The Apprentice just hasn't been the same since the mighty Margaret Mountford departed.

The impressive businesswoman was one of Lord Sugar's trusted aides for the first five series of the BBC show and was once dubbed the 'nation's favourite disapproving headmistress'.

Having started her career as a corporate lawyer, Margaret took on the role of non-executive director at The Apprentice boss' company Amstrad then joined him on-screen along with Nick Hewer.

Margaret would shadow the candidates while they were on tasks and became famous for her disapproving eye rolls, fearsome stares and witty remarks.

While feeding back to Lord Sugar in the boardroom, she once old a candidate who claimed he hadn't avoided being deputy project manager: "You stepped so far back from it you were practically out the room."

But what happened to Margaret after she stepped away from The Apprentice in 2009?

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Margaret announced she was leaving the show so that she could focus on studying for her PhD in papyrology - the study of manuscripts from the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Greece and Rome.

The businesswoman, who is now 70, joked that she wanted to finish her degree before was too frail to go up and receive it at her graduation.

"This will be my last series on The Apprentice. I have really enjoyed making the series and it will be a real wrench to say goodbye," she confirmed.

"But making The Apprentice takes up a large chunk of time each year, and that's time I could, indeed should, be spending on my studies. I am working on a PhD in papyrology at University College London, studying documents found in Egypt and written in ancient Greek.

"I have not made nearly as much progress as I would like over the last few years - and I want to finish my degree before I need a Zimmer frame to get up on the platform to receive it.

"It has been an amazing experience, and certainly not one that I will ever forget."

Lord Sugar thanked his trusted business associate and friend for sacrificing time that could have been spent on her studies to film The Apprentice with him.

In his own statement, Lord Sugar said: "Margaret has been a highly regarded colleague and friend for over 25 years.

"Five years ago she agreed to put her studies on hold for the first series.

"None of us expected the show to be such a big hit, but now, five years later, she really wants to finish her masters."

Where The Apprentice's Margaret is now - sacrifice for Lord Sugar and being 'fired'

But that wasn't the end for Margaret on The Apprentice, as she returned to give the final five candidates a grilling in the interview stage for the next few series.

In one hilarious moment in 2013, Margaret pointed to a section of Luisa Zissman's CV and said: "The lady with a 'brain like Einstein' but got a C, a D and an E in her AS-levels."

The following year, Margaret revealed she had not been asked back and jokingly claimed the tables had turned and she had been 'fired'.

"They didn’t ask me back. I suppose I was fired," she said in an interview.

She added: "No, obviously they weren’t going to want me to carry on doing interviews forever, and nor did I want to do them forever."

Margaret's spot as advisor to Lord Sugar was taken over by Karren Brady, who later admitted she regretted not taking her predecessor's advice when she joined the show.

Confessing it was the best thing anyone told her before starting, Karren explained that Margaret warned her to "wear trainers" because she would on her feet for 12 hours a day.

"And of course I didn't take her advice," said Karren. "First episode I wore heels, and at the end of my first day I remember I was laying in the bath and my feet were throbbing.

"And I quickly took Margaret's advice and wore the trainers. So I've learned I can't stand on my feet for more than 12 hours a day without wearing trainers."

Margaret may have left The Apprentice but she didn't disappear completely from our TV screens - and has hosted a number of BBC documentaries with Nick.

In 2013 she presented a one-off BBC documentary programme Pompeii: The Mystery of the People Frozen in Time and a two-pater with Nick investigating benefits culture, We All Pay Your Benefits.

They were also part of a show looking at the problem with trains, the impacts and attitudes towards immigrants in the UK and the challenges we face against littering.

Margaret also appeared in Countdown's Dictionary Corner on two occasions while Nick was host and the pair went on Celebrity Antiques Road Trip in 2015.

Her last TV appearance was in 2019 when she presented a BBC Four show on the Classical poet Sappho titled 'Sappho: Love & Life on Lesbos with Margaret Mountford'.

Away from the showbiz world, Mountford is currently on the Steering Committee for the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies and is the Chair of the Egypt Exploration Society.

*The Apprentice airs Thursdays on BBC One at 9pm

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