The University of Glasgow has received the most prestigious award in higher education for its "world-leading" work on Scotland's national poet.

The Queen's Anniversary Prize has been awarded to the university for its projects on Robert Burns - most notably 'Editing and Curating Burns for the 21st Century'.

It was one of 22 institutions across the UK which have received the award this year, with City of Glasgow College, Scotland's Rural College, and the University of Strathclyde also among the winners.

Colleagues at the Centre for Robert Burns Studies said they were "thrilled and honoured" to receive the accolade.

They said in a statement: "The team have worked extremely hard to channel our unique concentration of expertise to create a world-leading research centre, illuminating Burns’s life, works, economic impact and legacy through interdisciplinary scholarship, cutting-edge teaching, and wide-reaching knowledge exchange activity with a worldwide network of scholars, Burns enthusiasts and stakeholders.

"This very significant endorsement of Burns Studies at Glasgow means a great deal to us insofar as it recognises the cultural significance of Burns as a national and international poet and the impact of our major research projects to secure and evolve Burns’s textual, economic, and wider cultural legacies for the 21st century.

“We are excited by the possibility that an honour such as this will draw yet further attention to Burns’s iconic international status, and it’s our intention to harness this to catapult Burns Studies into yet another new and exciting phase of research.”

The Herald: Students study Robert Burns’ book in Special Collections, University of Glasgow LibraryStudents study Robert Burns’ book in Special Collections, University of Glasgow Library (Image: University of Glasgow)

The Queen's Anniversary Prizes celebrate excellence, innovation and public benefit in work carried out by UK colleges and universities.

The prizes are the highest national honour awarded in UK further and higher education and are granted every two years. They are run by the Royal Anniversary Trust, an independent charity.

City of Glasgow College received the accolade for its life-saving research into tackling oxygen depletions in enclosed spaces on-board ships. 

While Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) was praised for improving animal health and welfare through excellence in veterinary services. 

And the University of Strathclyde was awarded for "excellence, innovation and entrepreneurship in photonics". 

'A superb honour'

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: “I am delighted and proud that the Royal Anniversary Trust has seen fit to honour the incredible work of our Centre for Robert Burns Studies with one of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize awards."

He congratulated the team at the centre for the "richly deserved" recognition, and said: “Burns’s enduring appeal continues to drive interest not just in his work and life, but in Scotland as a whole, which has in turn helped to drive tourism, economic benefit and has positioned our centre as a leader in research, innovation, and education in this field."

Professor Muscatelli said the university is "truly honoured" to have the efforts recognised, and the "wonderful news" means it now has six Queens Anniversary Prizes. 

The Herald: The Robert Burns statue in Dumfries Town CentreThe Robert Burns statue in Dumfries Town Centre (Image: University of Glasgow)

Professor Jo Gill, vice-principal, and the head of the college of arts and humanities at the University of Glasgow, said: “It is a superb honour for our colleagues and students at the Centre for Robert Burns Studies to be recognised with a Queen’s Anniversary Prize.  

“It is also a great example of the university’s continued commitment to supporting world- leading research in the arts and humanities. 

“This award is well deserved recognition for the commitment of our staff and students over many years to the scholarship of Scotland’s acclaimed poet and to the centre’s work in engaging a new generation of readers from around the world.” 

Previously the university won the Queen's Anniversary Prize in 1994, 1998, 2013, 2017 and 2021. The 22 prize winners will receive their awards at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace in February 2024. 

The Prizes are managed by The Royal Anniversary Trust, an independent charity established to mark the 40th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession in 1992.

In January 2020, a report by the Centre for Robert Burns Studies revealed Scotland’s national bard is worth just over £200 million a year to the Scottish economy and the poet’s brand is worth nearly £140 million annually.