Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: A tribute to her impact on the educational sector | Top Universities

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: A tribute to her impact on the educational sector

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Craig OCallaghan

Updated May 22, 2024



Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

On the occasion of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, we’re reflecting on Her Majesty’s close connections to education and paying tribute to the positive impact she had on the sector during her 70- year reign. 

As part of her ceremonial duties, Queen Elizabeth II visited and developed a close relationship with many universities within the UK, frequently giving speeches to commemorate the opening of a new building or an exciting academic development. 

In 1969, the Queen made her first visit to Imperial College London to open the Sherfield Building. Speaking at the ceremony, she described Imperial as: “the spearhead of a selected attack on the problem of providing more university educated scientists and engineers” in the wake of the Second World War. 

“In this you have been outstandingly successful, for you have grown not only in size but also in distinction as you have discharged the responsibility laid upon you. What is more, you have done much as you have grown to bring the pure and the applied sciences together.” 

More recently, she was Patroness of Queens’ College Cambridge, a role previously taken by the Queen Mother. 

Dr Mohamed El-Erian, the President of Queens’ College Cambridge, said: "Queens’ College was honoured to have Her Majesty as our Patroness. We will always remember with deep affection and great appreciation her visits to the college. On every occasion, she engaged our students, fellows and staff in her uniquely interesting, elegant, and gracious manner. 

"We are enormously grateful for all her wonderful contributions to Queens’, including how she inspired so many members of our community. She will be sorely missed." 

In Scotland, her husband, HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh served as University of Edinburgh Chancellor, with Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal succeeding him in this role. Her Majesty also visited the university frequently, most recently in 2021 when she visited their world-leading Climate Change Institute (ECCI). 

Ground-breaking visits and intimate connections 

While some of her visits to universities and schools will have been ordinary activity for any monarch, it’s worth noting the occasions where Her Majesty also went above and beyond the typical call of duty. 

In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II visited Oriel College at the University of Oxford to distribute Maundy Money at Christ Church, becoming the first monarch since Charles I to do so. 

University of Oxford Chancellor, the Rt Hon the Lord Patten of Barnes, said: “Queen Elizabeth was one of Britain’s greatest monarchs, which is not solely because of the achievements and length of her remarkable reign, as well as the changes and challenges the UK and the world underwent during that time.  

“It is, above all, because of her utter dedication to duty, responsibility, decency and brave integrity. We are all profoundly grateful for her services to the UK and the Commonwealth, which she carried out at all times with generosity of spirit, good humour and wise judgement. 

Inspiring students globally 

Outside of the UK, the Queen was also a guest at universities across the Commonwealth and wider world. On a visit to Australia in 1963, she opened the RG Menzies library at the Australian National University, saying: “Other capital cities may claim to be centres of transport or commerce or military strongholds, but let Canberra's pride be scholarship". 

Her Majesty was patron of the Association of Commonwealth Universities and students around the world have benefited from the Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships set up in her name. 

A spokesperson for ACU said: “Through Her Majesty’s continued patronage, the ACU has provided a forum for global universities to share information, knowledge and ideas, and make a critical contribution to sustainable development across the Commonwealth and beyond.” 

The Queen was also connected to scholarship opportunities in Canada through the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships programme.  

David Johnston, governor general of Canada from 2010 to 2017, said: “Access to knowledge and learning shape a country’s future and advancement. As such, we have a duty to enable our youth to become engaged citizens and offer them fantastic opportunities to develop new skills and connect with others. The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship programme is doing just that, by laying the foundation for our next generation of leaders with innovative minds and a sense of engagement to Canada and the world.  

“In achieving this goal, the QES programme will be a permanent and tangible tribute to Her Majesty The Queen, who through a lifetime of service has embodied this sense of leadership and commitment.” 

Through programmes such as this, the legacy of Her Majesty will continue to be felt, positively impacting millions of young people across the world. 

QS are deeply saddened by the death of Her Majesty The Queen. Our thoughts and condolences are with the Royal Family, as we mourn the loss of our longest-serving monarch.