An Indian PhD student's daughter who braved odds by doing cleaning jobs in a hospital to finance her studies in the UK has been awarded the prestigious VQ Learner of the Year Award.
Piya Das, 23, came to the UK in October 2002 with her father Debabrata, who enrolled for a PhD at the University of East Anglia, and her mother, Barnali.
The Norwich-based Das, who continued to study in the UK after her father returned to India, was presented the VQ Learner of the Year Award for the East of England from TV celebrity Arlene Phillips at a glitzy ceremony in London. The VQ Learner of the Year Awards represent a nationwide celebration of people who have gained vocational qualifications.
Das said after receiving the award: "It's such an honour to be named as the VQ Learner of the Year for the East of England. My vocational qualification has helped me to achieve so much already."
At 16, Das was sent to live with relatives at Luton, where she completed her schooling. She studied for a national diploma in electrical and electronic engineering at City College. On the course, Das was the only woman, but she completed the course and went on to apply successfully for a place at Queen Mary, University of London, where she is awaiting the fourth year of her aerospace engineering degree, starting in October.
At the end of the course she aims to join the RAF as a fighter pilot or an engineering officer. She is currently unsure how she will finance the final year. She has a cleaning job at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
During university term-time from October, she plans to be in London during the week, before travelling to Norwich at weekends to work at the hospital.
David Lane, marketing and communications director at independent education foundation Edge, said: "It's an absolute pleasure to be able to honour someone like Piya. There are many paths to success and she is a fantastic example of how individuals can progress through the vocational route to achieve great things."