Glasgow named THE UK University of the Year

Published: 26 November 2020

The University of Glasgow has been named Times Higher Education (THE) University of the Year, it has been announced tonight.

The University of Glasgow has been named Times Higher Education (THE) University of the Year.

Glasgow’s work to redress its historic links to slavery through a significant programme of reparative justice helped it to secure the prestigious title of University of the Year at the Times Higher Education (THE) Awards 2020.

In September 2018, in a UK first, the University of Glasgow published a report based on comprehensive research conducted by historians Professor Simon Newman and Dr Stephen Mullen in our College of Arts which also set out a proactive programme of reparative justice recommendations.

The THE awards - widely referred to as the ‘Oscars of higher education’ - shine a spotlight on the exceptional achievements of individuals, teams and institutions working in Higher Education.

The judges hailed Glasgow as a “hugely deserving” University of the Year.

“At a time when universities are too often on the back foot in public debates about value and relevance, Glasgow stood out as a shining example of what a university should be: institutions of courage and action, uniquely placed to tackle the biggest issues facing the world,” they said.

“By taking a moral position and leading the way in facing up to the legacy of slavery and making amends, it has set the bar high both for itself and for all universities.”



As well as the University of the Year award, Glasgow was also shortlisted in the Technological or Digital Innovation of the Year category for its work to create a three-dimensional virtual reality classroom for students to understand complex molecular structures.

The news comes in a year when the University of Glasgow saw improvements in three major university rankings including The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021, rising two places to 14th in the UK and remains 2nd in Scotland; THE World University Rankings in which Glasgow moved up seven places to 92nd and the Guardian University Guide in which Glasgow rose two places to 12th in the UK.

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: “It is an enormous honour to be named as the Times Higher Education (THE) University of the Year for our work around historic slavery and reparative justice. I want to thank the judging panel and THE for their decision.

“We were the first UK university to recognise our historic links to slavery by researching our past and being open about all that we found. For any institution, talking about historical links to slavery can be a difficult conversation but we felt it was a necessary and right one for our university to have. For Glasgow, this initiative has had an immense impact on our institution today – in the way we teach, the way we think of ourselves and how we think about and interpret our history.

“Issues of race and racial justice are coming more to the fore in our society today not only in the UK but also more widely in the western world. So for me and the University of Glasgow, the work we are doing on reparative justice is also a platform for how we achieve racial justice, not just around our links to slavery but what it means today for a university that strives to move forward putting equality and justice at its heart.

“The programme of reparative justice we have embarked upon at Glasgow is a start but it’s certainly not an end point. I am extremely grateful to our students, staff and partners in the University of the West Indies, in the city of Glasgow and our advisory board who have worked to make this initiative a reality.”

Liam Brady, President of the Students’ Representative Council, said: “This is a tremendous recognition of the ground-breaking work of our students and staff on slavery and reparative justice.

“The SRC is very proud to work in partnership with the University on this programme of active reparations. This works sends out a strong message to our students – past, present and future – not only that the University has owned its history but more importantly that as a modern-day institution it is embedding racial justice and reparative action at its heart.

“It also shows how the SRC is working hard to represent all students, and through the strong working partnership we have with the University we have representation and impact at all levels of decision making.”

THE Awards are the biggest celebration of UK higher education in the calendar. This event recognises outstanding work across a wide range of university activity – in academia and the professional services – reflecting the reality of how they operate, and the interwoven nature of so much of what they do. 


For more information contact Áine Allardyce, Communications Manager, External Relations on email on or

 In September 2018, the University of Glasgow published a report based on comprehensive research conducted by historians Professor Simon Newman and Dr Stephen Mullen into its historic links into slavery.

That report, called Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow, was the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. It acknowledged that whilst the University of Glasgow played a leading role in the abolitionist movement in the 18th and 19th centuries, the institution also received significant financial support – between £16m-200m in today’s money - from people whose wealth was derived, in part, from slavery.

While acknowledging these historical benefits, the University choose to enact a programme of reparative justice including: 

  • The naming of the University of Glasgow’s flagship Learning and Teaching building for 19th century alumnus Dr James McCune Smith, who was born into slavery but went on to become the first African American in the world to be awarded a medical degree. Learn more about the James McCune Smith Learning Hub.
  • The establishment of The Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Research Development with the University of the West Indies in 2019. The partnership commits the University of Glasgow to raising and spending £20 million over the next 20 years. It is expected that the bulk of the funding will come from research grants and benefactions and that the Centre will be self-supporting.
  • The setting up of University of Glasgow scholarships for UK students of African and Caribbean heritage.
  • The unveiling of a plaque to the enslaved in the University’s cloister to mark the fact that the Gilmorehill base of the University of Glasgow was built on the site of a house called Gilmorehill House, owned by a notorious 18th century slaveowner.

You can explore more about the University of Glasgow’s Historical Slavery Initiative on the following web pages - Historical Slavery Initiative.


First published: 26 November 2020

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