The higher education sector remembers Queen Elizabeth II

A collection of tributes to the late Queen from the higher education sector

Michael Salmon is News Editor at Wonkhe

The response to news of the Queen’s passing has been powerful. Voices from across the sector have commemorated her connections with – and interest in – education and its institutions.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in its tribute noted the Queen’s long relationship with the discipline:

As Princess, she became President of the Student Nurses’ Association in 1944 and opened a new RCN library in 1945. She also attended the premiere of the Florence Nightingale movie, The Lady with a Lamp, in 1951 to aid the College’s educational funds.

Julia Black, president of The British Academy, remembered the Queen as a “passionate supporter of education and our disciplines” and as a “keen historian with a love for the arts and languages”. Wellcome director Jeremy Farrar spoke of the “dedicated and selfless public service Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II gave throughout her life”.

Ottoline Leyser, UKRI CEO, shared the following message:

The death of Her Majesty The Queen is an extremely sad and poignant moment for the nation and the world, and on behalf of UK Research and Innovation, I send our sincere condolences to her family. The Queen was truly a remarkable woman and her steadfast service has been a shining light for us all throughout her momentous reign.

The Scottish Funding Council was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Her Majesty the Queen”. The Association of University Administrators offered condolences to the royal family and “all those affected by the news of her passing”. Advance HE paid tribute to “her lifetime service to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth”, and QAA joined “those around the sector and around the world in sending our condolences”. HESA recognised “a profoundly sad moment for our country as we mourn the loss of a monarch who gave such extraordinary service”.

NUS wrote that “our thoughts are with everyone grieving the loss of a Queen who served longer than any other in world history.” UKCISA noted her support for “international students and their contributions to the UK” and “her commitment to building a global network of students through her commonwealth scholarships”.

Professional services organisations including the Association of University Directors of Estates, British Universities Finance Directors’ Group, Council for Higher Education Internal Audit, Higher Education Strategic Planners Association and Universities Human Resources published a joint statement in response to the news:

We often talk and write about the extent of change in Higher Education, and yet Her Majesty’s long reign has spanned 70 years of rapid social, economic, and technological development. She has remained steadfast and selfless in her service throughout and has quietly led during difficult times with wisdom, warmth, and humour.

GuildHE extended its “sincere condolences to members of the Royal Family”. University Alliance remembered the Queen as “an extraordinary leader who meant so much to so many in the UK and around the world, and who leaves a lasting legacy for our nation”. Million Plus offered its sympathies, and the Russell Group its deepest respects.

Universities UK President Steve West made a statement highlighting the Queen’s belief in the power of education and the undoubted impact of her passing on students and staff:

Her Majesty was an ardent supporter of universities and of education as a force for good. Through her patronage of The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes over three decades, she celebrated and promoted the impact and benefits of higher and further education for students, communities, the economy and wider society. She also recognised the role universities play in building an understanding of different countries, cultures and the importance of global networks, exemplified by her role as patron of the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

Universities, students and staff will be sharing their memories of Her Majesty in the days ahead – from her visits to university campuses in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland during her 70-year reign, to the many individuals working in our sector who have been recognised for their contributions through the Honours system.

In politics, Andrea Jenkyns – on Thursday reappointed as minister for further and higher education – paid tribute to the Queen’s values and dedication to the UK and the Commonwealth. Education secretary Kit Malthouse observed that the Queen had “touched the lives of millions, and she will live on in our hearts”, and hailed her wisdom, strength and devotion to public service. Shirley-Anne Somerville, Scottish education secretary, offered “sincere condolences to the King and the Royal Family.”

The Northern Ireland education minister Michelle McIlveen honoured the Queen in a statement, noting that “Her Majesty was a champion of education and an impeccable role model for children and young people across Northern Ireland”. Welsh Economy Minister Vaughan Gething extended his “deepest sympathies to the Royal Family from me and all in our constituency”, observing that the monarch had been “an invaluable source of stability during the immense change throughout her reign”.

All non-essential government and regulatory business has been paused in the days leading up to the State Funeral.

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