Asha Khemka, an India-born educationist in Britain, has been named for the highest British civilian award for women for her services to education. Khemka, principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College at Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, has been named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire' in the New Year's Honours List for 2014. Khemka was named for the Order of the British Empire in 2008 and has been running the college since 2006.
"Further Education (or post-compulsory education after secondary school) 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," Khemka said in a statement on being named for the honour. "To receive such a recognition is deeply humbling. This is a shared honour, shared with everyone who I have worked with over the years," she said, adding that her " passion for Further Education is impossible to describe and grows more so every day". Under Khemka's leadership, West Nottinghamshire College has become one of the most successful colleges in Britain. 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, Khemka founded the Inspire and Achieve Foundation, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of young people who have been disenchanted and disengaged with 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, Khemka has received many accolades including 'Asian Women of Achievement', 'National Jewel Award', 'Business Women of the Midlands' and 'Inspirational Women of the Year.' Khemka is the founding chair of the Association of Colleges in India, an organisation aimed at progressing links between educational institutions in Britain and in India.
In February 2013, Khemka joined British Prime Minister David Cameron's trade mission to India. Khemka was born in Sitamarhi, a small town in the Indian state of Bihar and got married at the age of 15. She came to Britain in 1978 with husband Sankar Khemka and three young children - daughter Shalini and sons Sheel and Sneh.
Though she was a full time housewife for 20 years, with dedication and determination, Khemka enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks in higher education. She is the second woman of Indian origin to be awarded this honour since it was instituted in 1917, the first being Maharani Lakshmi Devi who received the honour in 1931. Queen Elizabeth will confer the honour at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2014.