Karen Dobson, Principal and Chief Executive of Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group

Karen Dobson, Principal and Chief Executive of Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group (NSCG) has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2019, for her services to further education.

Potteries-born Karen began her career in the public sector with the NHS as a Nurse, Ward Manager and Health Visitor before moving into further education as a Lecturer in Health and Social Care. She joined Newcastle College in 2002 as Director of Curriculum and Strategy and in August 2004 was promoted to the post of Principal.

During her 14-year tenure as Principal of Newcastle College, Karen has overseen a number of extensive and ambitious capital projects to relocate and rebuild the entire Newcastle College campus.   She has driven growth in learner numbers and curriculum and quality enhancements at Newcastle before spearheading the merger between Newcastle College and Stafford College in 2016.

As Principal and Chief Executive of NSCG, Karen has been instrumental in establishing the newly formed Group as one of the top performing colleges in the West Midlands and without doubt one of the most successful merged colleges nationally. In the two years post-merger, Stafford College is now unrecognisable following a £13.5M investment into the campus and student facilities, with further significant developments in the pipeline. Under Karen’s diligent leadership, the combined Group has outstanding financial health, a growing population of over 10,000 students on full-time, part-time, higher education and apprenticeship programmes and fantastic achievement rates that sit firmly in the top 5% of colleges nationally for 16-18 learners.

On hearing the news, Karen said: “I am absolutely thrilled and very surprised to be named to receive an OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List and am proud of the things I have helped to make happen during my time in the further education sector. I am also humbled by the recognition, which would not have been possible without the incredible support of the governors, the hard work and dedication of my senior team and staff, our wonderful and diverse student body and of course the constant help and support from my wonderful family.”

In a double celebration, it has also recently been announced that Karen is on the shortlist of 8 nominees for the prestigious title of ‘FE Leader of the Year’ in the TES FE Awards 2019, with the winner announced at a London event in March 2019.

Continued Karen: “It is a privilege to be the Principal and Chief Executive of this great College, working with a talented staff team who unfailingly put the students’ interests at the heart of everything they do. I am committed to ensuring that NSCG continues to be one of the best colleges in the country to work and study.”

Having dedicated much of her career to improving the life prospects of the people of Staffordshire, Karen is a true advocate of the transformative power of education and training. She holds a Health Sciences degree from Coventry University and an MBA from Keele University. Always a keen ambassador for sport, Karen has competed at the All England Club (Wimbledon) representing Staffordshire Tennis and has captained various Ladies County Tennis age groups. Naturally competitive, she continues to channel her sporting passion into playing for County and Club and as a spectator she supports the numerous NSCG sporting teams. Karen is also Vice-Chair of the Association of Colleges (AoC) Sport Board, where she influences government policy and inspires others to follow her lead.

Commenting on the honour, Simon Leech, NSCG Chair of Governors said:

“Karen is an unsung champion in the FE sector who epitomises all one might expect of someone worthy of this recognition.  She has been with the Group since 2002 and during this time has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to ensuring the young people of Staffordshire get the best possible opportunity to develop, progress and prosper.  In Karen, we have an outstanding leader of one of the best all-round colleges in the country by any measure – academic, progression, employability, sporting, financial or reputational and she is a highly respected figure both in the college and in the wider community she serves. I am delighted that her efforts have been rewarded in such a visible and appropriate way.”

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