The presenter, who now lives in Ironbridge and has a workshop in Wolverhampton, was invested as the first chancellor of Buckinghamshire New University (BNU) on Wednesday.
One of his first tasks was to hand an honorary degree to Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock.
The TV host had asked BNU, which he attended as a mature student, to fund a bursary for deprived students.
“Education should be accessible for all and provide equal opportunities to succeed,” he said.
Jay went to the university at the age of 30. The furniture restorer studied criminology and philosophy, where he was diagnosed with dyslexia.
He grew up on a council estate in Hackney and left school at 15 with no qualifications.
The 53-year-old, who is now based in Shropshire after moving up to the Midlands, spent his 20s working in factories and as a labourer before going back to education aged 30.
“I was fortunate enough to be given a chance by the university and be offered the support I needed to identify my dyslexia, participate without barriers and grow as a person,” he said.
“This is exactly what the Jay Blades Thrive bursary aims to do - level that playing field irrespective of background or circumstances and at a time when living costs continue to rise. The cost of education resources, such as books and laptops, shouldn’t get in the way of learning.”
Leigh-Anne Pinnock was given recognition for her music career and active campaigning for racial equality and anti-racism, having co-founded the charity The Black Fund.
Leigh-Anne, who is from High Wycombe, said: “Growing up, I must have walked past BNU’s High Wycombe campus a million times, curious about what was being studied and taught there. But in all that time I never imagined I’d be stood here today with an honorary doctorate in the arts.
“It’s such a privilege to be recognised by such a credible, creative, and supportive university so I am extremely happy and proud to be here today.”
Pinnock paid a special thanks to TV presenter Blades, who she knows as a friend and has credited as mentoring her through her teenage years in High Wycombe.
Blades, who attended the ceremony in his capacity as chancellor of the university since formally taking up the role in March 2023, said: “Leigh-Anne couldn’t deserve this more. Not only is she an incredible talent, but she also uses her platform for the good of society and has never forgotten her roots.
“I am so proud of all that she’s achieved and was thrilled to be here today to see her recognised for her work.
“I mentor a few people so this is definitely a real full-circle moment for the both of us.”