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The Corporation

Posted: 31/12/13

Principal Asha awarded Damehood in New Year’s Honours

Asha Khemka, principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College, has been appointed a DBE in the 2014 New Year’s Honours List. The accolade comes five years after she was awarded an OBE for services to education.

Dame Asha Khemka

Dame Asha Khemka said of the honour:

“Further Education has been my life. I believe passionately in the power of Further Education to transform lives – it has mine and it does so for countless others. To receive such a recognition is deeply humbling. This is a shared honour; shared with everyone who I have worked with over the years. 

“West Nottinghamshire College and the communities of Mansfield and Ashfield embraced me.  We have worked together to achieve an ambitious vision for our communities. Without their unwavering support this would not have been possible and I pay tribute to them.

“I am indebted to my husband and my three children; throughout this journey, they have been my rock and my inspiration.

“My passion for Further Education is impossible to describe and grows more so every day. I am immensely proud to be part of this amazing sector."

Asha is the first Indian-born woman for 83 years to be awarded the DBE.
Asha has been principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College since May 2006.  Since her arrival, Asha has been instrumental in transforming facilities for learning and raising aspirations of the local communities. In 2014, Asha’s vision to provide Mansfield and Ashfield with ‘world-class’ education and training facilities will be realised when the college’s £40m redevelopment programme is completed.

Under Asha's leadership, West Nottinghamshire College has become one of the most successful and eminent colleges in the UK. Rooted in the communities of Nottinghamshire, it also has a national footprint and is the largest college provider of apprenticeships for 16 to 18-year-olds in the country. 

In 2008, Asha founded 'the Inspire and Achieve Foundation' – a charity dedicated to improving the lives of young people who have been disenchanted and disengaged from any form of education and training. Within the last five years her charity has helped hundreds of young people get their lives back on track.

Over the years Asha has received many accolades including 'Asian Women of Achievement', 'National Jewel Award', 'Business Women of the Midlands' and 'Inspirational Women of the Year.'

Asha is the founding chair of the Association of Colleges in India – an organisation aimed at progressing links between educational institutions in the UK and in India. In February 2013 Asha joined Prime Minister, David Cameron’s trade mission to India.

Jean Hardy MBE, the outgoing chair of governors, said: “This is a well-deserved honour for Asha. She has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the local communities and has made a significant contribution to the Further Education nationally. It is fitting that my very last act of chair is to congratulate Asha on this amazing achievement. I am sure this is only the beginning of many more exciting things to come for the college and Asha herself.”

Nevil Croston, the college’s new chair of governors, said:  "This is fantastic news for Asha and for the college. We are all so proud of what Asha and the team have achieved over the years and this
honour is recognition of that. Asha is one of this country's leading figures in the world of education and it is fitting that her numerous achievements and the impact that she has had on the communities of Mansfield and Ashfield in particular have been recognised in this way."

Asha's journey is truly inspirational. She was born in Sitamarhi, a small town in the state of Bihar in India and got married at the age of 15. Asha came to the UK in 1978 with husband Shankar and three young children; daughter Shalini, and sons Sheel and Sneh. She was a full time house wife for 20 years. Through her dedication and determination, Asha has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks of Further Education.

Speaking of Asha's honour, husband Shankar Khemka, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Queen's Hospital, Burton-on-Trent said "Asha makes us proud everyday but to be appointed a Dame is unbelievable. This huge recognition is a matter of great pride and honour not just for Asha and our families but for generations to come. It is an achievement of which every Indian, wherever they live will feel proud and hold their head high.

"For me personally, the last six weeks have been the longest weeks of my life because I was not allowed to share this great news with my family and friends.”

Crossbench Peer Lord Karan Bilimoria of Chelsea, CBD DL, paid his own special tribute to Dame Asha Khemka.

The founder and chairman of Cobra Beer said: “I was delighted to hear the wonderful news about Asha Khemka’s Damehood. I first met her some years ago when I was the chief guest at the Annual Rajasthan Foundation dinner.

“Asha was a fellow member of David Cameron’s delegation to India in February and more recently, I was the chief guest and gave the graduation address at the West Nottinghamshire College graduation ceremony.

“During my visit to the college, I was able to see first-hand the amazing work that Asha carries out and what she has achieved over the last eight years in transforming the institution into the best-of-the-best of its kind, not just in this country, but arguably internationally. She leads by example, is an individual and someone who is proud of her Indian background and heritage – truly an authentic leader!

“She is without doubt regarded as one of the stars of the Further Education sector in Britain, if not the leading star.”