BBC series The Repair Shop, which sees members of the public bringing in worn-out family heirlooms to be restored.
He also runs the social enterprise Jay & Co in Wolverhampton, which helps disadvantaged and disengaged groups, and recently received an MBE for services to craft.
Professor Nick Braisby, vice-chancellor of BNU, said: “Jay is an inspiring individual and a shining example of the transformative power of the education we provide at BNU, and we’re enormously proud of all that he has achieved.
“Jay’s insight and expertise will be key to developing an exciting range of creative, innovative furniture-related courses that offer something really different to our students, all backed up with excellent teaching and industry-standard facilities.”
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