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Tim Jackson retires as Principal and Chief Executive of Sparsholt College Group

Tim Jackson

Tim Jackson retires as Principal and Chief Executive of Sparsholt College Group


After 22 years as Principal and Chief Executive of Sparsholt College Group34 years at Sparsholt College and 38 in Further Education in total Tim Jackson will begin a new stage in his career this summer. Julie Milburn who has been Principal Designate for over a year will take up the Principalship on 1 August. 

Tim has been a member of staff at Sparsholt College since 1986 when he was recruited from his previous position teaching agriculture at Warwickshire College of Agriculture to become a tutor and course manager for the Diploma in Agriculture. After progressing to various Management positions, including Head of Faculty and Vice Principal, Tim accepted the position of Principal in 1998 which coincided with a period of considerable course expansion and building projects at the collegewith an Outstanding designation being awarded by Ofsted during Tim’s early term of Principalship. 

In 2007, Tim spearheaded a merger of Sparsholt College with Andover College. The merger is one of only a very few in Further Education which have been successful over such a sustained period. Tim comments that, whilst agriculture and the huge diversity of other plant and animal sciencebased subjects are very much his personal interest, one of his proudest achievements has been re-establishing a very high quality Sixth Form and Technical curriculum at Andover College which saw its student enrolments double and the college now going from strength to strength with its very personalised approach and high performing team.  

Neil Hopkins, Chair of the Board of Governors, remarks on Tim’s national reputation gained for championing Further Education and, in particular, its land and environmental sector and his commitment to inspiring students from all backgrounds to recognise and achieve their full potential. 

Neil says, “I see at close hand just how much time, energy and dedication Tim has put into his role at Sparsholt & Andover. He has a national reputation, far beyond Hampshire, and is rightly seen as one of the foremost leaders of Further Education in this country. His leadership and his vision for the college have been, quite simply, excellent.  Many, many students past and present owe him a great debt.”  

During his career, Sparsholt’s campus has seen the expansion of state-of-the-art land-based facilities, including rebuilding much of the college farm which provides applied learning and work place simulation on technically high performing enterprisesthe Aquatic Research and Conservation Centre, the Salmonid Rearing and Trials Centre, the Motor Vehicle Engineering Centre, the Indoor Rifle Range and now 100m Full Bore Outdoor Rifle Range (opened in 2019) and the Game and Wildlife Centre. A new Technology and Future Skills Centre also opened on the Andover campus in 2016. 

Under Tim’s leadership Sparsholt College’s largest course area to date, the Animal & Zoo management department, based in the Animal Management Centre, was launched. Tim oversaw the establishment of the country’s first nationally recognised zoo keeping qualification, the Diploma in the Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals (DMZAA), developed in collaboration with the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), and in 2018 the National Zoo Academy. This legacy continues to grow, with current redevelopment of a £2 million Animal Health and Welfare Research Centre underway on the Sparsholt campus. 

Higher Education has been offered at Sparsholt since the late 1970s, and under Tim’s leadership Sparsholt has established itself as one of the top land-based universities in the countrywith University Centre Sparsholt recognised for its high quality teaching, specialist links to the industry and level of employability students gain – achieving Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Gold in June 2018 by the Office for Students (OfS). 

Tim commented “I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of a college which is comprised of employers and businesses, who are so supportive and my colleagues who I have had the privilege to lead and who, through their dedication, innovation and passion, inspire and support our studentto transform their own lives and go directly into great careers or higher study.  

Before his career at Sparsholt, Tim’s background as an Applied Biology graduate and work with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food provided a grounding in applied agriculture before training and qualifying with a Post Graduate Certificate to teach in Further Education. 

Tim has received many plaudits for his dedication and innovation in land-based education and was presented by Winchester City Council with the Millennium Egg in 2013 in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the economy of the Winchester District andmost recently, presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Education Award at the Hampshire Education Awards 2019. In 2006, Tim declined to accept an OBE, declaring he did not feel he’d done enough at that time to warrant such recognition.  

Alongside his career at Sparsholt College, Tim is also the founding Chairman and now Board member of Landex (Land Based Colleges and Universities Aspiring to Excellence), the Chairman of the Hampshire Principals’ Group and a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Societies and past President of New Forest Show. Tim has also been a Board member of the EM3 LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership). 

Stepping into the role of Principal and Chief Executive of Sparsholt College Group, Julie Milburn has been understudying Tim since 2018. She says: “I have had the privilegof working alongside Tim for the past two years and observed first-hand his outstanding approach to leading such a diverse organisation with great success. 

His levels of energy and high expectations, set for both staff and students, has been an inspiration to us all and the Senior Leadership Team look forward to maintaining this continuous pursuit for excellence that Tim has embedded within the fabric of this College. 

From everyone at Sparsholt College Group, we wish Tim the best in his next endeavours.