Helena Kennedy Foundation Founder and Vice President receives honorary doctorate


Dr Ann limb CBE DL received an honorary doctorate from Sheffield Hallam University on 22 November 2019.  Baroness Kennedy, the university’s Chancellor joined Ann to celebrate Ann’s honorary degree.

Ann is an educationalist, a charity and business leader, Quaker and lifelong feminist with a strong commitment to improving access to education for all.

When Ann was young, the family moved from Moss-side in Manchester to Cheshire.  She had a thirst for learning and was the first in her family to go to university.  She went to undergraduate and then postgraduate studies, culminating in her PhD in French.

She secured a job as a part-time French teacher in further education.  Ann was promoted quickly and within 10 years progressed to Principal.  At the age of 34, Ann moved to Milton Keynes to take up the post of Principal and Chief Executive of Milton Keynes College.  During her 10 years, she transformed the performance of the college before moving onto Cambridge Regional college where she was principal for 5 years.

Towards the end of her time at Cambridge regional college Ann became a board director and then chief executive of  Learn direct.  By now Ann was a leading voice in education and a passionate advocate for lifelong learning, second chances and the importance of continuing skill development. Alongside leading  Learn direct she founded the Helena Kennedy Foundation in 1998. The foundation was established to take forward Helena Kennedy’s report ‘Learning works’. The report established that over 15 million adults of working age with few or no formal qualification faced significant barriers to continuing with or returning to education, a major driver of social disadvantage. The purpose of the foundation is to widen participation and to tackle social injustice in further and higher education. Ann’s aim was to provide opportunities for learners to move from further education to higher education by offering bursaries, mentoring and support to disadvantaged students. To date over 2000 learners have benefited from bursaries.

Ann is deeply committed to young people’s wider education and development. In 2015 she became the first woman chair of the Scouting Association and earlier this month she was ranked the 1st in the 2019 outstanding list of 30 role models for the LGBT plus and public sector executives. This accolade is particularly important for Ann. Working in education under section 28 of the 1986 local government act which prohibited teachers from promoting same-sex relationships in any way.  Ann kept her own sexuality and relationship secret. She is now been able to marry her partner Maggie but inequality and discrimination persist and she’s determined to continue to champion LGBT rights.  In 2011 she was appointed founding chair of the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership(SEMLEP).  Over her 7 year period as chair, Ann led the partnership between the public and private sector, steering investment into areas where it could have its greatest impact.  SEMLEP was assessed by the government in 2019 as being exceptional in all categories and was given a lifetime achievement award at the Milton Keynes Business Awards in recognition of her commitment to the region.

In 2015 Ann was appointed CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list and this year was celebrated on the Northern power 2019 power list as an inspiring role model and as an agent of change rooted in the North of England.

Ann continues to be a dynamic leader and provide leadership across the charitable, private and public sectors.

For all enquiries please contact   enquiries@hkf.org.uk