Figures from further education have had their achievements recognised in the New Year’s honours list, including a college principal who arrived in the UK from India aged 25 and unable to speak English.
Asha Khemka (pictured), principal of West Nottinghamshire College, was made a Dame – the sixth woman to have been given the honour for services to FE.
The honour caps a remarkable career for Dame Asha, who married at the age of 15 and arrived in the UK from India with three small children and no ability to speak English.
“Further education has been my life,” she said. “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.
“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.”
Dame Asha has been principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College since May 2006, and during her time there has helped to transform the facilities – a £40m redevelopment programme is due to be completed this year.
The college is the largest college provider of apprenticeships for 16- to 18-year-olds in the country. In 2008, Dame Asha founded the Inspire and Achieve Foundation, a charity that aims to reach young people not engaged with education or training.
She is also 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.
Two other female college principals were awarded OBEs for their services to the sector: Brenda Sheils, principal of Solihull College, and Kathryn Rudd, principal of National Star Specialist College in Cheltenham.
Richard Wightman, chair of Bradford College, was also awarded the OBE for services to FE and voluntary services to the community in Bradford.
Sacha Corcoran, deputy director of City and Islington College, and Anthony Douglas, a music teacher at Morley College, London, were both awarded MBEs for their services to FE, while Joan Carberry, family learning co-ordinator at Belfast Metropolitan College, was awarded the MBE for her services to FE and the community in Northern Ireland.