Jay Blades made chancellor of former university and receives honorary doctorate

Jay Blades has become the first chancellor of Buckinghamshire New University (BNU) and received an honorary doctorate for his significant contribution to furniture-making and crafts and community work during an investiture ceremony.

The Repair Shop host, 53, was a student at BNU before becoming a broadcaster and social entrepreneur, which saw him receive an MBE for services to craft.

Blades left school at 15 with no qualifications but got back on track studying for a degree in criminology and philosophy at BNU from 2001, where his dyslexia was identified and supported.

Jay Blades
Jay Blades (Matt Fowler/PA)

He later found fame on the BBC restoration programme The Repair Shop – which sees members of the public take worn out family heirlooms to be restored by a team of experts.

TV presenter and furniture restorer Blades said BNU is “woven” into his history and DNA and “always feels like coming home” when talking about being invested as the university’s inaugural chancellor.

He added: “Once I arrived at BNU, things totally changed for me for the better because I had a purpose and focus. The university supported my studies and gave me the confidence and self-belief to kickstart my life and career.

“BNU creates community champions, and that’s what they did for me because I started my first charity back then. When I got my degree it created a power in me that was just unbelievable, and it hasn’t stopped.

“So to become the first chancellor for a university that’s shaped the person I am today, and on top of that to receive an honorary doctorate, is a real wow moment. And I know that together BNU and I are going to achieve amazing things.

“I made life-long friends from lots of different courses at BNU and today some of them are working with the biggest companies in the world. It all started at BNU and I’m really excited to see what current students go on to achieve.”

Jay Blades
Jay Blades also received an honorary doctorate (Matt Fowler/PA)

Following his graduation from BNU, Blades co-founded the Out Of The Dark charitable social enterprise that recycled and revamped furniture to train, educate and employ young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

On Wednesday, he received an honorary doctorate for his community work supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged group during an investiture ceremony at the Wycombe Swan theatre which included RAF trumpeters performing a fanfare to mark Blades’ formal investiture as university chancellor.

The processional music was also specially created by members of the RAF Central Band under the direction of the RAF’s principal director of music, Wing Commander Morrell.

Vice chancellor of BNU, Professor Nick Braisby, said: “The university is greatly honoured that Jay has agreed to become the university’s inaugural chancellor and that Jay himself so strongly identifies with the university’s mission recognising the role we played in his own professional and personal development.

“Jay’s support of the university is a ringing endorsement of our ability to transform lives by supporting all students to reach their full potential.

Jay Blades and  Professor Nick Braisby
Jay Blades and Professor Nick Braisby at BNU (Nick Fowler/PA)

“I look forward to working closely with Jay in the years ahead, not least as we work with the furniture industry to create new educational opportunities, building on the unique industrial heritage of High Wycombe and Buckinghamshire.

“I know that our students will be inspired by Jay’s example as they similarly seek to make a real difference to their communities, to society and in their chosen careers.”

Blades is now working with the university to develop furniture-related programmes and more than 570 students have benefitted from the Jay Blades Thrive Bursary since September, which sees the university support students from low-income families and areas of high deprivation in Blades’ honour.

Maggie Galliers, pro-chancellor and chair of BNU’s council, said: “Jay is forever driven by aiming high and making a positive impact, and the way he inspires and helps others to be ambitious for their futures really chimes with what we stand for at BNU.

“Today our university community celebrates Jay’s many achievements as we look forward to all that lies ahead during his chancellorship.”

The Repair Shop
The then-Prince of Wales with Jay Blades during a special episode of The Repair Shop as part of the BBC’s centenary celebrations (Ian West/PA)

Blades has starred in The Repair Shop since its launch in 2017.

Last year, a special one-off episode to mark the BBC’s centenary saw Blades and the repair team visit the King, when he was still the Prince of Wales, at Dumfries House in Scotland.

During The Repair Shop: A Royal Visit, the monarch’s bracket clock and a piece made for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee by British ceramics maker Wemyss Ware were all fixed.

In May 2022, Blades was made an MBE for his work in promoting heritage craft and restoration in the UK.