Apprentice sidekick Margaret Mountford has quit the BBC1 show after five years, according to the papers.

The Sun reports that the 56-year-old, who along with colleague Nick Hewer act as Sir Alan Sugar’s “ears and eyes” on the show – is leaving to complete a doctorate on ancient Egyptian manuscripts.

The pair have become hugely popular with viewers for their scathing remarks and withering looks as they watch the candidates stumble through their tasks and report back as to how they fared.

Margaret – who first met Sir Alan when she advised him on his firm Amstrad in the 1980s – will be seen on the show for the last time in Sunday night’s final.

“This will come as a big blow to Sir Alan and the millions of viewers,” a show insider told the paper. “Margaret and Nick have almost as big a following as Sir Alan.”

“She is very sad to be leaving but she feels the time is right. When she started I don’think she had any idea just how popular it would become.”

“She has enjoyed every minute but it is very hard work and she wants to go out on a high,” the insider added.

“Margaret has told Sir Alan, who understands her reasons and thanked her for her hard work.”

Show bosses will begin looking for a replacement after tomorrow night’s final, between Yasmina Siadatan and Kate Walsh.