The Queen and Duchess of Gloucester present education prizes

A rare joint engagement for Camilla and Birgitte

The Queen was joined by The Duchess of Gloucester for a rare engagement this week, with the royal duo presenting The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

It has been reported that The King was supposed to attend today’s ceremony but has postponed all public facing engagements whilst he undergoes treatment for cancer.

A rare joint engagement for The Queen and The Duchess of Gloucester. (Royal Family)

The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes are the highest national honour awarded to UK colleges and universities. They are presented every two years to universities and colleges who submit work judged to show excellence, innovation, impact and deliver real public benefit.

This year, 22 institutions have been awarded prizes by Camilla and Birgitte, recognising a wide range of work, including the development of a simple solution contributing to the elimination of sleeping sickness in Uganda, as well as major advances in robot technology for space exploration.

The pair handed out The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education. (Royal Family)

While The Queen presented the medals, the Duchess handed out certificates signed by the King.

One of the recipients was a college based near The Queen’s home in East Sussex, Plumpton College, received recognition for its work supporting the growth of the UK wine industry. Plumpton is a specialist land-based college and wine industry training institution.

Her Majesty was ‘thrilled’ to present the Prize to the College in the ballroom. Telling academics, Camilla said: ‘I grew up almost next to the college. They are doing a fantastic job’.

Congratulating his team, the Queen said that whenever she visited any vineyard and asked the experts where they had trained ‘they always say Plumpton’, which is the only British organisation to offer wine education to Master’s level.

Jeremy Kerswell, Plumpton College principal and chief executive, said: ‘It means so much, our award was in recognition of all the work the college has done over a number of years which has impacted the growth and success of the wine industry.

‘When I got up onto the stage she said ‘I am so pleased to see Plumpton here’, and she talked about wanting to come and visit and see the college and did make the point ‘your wine is also very good, isn’t it?’

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Among the other prizewinners was the Institute of Cancer Research, honoured for its world-leading breast cancer research. The Queen told the Institute they were doing ‘such important work’ adding that she didn’t ‘know what we would do without you’.

Professor Andrew Tutt, Head of the Division of Breast Cancer Research and Director of the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre at the ICR, said: ‘We are so grateful and honoured to receive this Queen’s Anniversary Prize on behalf of the ICR. I am proud that our efforts to make discoveries that improve and save the lives of people with breast cancer have been recognised with such an important prize.’

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Since the creation of The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in 1993, a total of 318 Prizes have been awarded to 86 universities and 59 further education colleges.

This year’s winners will nominate two colleagues each to join a working party tasked with tackling the ‘Coronation Challenge’, which is a year-long initiative focused on using emerging technologies and the creative industries to ‘turbo charge’ innovation here in the UK.

The group’s recommendations will be sent to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and it is hoped the government of the day will implement them.

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