Embattled college boss Dame Asha declines her £130k payout

The high-profile boss of a college in financial crisis resigned from her post without accepting any financial payout, walking away from at least £130,000, FE Week can reveal.

Dame Asha Khemka stepped down as principal of West Nottinghamshire College at the start of October. Her resignation came shortly after FE Week revealed the college had received a £2.1 million emergency government bailout in July, just 48 hours before it would have run out of cash.

One of the highest paid principals in FE, Dame Asha received a £262,000 remuneration package in 2016/17. In 2014 she received a damehood, and was named woman of the year at the GG2 Leadership Awards.

However, West Notts has confirmed that she stepped down with immediate effect and did not receive any payoff, despite the fact her six-month notice period would have entitled her to at least £130,000.

This makes a stark contrast with other disgraced principals, whose large payouts when they finally walked away from their colleges have often earned them infamy.

In June it was revealed that Mike Hopkins, the former principal of Sussex Downs College, had been placed on gardening leave since March following the college’s merger with Sussex Coast College Hastings.

During the five months he remained on gardening leave before the end of the academic year, Mr Hopkins was paid £80,000 by the college, despite the fact Sussex Downs was facing a deficit of £1.9 million and planning a wave of staff redundancies. He also received a final payout for leaving, but it is not known how much this was.

Amarjit Basi resigned as principal of the Cornwall College Group in July 2016 against a backdrop of financial troubles. Despite the college receiving a financial warning notice from the government in April 2016, and preparing for staff redundancies in May, Mr Basi left with a £200,000 payout.

His successor, Raoul Humphreys, resigned from the college last week, but it is not clear if he will also receive such generous remuneration.

Matt Waddup, head of policy and campaigns at the University and College Union, said: “It is important that principals and senior leaders leaving their colleges as a result of their poor management decisions are not financially rewarded for doing so.

 “College funding should be focused where it is needed most – on frontline delivery of students’ education – not on excessive salaries or payoffs for those who have already left the institution.”

 A report from the FE commissioner, published last week, criticised “serious corporate failure” at West Notts College and said it had reached the point of “financial crisis”.

 The intervention report, which had been written back in August, warned that Dame Asha and the college’s board had “overseen a serious business failure which will impact on the whole college” and called for an “urgent review that ensures that those with ultimate responsibilities are held to account”.

 It is understood that Dame Asha’s departure from the college took place shortly after the college board conducted the review as advised.

Dame Asha was approached for comment.