Our websites

West Nottinghamshire College Group operates a number of websites that support our growing business.

The Corporation

Posted: 18/12/13

College chair bows out after 21 years’ service

West Nottinghamshire College’s long-standing chair of governors has stepped down after service spanning three decades.

Principal Asha presents Jean (left) with a bouquet after her last-ever board meeting

Jean Hardy MBE, of Little Carlton, near Newark, (60) has retired after 21 years on the college board – with the past 17 spent as chair – to devote more time to her family and passion for travelling throughout Europe with husband Robin.

She also plans to become a frequent visitor to Australia when GP son Simon and wife Joyce emigrate in April so that Simon can take up his new position at a doctors’ surgery in Port Lincoln.  The couple are also expecting their first child in February.

Mrs Hardy said: “Robin and I are really looking forward to the birth of our first grandchild and expect to spend quite a lot of time in Australia over the next few years, as well as enjoying more travel in our motorhome.”

Originally from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, Mrs Hardy joined the college’s board of governors in 1992.  She became chair four years later – the youngest in the country at the time, and one of only two women to hold the role within a college.

“In those days, the chair of governors at colleges were mostly retired men in suits, so being one of only two women certainly attracted some attention,” said Mrs Hardy.  “At the time it was quite unusual – as was taking on the role at a relatively young age – but it was never an issue for me.”

Mrs Hardy combined her voluntary role with her professional career in the NHS; both as a human resources director and, until lately, as a consultant before recently calling time of her working life after more than 40 years’ service.

One of her first acts upon becoming chair of governors was ensuring the board was run “more like a business”.

She explained: “We went from having very long meetings once a term to short, monthly business meetings – and we tried to conduct the business within an hour.  You can’t expect governors to keep on top of what is required if they aren’t meeting frequently.

“Governors at other colleges used to look at me aghast when I told them we had monthly business meetings. But the very fact the board manages itself in a professional and business-like way has paid dividends in terms of the college’s success, growth and excellent reputation.”

Mrs Hardy described the role of college governor as “first and foremost ensuring things are running well so that students have the best-possible experience and highest-quality education and training”.

The relationship between chair of governors and principal is, she said, “absolutely crucial” to this, adding: “It’s got to be highly-supportive.” 

Mrs Hardy said all the principals she had worked with over the years – from Don Mackenzie, Jim Aleander and Di McEvoy-Robinson to current principal Asha Khemka OBE – had played their part in the college’s success.  However, Mrs Khemka came in for special praise, “simply because of her sheer drive and determination to get things done, which is on a different level to that of most people.”

Mrs Hardy cited the college’s £40m investment in its buildings and facilities – in particular the Station Park construction centre in Kirkby-in-Ashfield and the £24m on-going redevelopment of the Derby Road campus in Mansfield, which she described as a “a visual symbol of the college’s progress” – amongst the things she was most proud of.

Other high points included meeting The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Kent and The Duke of York when they each visited the college, while being awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2011 for her services to education is remembered fondly by Mrs Hardy as her most fulfilling personal accolade.

“Receiving the MBE from The Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace was a very proud moment, not just for me but for Robin, Simon and my wider family and was very humbling indeed,” she said.

But her biggest source of pride, she said, was the college’s growth and success.  In just a few years it has grown to become one of the largest colleges in the country, with more than 26,000 students – including 11,000 apprentices – while also providing work-related training to 2,000 employers. 

The college also achieved its best-ever A-level and GCSE results earlier this year, with pass rates of 99.7% and 100% respectively.

She said: “I look back and feel incredibly proud of what the college has achieved. To see it become more successful and more nationally-recognised for the work it does is absolutely fantastic. 

“The college is attracting students from a much wider area, along with a higher-calibre of students than we’d have envisaged a few years ago, and that is all down to the college’s excellent reputation and success rates. It’s been great to be part of such a highly-successful organisation.”

Principal and chief executive, Asha Khemka OBE, said: “Jean has served the college and the local community with distinction. I remain indebted to her for the support she has given me but also for the incredible contribution she has made over such a long period of time.  I wish Jean a happy and well-earned retirement.”

Mrs Hardy will be succeeded by vice-chair Nevil Croston, a partner at Bryan and Armstrong Solicitors, in January 2014. Fellow governor Kate Allsop, portfolio holder for economic regeneration at Mansfield District Council, becomes vice-chair.