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College principal to step down after 17 years

17 Oct 2017

Graham Wilkinson, the Principal and Chief Executive of Kendal College, has announced that he will be retiring at the end of May 2018. 


Graham, joined Kendal College in 2001 and during his time in charge has transformed the College from its failing College status on arrival into the top performing, highly respected institution it is today.

Specific highlights from Graham’s tenure include:

  • Being the only college in Cumbria and North Lancashire to achieve an Ofsted Outstanding rating in 2011
  • Being named one of the most successful colleges in the country by FE Week in 2016
  • Kendal College consistently appearing as one of the top 5 per cent performing colleges in the UK
  • Establishing Kendal College as the leading training provider in the area
  • Overseeing the investment of more than £27 million in state-of-the-art college facilities and learning resources, including a new Creative Arts & Media campus, Engineering, Science & Technology Centre, and the innovative Castle Dairy Apprenticeship Academy for hospitality and catering students, which has helped to produce some of Cumbria’s top rated and Michelin-starred chefs
  • A year on year growth in the number of learners at Kendal College

Prior to joining Kendal College, Graham had established a successful career in the hospitality industry, and training at a Swiss School specialising in culinary arts. As well as working as a chef in major 5-star hotels, he prestigiously also became one of the chefs to HRH Queen Elizabeth. Graham lived and worked at Buckingham Palace and travelled with the Royal Court to places including Sandringham House, Balmoral Castle and HMS Royal Yacht Britannia.

He gained an MSc in Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Stirling and also taught in the hospitality and catering departments of Blackpool & The Fylde College and Lancaster& Morecambe College prior to moving to Kendal College in 2001.

Speaking about his time at Kendal College, Graham said: “I’ll be so sad to leave and I’ll definitely miss everything about the place. There’s an amazing culture at Kendal College. The staff are outstanding and the students are very motivated to learn. The equipment we now have is mind blowing and we have brought so much to the community of Kendal in terms of our infrastructure investment such as in the Castle Dairy and Kendal Museum.”

We’ve always been a small college but that hasn’t stopped us punching way above our weight in terms of the numbers of apprentices we take on and the ultimate success of our students. We truly make a real difference to the business community and its productivity in the North West and I am so proud of what we’ve all managed to achieve together over the last 17 years.”

Cath Dutton, Chair of Governors at Kendal College, said: “I have had the pleasure of working alongside Graham for 16 years and he has led this College through some initial tough times to turn around a host of exicting projects, new builds and refurbishments that have transformed the College into a leading education provider working with companies locally, regionally and nationally.

“We’re recognised as being at the forefront of national developments in Creative Arts & Media education, Health & Social Care and Hospitality and Catering and STEM subjects. And many of our past students have gone on to achieve both national and international successes in these industries. Graham’s leadership has taken Kendal College to new heights and he will be leaving behind a legacy to be immensely proud of and shoes that will be pretty big to fill. Everyone at Kendal College wishes him and his partner Jane, all the best for their retirement.”

Graham plans to spend some of his retirement touring the UK and Europe in his new motorhome with his partner Jane and dog, Jack. He will also be available for consultancy work and special projects as well as pursuing a keen interest in photography and DIY.

For anyone interested in finding out more or appyling for the post of Principal and Chief Executive at Kendal College, visit http://www.kendal.ac.uk/careers or call 01539 814700.