West Notts chief Asha Khemka is an inspiration

Asha Khemka, West Notts College
Asha Khemka, West Notts College

WEST Notts College principal Asha Khemka OBE scooped top honours at a prestigious awards ceremony aimed at celebrating the achievements of women in business across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Mrs Khemka was named Inspirational Woman of the Year at the 2011 Enterprising Women Excellence Awards, which took place at Chatsworth House on Thursday.

Raised in a remote village in India and married at the age of 15, Asha moved to Britain in 1978, aged 25, with her husband and their three young children.

She overcame significant cultural and language barriers to become the first female principal of a UK college to be born and raised in India.

Since taking up her post of the Mansfield college in May 2006, Asha has transformed it into one of the largest and top-performing colleges in the country; with more than 20,000 students, an annual budget of £50m and a grade one ‘Outstanding’ ranking from Ofsted.

Asha, who sits on several national education boards, was awarded the OBE in 2009 for her services to education.

She said: “I am both delighted and humbled to receive this award. While personal recognition is always satisfying, this accolade demonstrates that colleges are major businesses in their own right.

“Not only are colleges at the very heart of the communities they serve, they also make a significant contribution to UK Plc through high-quality education, training and economic regeneration.

“The further education sector has a major role to play in guiding the country out of recession and I am proud to be part of a dynamic and successful organisation that is leading the way.”

Mansfield businesswoman Katrina Atherton also picked up an award in the Breakthrough Business of the Year award with her A Star Media company.

The awards were facilitated by the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce and presented by ITV Central News anchor Sameena Ali-Khan.

Jean Mountain, Chair of the Chamber’s Enterprising Women group, said: “Many congratulations to all of the winners of this year’s Enterprising Women Excellence Awards.

“There are some very talented and hard-working businesswomen in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire who play a massive part in the success of their business but are often not recognised for their hard work and determination.

“These enterprising women make an important contribution to the local economy and their success stories will hopefully inspire many other women to pursue their business dreams and these awards are all about acknowledging and celebrating those achievements.”