BNU graduate Jay Blades MBE appointed as Buckinghamshire New University’s first Chancellor
Jay Blades MBE is to be the first Chancellor of Buckinghamshire New University (BNU), where he was a student before launching a career which has seen him rise to award-winning broadcaster, modern furniture restorer, social entrepreneur and receive an MBE in 2021 for services to craft.
BNU is working with Jay to develop new furniture-related courses and facilities, as part of a £15.1m programme to develop its High Wycombe Campus, and create legacy projects to provide opportunities and benefits for both students and local communities.
Brought up by his mother on a council estate in Hackney, Jay’s journey has taken many twists and turns. After leaving school at 15 with no qualifications, he got back on track by studying for a degree in criminology and philosophy at BNU from 2001 where his dyslexia was both identified and supported by the University.
Jay Blades recalls his ‘revelatory’ experience at BNU where tailored digital learning support and inspirational teaching set him ‘on the right path towards the future’ and added:
“I believe everything, including furniture and people, can be repaired, restored, and rejuvenated. At BNU I learned to make the most of every opportunity to be the best version of myself. That’s why I’m so proud and honoured to be appointed as the first Chancellor for a university that shares my passionate belief in the power of education to transform lives. It’s great to come full circle and now do my bit at BNU to ensure that every student reaches their full potential. This is an exciting partnership that’s going to make a real difference because BNU and I share a mission to remove barriers to education for all and boost social mobility.”
Jay tapped into High Wycombe’s rich history of craft and furniture after his graduation by co-founding the Out of the Dark charitable social enterprise that recycled and revamped salvaged furniture to train, educate and employ young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
BNU is now working with Jay and industry contacts to develop furniture-related programmes which will launch in 2023.
Vice-Chancellor of BNU, Professor Nick Braisby, 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. We’ve recently celebrated our 130th anniversary and so this is the ideal time to appoint our first ever Chancellor. Our long-term collaboration of creativity and social conscience will build on High Wycombe’s furniture tradition which matters greatly to both Jay and BNU. 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.”
BNU is the proud guardian of the High Wycombe Furniture Archive research tool, which appeared on Jay’s BBC show The Repair Shop in 2020, and is used by thousands of furniture enthusiasts and historians. The archive’s 10,000 images include models of furniture, through to manufacturing sites and practices, and the people behind High Wycombe's rich furniture heritage.
Maggie Galliers CBE, Pro Chancellor and Chair of Buckinghamshire New University’s Council, said:
“Jay is an excellent ambassador for all we stand for at BNU, and proof of how we take pride in supporting our students with whatever they need to be successful in reaching their full potential. Providing an education for all has always been at the heart of BNU’s 130-year history. From retraining ex-servicemen after the First World War in woodcarving, furniture-making and upholstery through to our current bursaries to support under-represented groups get into higher education including refugees, asylum seekers, care leavers and students estranged from their families.”