Nirmala Rao is the Vice Chancellor of the Asian University for Women (AUW), Chittagong, Bangladesh. Prior to joining AUW, she was Pro-Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, between 2008 and 2016, and before that as Pro-Warden for Academic Affairs at Goldsmiths College, University of London. 

Nirmala was elected Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in 2003.  She has extensive experience of public service, serving as an advisor to a range of bodies including the UK Audit Commission and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and as lay member of the General Council of the Bar of England and Wales, a non-executive director of Ealing Hospital NHS Trust and an appointed member of the Architects Registration Board in London. Nirmala has published widely in the field of urban politics and was awarded an OBE for services to scholarship at the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2011.