Bradford-born TV presenter and broadcaster Anita Rani, best known for BBC One’s Countryfile and as a presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, began her broadcasting career in the city when she approached her local radio station for a job aged just 14.

Now as the Chancellor of the University of Bradford, she becomes the formal head of the institution and will play a key role in University life. Official duties will include conferring degrees on graduating students and chairing the University’s Court. Anita will also be an ambassador for the institution, in the UK and internationally. 

During her glittering installation ceremony on 6th March, Anita made an emotional speech, thanking her mother, Lakhbir, and father, Balvinder, for their guidance and support throughout her life. 

Speaking to Asian Express, Anita said: “This moment is completely surreal and overwhelming – and such an incredible honour. Coming back to give something back to the city which has given me so much love is completely humbling.”

She extolled the virtues of higher education.“Inspiring the next generation of South Asian women is something I hope to do, because I am one myself,” said Anita.

“I was once a little girl who had big dreams growing up with no one to look up to – no one who looked like us were in the landscape. I think it’s really important that young women see other woman succeeding in different roles.

“And to now become Chancellor, with my media background, it’s just a real moment for me.

“What I want to do is help women gain access to education, so encouraging them to go to university is something I’m passionate about.

“Going to University completely changes your life, it opens your world up not only through education but the culture and people you get to meet – this is about instilling the next generation with confidence to step into the world.

“To young women from conservative backgrounds who want to access higher education and who are up against backlash and restrictions, I’d say fight for what you want.

“It’s not easy when there are barriers in place, I know, and everyones families are different; but a degree will not only transform your life, but will transform the lives of your future children and their children, your families and your communities – and that’s what happens when you educate a young woman.

“Don’t let people who have no experience of the world dictate to you what you should do with your life. Respect your family, yes, but they don’t know everything. They may not be educated, maybe they never stepped foot in a college or university.

“Don’t let anyone put a full stop on your education. Fight for what you want.”

Anita becomes the seventh chancellor, following in the footsteps of Lord Harold Wilson (1966-1985), Sir John Harvey Jones (1986-91), Sir Trevor Holdsworth (1992-97), Baroness Lockwood (1997-2005), Imran Khan (2005-14), and Kate Swann (2015-22).

The celebration was attended by the Lord Mayor of Bradford Councillor Martin Love, Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire Ed Anderson, and High Sheriff of West Yorkshire Susan Baker. 

Fashion designer Yashana Malhotra, whose work has previously been featured in Vogue magazine, made Anita’s official ceremonial gown which was showcased.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Shirley Congdon, said: “Anita’s installation marks a new chapter in the life of our university, a chapter that will be focused on catalysing our future like never before. 

“Being born and raised right here in Bradford is something she is immensely proud of. She remains intensely loyal to her city of birth and to her enduring Punjabi heritage. 

“Not only is Anita proud of Bradford, but she also understands its values, its culture, its people, its uniqueness, its challenges, and opportunities. 

“She realises how much this university – and education in general – adds to the city, the region, and its people. In fact, she epitomises the effect education can have on people’s life chances. 

“As a proud Asian woman from Bradford who has worked hard to overcome all kinds of challenges, Anita is an incredible role model for young people. 

“With Anita as our Chancellor, we will create another step change to catalyse more impact and growth.” 

Anita Rani’s TikTok sensation gown designer

Yashana Malhotra, 27, who has 63,000 followers on TikTok and has appeared in style bible, Vogue, was handpicked by the BBC presenter to create an “empowering” gown for the occasion. She said: “When I saw Anita in the dress and gown, I thought she looked beautiful. Then I realised I made it and that’s a nice feeling. 

“Anita wanted something comfortable, powerful, graceful and elegant. You would still recognise it as a traditional gown with the gold and black, but the rest was about having fun with it. Modernising but keeping it recognisable, it stays between both worlds.”

Anita who praised Yashana for the “fabulous” outfit on stage at the University’s Great Hall, said prior to the event: “I’m a huge fan of Yashana’s work and her creativity. She’s a walking work of art. It’s really important that I’m able to give this opportunity to a recent graduate, to highlight her brilliant talent and celebrate another Yorkshire lass.”

Yashana, who is known for her extravagant, oversized dresses, earned a BA in Womenswear at the Central St Martins, London, where top fashion names including Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney honed their art.

Yashana said: “Anita reached out to me on Instagram and proposed the idea of working together. She told me she wanted to work with someone from Yorkshire, of Indian descent. 

“She is passionate about supporting other Indian women and, for her, this was an opportunity to give back and support members of our community. She has learned from her experience, now she’s paving the way for others.”

Yashana grew up in Delhi, India, with her parents and brother Eeshan, 28, an artist. The family moved to the UK when Yashana was seven, but it wasn’t until she was in her teens that she started thinking of a career in fashion. 

She said: “I always had an interest in clothes and my mum used to make clothes for herself, so we have that in common.

“For me, it started off because I didn’t see much I liked on the high street. I would add a few bits and pieces to customise my clothes. It blossomed into making my own outfits and that spiralled into making a whole wardrobe full of clothes.

“I bought a sewing machine and it was a case of trial and error. Even now, I’ll cut something out and put it together hoping the holes are in the right place. Practice makes perfect.”