Dr Vijay Sharma appointed Pro-Chancellor for Community Engagement at the University of Leicester

The former Head of the BBC Asian Network has been appointed Pro-Chancellor for Community Engagement at the University of Leicester.

Dr Vijay Sharma will work to foster greater interconnections between the University, the City of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

Dr Sharma has been a long-established member of the University of Leicester community for over 10 years and has had voluntary roles on Philanthropy Board, Audit Committee, as a lay member and Vice-Chair of the University Council. She was also the inaugural Chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Board and has helped support numerous University fundraising efforts, particularly in the area of health. She was given an honorary degree for her contribution and service in 2014.

In her new role she will act as an ambassador and advocate for the University, supporting campaigns and the Our Citizens strategic theme. She will also engage with stakeholders in various groups including the community locally and internationally, philanthropy and fundraising, outreach and inclusion, and heritage and culture. The role is an honorary position with a three-year term.

She said: “This role embodies community engagement in the widest sense of the word. I want to increase the visibility of the University and make connections that ignite people’s interests and help them better understand that the University is for them, the people of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. I look forward to building on all the work that has already taken place in this area and working alongside the other colleagues and Pro-Chancellors.”

Chair of Council Gary Dixon said: “I’m very pleased to see Vijay take on this important role to further enhance the University’s reputation with our community and to help generate better two-way conversations about how the organisation can support the city and counties.”

President and Vice-Chancellor Nishan Canagarajah said: “I’m delighted to formally welcome Vijay into this role. We are very grateful for the contribution made by all of those who serve on our Council and committees – they make a huge difference to the work of the University and in understanding how we can better support the community of which we are proud to be part.”

Dr Sharma pioneered the concept of a national public service radio station targeting the Asian diaspora living in Britain within the BBC. She transformed six hours a day radio programming on the local BBC Radio Leicester into an award-winning national digital radio service. The Asian Network is today transmitted around the world and has been instrumental in launching the careers of a number of today’s well-known radio and television journalists and personalities.

Dr Sharma is a trained social worker completing her masters in social work from University of Warwick, practicing as a social worker in Nottinghamshire, after undertaking community work at the Foleshill Community Centre, in Coventry.

She was appointed as the first race relations advisor to the chief executive of Leicestershire County Council before joining the BBC Radio Leicester as an education producer. Her brief was to oversee the development of the Asian, African, Caribbean and youth programmes, before being promoted to take charge of developing and extending the Asian programme strand.

During her career, she has undertaken many non-executive director and trustee roles in health, higher education, regional government, probation, the performing arts and charities, for example, Gingerbread, advocating rights of single parents and the Leicester Theatre Trust - Curve.

Dr Sharma served as non-executive director and as vice chair on East Midlands Ambulance NHS Trust for nine years, her term ending in September 2023 (where she chaired the both the workforce committee and the audit committee, was the trust board champion for freedom to speak up and board lead for equality, diversity and inclusion).

Currently she is a trustee of Rainbows (an East Midlands children’s hospice), a member of the Board of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation and trustee of Leicester Theatre Trust - Curve.  She is a qualified executive coach/mentor and was awarded a diploma in professional coaching-mentoring in 2018. 

She has also been awarded an honorary doctorate degree by De Montfort University and the fellowship of the Radio Academy for her services to broadcasting.