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Visionary Furness College chair awarded MBE

A respected and visionary former chair of governors at Furness College has been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list.

John Butler has been recognised for his exceptional contribution to education, commitment to the further education sector and improving lives and social mobility in Barrow and Furness through education.

He was nominated by the college’s executive leadership team who said he was a ‘transformative’ chair who gave freely of his time and expertise.

Mr Butler, who lives in Ulverston and works as the Group Chief Compliance Officer for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, spoke of his surprise at receiving the award.

“When I got the letter I was very pleased,” he said. “The fact that friends and colleagues at college nominated me is very humbling. I don’t think I have done anything really special, all of our achievements are down to the hard work of everybody involved with the college, which I know is a cliché, but it’s true.”

Mr Butler, joined the governors in December 2002, taking over as chair in 2007 and led the vision to rebuild the college through a £43million investment project, creating world-class facilities for the community.

Since then the college has become the largest post-16 provider in Cumbria and received Ofsted recognition for managing its merger with Barrow Sixth Form College and progress made.

Mr Butler said: “I’ve been lucky to work with two excellent Principals, both Anne Attwood and now Andrew Wren, a very strong management team and supportive governors over the years.

“Everyone works together for the benefit of the college and the area, there is no grandstanding here, it’s always cohesive and the passion the staff have for this place is unsurpassed.

“It has all worked out pretty well actually, the campus is fantastic and is what this area needs.”

Furness College Chief Executive and Principal Andrew Wren said Mr Butler had also been instrumental in delivering the Local Enterprise Partnership’s vision through a £4million Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Centre in 2016.

“It was a busy year because he also led the merger with Barrow Sixth Form College and oversaw a process so smooth it was unprecedented in the further education sector, which gained him huge respect,” said Mr Wren.

“John has always seen the college as more than just a place of learning but a place of opportunities and has applied his astute business knowledge, strong financial leadership and key contacts to ensure that the people of this area have the best education in the best facilities.”

Mr Butler decided to become a college governor because of his strong links with the college through his own engineering apprenticeship with Vickers Engineering way back in the days of the Howard Street building.

“I thought, as a past engineering student, it would be good to give something back to the college and the community,” he said.

He said he has been very grateful for the support of BAE Systems when he joined the board which has continued with his current employer the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

NDA Chief Executive, David Peattie, said: “I was delighted to hear the news and I join everyone at the NDA in congratulating John Butler in being awarded an MBE.

“This accolade is extremely well deserved and recognises John’s passion and tireless commitment to improving the lives and future prospects of generations of young Cumbrians, through his work with Furness College.

“The NDA proudly supports its employees who chose to volunteer their time to help and support or like these, that are vital to our local communities.”

Under his leadership, the college launched a degree programme so people could study higher education in Barrow for the first time and the college became only the fourth college in England to gain Chartered College status.

Subsequently, Furness College has been judged to be the best provider of Higher Education in Cumbria by the Teaching Excellence Framework and was commended by the QAA for the enhancement of learning opportunities.

“He has always listened to students and involved them in the governance of the college by supporting the creation of a new Students’ Union and the three student governors have strong voice on the board,” said Mr Wren.

“As chair of governors John has provided successful outcomes for tens of thousands of students studying at the College. He stepped down as chair in 2019 leaving a lasting legacy.”

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