Principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College Group, Dame Asha Khemka, has received a special award from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in recognition of her contribution to furthering UK-India relations.
On Friday (17 October, 2014) Dame Asha was presented with the inaugural Dadabhai Naoroji Award for Education at an evening awards ceremony held at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in London.
Launched by Mr Clegg earlier this year, the Dadabhai Naoroji Awards are dedicated to the first Asian Member of the UK Parliament and the man who brought the first Indian businesses to the UK. They recognise individuals whose significant and outstanding achievements have strengthened relations between India and the UK in the fields of commerce, culture and education.
Dame Asha was named winner of the education category for championing the role that UK further education colleges can play in supporting the Indian government’s ambition to train 500 million people in vocational skills by 2022.
She was nominated by Martin Doel OBE, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), which represents the UK’s further education (FE) sector.
As a leading educationalist and the founding chair of AoC India – a partnership of 33 UK colleges aiming to help meet the sub-continent’s skills agenda – Dame Asha has provided a strong and powerful voice in promoting the contribution that the British FE and skills sector can make to training India’s workforce.
She accompanied Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Mr Clegg on their respective three-day trade missions to India in February 2013 and August 2014 – the latter being the first high-level delegation since Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected in May.
Dame Asha, who is also a member of the Indo-British Trade Council, has been instrumental in building on the historic links between the two countries by forging powerful partnerships between UK colleges and Indian skills-providers, as well as establishing strategic alliances with Indian government ministers, civil servants and business leaders.
Presenting her award, Mr Clegg said Dame Asha had “worked tirelessly to strengthen the bond between the UK and India.”
Speaking of her latest honour, Dame Asha said: “I am deeply humbled to be the first recipient of the Dadabhai Naoroji Award for Education. Dadabhai Naoroji is a true icon within Indian and British history; his legacy has paved the way for me and for countless other Indians to make a significant contribution to strengthen the bonds between our two great nations.
“The work I have been engaged in through AoC India is rooted in the belief that there are amazing opportunities for joint-working. We are now starting to see these opportunities come to fruition.
“While there is still much more to do, I am confident that the work we have started on joint projects such as the development of a number of community colleges, as well as work to develop a skills infrastructure for the creation of Lavasa City, will result in further projects.
“I remain excited and committed to taking forward the much-needed skills landscape in India and extend my sincere gratitude to all those who have supported and who continue to support us on this journey. I am hugely privileged to receive this award and am immensely grateful for the recognition this brings to the work of the AoC in India.”
Mr Doel said: “I congratulate Dame Asha on being the first recipient of this prestigious award. The word inspirational is often over-used, but no other word better describes Dame Asha’s journey. She has never forgotten her origin from the small Indian village where she was brought up, to now being one of the most influential and respected figures in the world of education.
“Dame Asha is an inspirational leader, whose dedication and commitment to education and promoting UK Indian relationships is truly transformative, both for her community in Nottinghamshire and for her partners in India.
“As a proud British Indian, Dame Asha’s achievement and outstanding contribution to the field of education and developing UK-Indian relations are wholly worthy of this award and I believe I am echoing the voice of many in the education sectors of both India and the UK.”
In addition to advocating on behalf of the UK further education and skills sector, Dame Asha has overseen her own organisation’s contribution to developing India’s workforce.
West Nottinghamshire College Group is currently working with the Cordia Group of Educational Institutes to establish a new construction college in Sanghol, Punjab. Using its vast experience in the sector, it will develop the training programmes and specialist courses to meet the needs of India’s booming construction industry and much-desired development of infrastructure.
Members of the college’s construction department will also train the tutors that will deliver the curriculum at the new institution, which will be part of Lord Diljit Rana’s highly-successful Cordia Group.
Last year, its subsidiary company bksb – the UK’s leading provider of interactive on-line learning solutions to improve English, maths and ICT skills – launched sister enterprise, bksb India. bksb India is due to open its new headquarters in Chandigarh in December and is currently in discussions with the Indian government to deliver online training to the country’s growing number of call centre workers.