Celebrating our Principal on International Women’s Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day we asked our Principal and CEO Satwant Deol about her education and career and her vision for the future of The Henley College.


I spent my early years in a village in the Punjab region of India before coming with my family to live in Nottingham at the age of 10.  I arrived in the UK unable to speak English and started at a local comprehensive. Many of my teachers ruled out any academic future for me, however my mother and grandmother had high aspirations and saw education as a passport to prosperity. My family’s encouragement, alongside the racial abuse we suffered at the time, gave me the determination to get ahead, and I owe everything to the women who came before me. 

I became a dedicated Trekkie and I believe it was my love of Star Trek that provided the catalyst for my interest in tech and innovation. After initially leaving school at the earliest opportunity, I decided I wanted more from life and studied for the qualifications I needed to get to University. There I studied computing at degree level and later took a Master’s, studying part time while caring for my young daughter. 

After becoming a software engineer, working on projects for high profile companies such as GEC, I became the first woman to lead an all-male development team. I then moved into the University sector where I stayed for ten years and became the youngest Head of Department at Coventry University. 

From Higher Education, I moved to the Further Education (FE) sector in London where I developed a reputation for effective change management and for my inclusive, collaborative approach to leadership. As well as working in senior FE leadership roles to improve teaching, learning and community involvement at a local level, I was invited to take part in a series of national and London-wide policy initiatives. I’ve since taken every opportunity to learn and gain experience where possible, including shadowing the Minister for Education and an Ofsted Inspection team. 

I am committed to widening participation, equality and diversity and while working in London I was about to set up a successful mentoring scheme for under achieving black and Asian students. Because of my background in engineering, I am also passionate about encouraging more girls to study engineering and computer subjects.

Since I Joined The Henley College in 2016, student achievement has risen and we achieved  a “Good” Ofsted outcome. When I took over the role of Principal I inherited a financial deficit of £1.6m, however the financial health position of the College is now outstanding and investments in staff and infrastructure have become a priority.

In the last 18 months we have received £1.4m of investment resulting in a new state of the art creative media suite, which features 50 new Apple Mac computers, a Digital Suite, a Mega-Electronic Lab and new Textile and Art Studios, plus a fully refurbished and equipped gym. 

10 new courses have been developed with involvement from major blue chip companies, such as Cisco, Microsoft and Ealing Trailfinders, who have all supported the delivery of employability, digital and leadership skills and have offered our students places on degree scholarships within their companies. 

Learner numbers increased last year and are set to do so again. I’m immensely proud that students from The Henley College students outperform their peers from state schools and the sixth form sector at university in gaining 2.1 and above in their degree qualifications, and that 97% of our students progress to university, apprenticeships or work.

It is my aim to give students the same standard of education, support and enrichment as they would receive at a fee-paying school, such as Eton, and I believe that instilling confidence in our young people is vital to their future success and employability. 

My core motivation is to promote inclusivity, innovation and social mobility, and the College motto, Come Questioning, Go Seeking, Grow is at the very heart of my vision for our students. I hope that my story will inspire others just as I was inspired to strive to do my best in my educational journey and the women who supported and encouraged me to undertake it.”

If you would like to join The Henley College and study with us this September, then Apply Now >> Apply Online



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National Centre for Diversity Top  100 2016
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