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The Corporation

Posted: 02/10/09

Asha named Businesswoman of the Year

West Nottinghamshire College principal and chief executive Asha Khemka OBE has been crowned Midlands Businesswoman of the Year at a glittering awards ceremony.

She fought off stiff competition to claim the prestigious honour at the annual Vitalise Women of the Year Luncheon and Awards, held at the Hilton Metropole, NEC, Birmingham, today (Friday October 2, 2009).

Now in its 27th year, the awards celebrate women’s achievements and recognise their significant contribution to the financial success and performance of their business or organisation.

Mrs Khemka succeeded in being named the 2009 winner from a strong field of candidates from both the private and public sectors.

Since taking over at the Mansfield college in 2006, she has transformed it into one of the top colleges in the country; with more than 25,000 students, a grade one ‘Outstanding’ ranking from Ofsted and category ‘A’ financial status.

Mrs Khema arrived in the UK, aged 25, with her husband and three young children and no formal qualifications. She overcame significant cultural and language barriers to become the first female principal of a UK college to be born and raised in India.

Mrs Khemka said: “It is an honour to receive this prestigious award and follow in the footsteps of such esteemed winners from previous years.

“While it is always pleasing to achieve personal recognition, I believe this award demonstrates the major contribution that colleges and the Further Education sector as a whole make to UK Plc.

“This award recognises West Nottinghamshire College as a dynamic, highly-successful business in its own right and a major player in the local economy; at the heart of education, training and regeneration.

“Student numbers, educational attainment and turnover stand at record levels, and none of this would have been possible without the support of so many wonderful colleagues whose drive and energy has made the college the successful organisation it is today”.

The Midlands Businesswoman of the Year award is Mrs Khemka’s latest personal accolade. In January she was appointed an OBE by the Queen in the New Year’s Honours List, in recognition of her services to Further Education.

In May 2008 Mrs Khemka picked up the Asian Woman of Achievement award for her outstanding contribution to education, and in July 2007 she won the National Jewel Award for Excellence in Healthcare and Education.

Earlier this year, the college became the first in Nottinghamshire to gain Beacon status. It also gained a prestigious star rating in the Best Companies accreditation scheme, which recognises first-class employers.

Awards chair, Judy Groves, said: “My congratulations to Asha on achieving the Winner’s Award, beating off stiff competition.  Her achievement today is particularly admirable because hers was a far from conventional road to gaining recognition and success for her chosen profession in the education sector.

“However, she remained focused on her personal goals and demonstrated courage and self- belief on the road to achieving them.  She is quite simply an outstanding role model.”

Mrs Khemka joins an impressive gallery of former winners including Hilary Devey, the founder of an international haulage firm who appeared on TV’s popular Secret Millionaire series; Karren Brady, managing director of Birmingham City FC and now a judge on television’s The Apprentice; Sarah Tremellen, founder and chief executive of lingerie manufacturer Bravissimo and Perween Warsi, founder of S&A Foods. 

The annual Vitalise Women of the Year Luncheon and Awards was hosted by Penelope, Viscountess Cobham, and presented by broadcaster, Arti Halai. It included powerful speeches from last year’s award winner, Hilary Devey, and the best-selling author, Preethi Nair.  Attended by over 400 high-profile women, the event annually raises thousands of pounds of vital funds for national disability charity, Vitalise.