He may have missed out on the presidency of Universities UK, but Les Ebdon will be consoled by having been made a Commander of the British Empire in the New Year's Honours List.
Professor Ebdon, who was beaten to the UUK job by the University of Exeter's vice-chancellor Steve Smith, was honoured for his services to higher education.
As well as being vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, Professor Ebdon heads the Million+ think-tank, which represents post-1992 universities, and sits on the editorial board of Times Higher Education.
In another twist of fate, husband and wife David Cannadine and Linda Colley, both eminent historians, were honoured with a knighthood and a CBE respectively, after reportedly missing out on a prestigious appointment last year.
Both were said to have been in the running last summer for the post of Regius professor of modern history at the University of Cambridge, an appointment that is officially made by the Queen. The post went to Richard Evans, who specialises in the history of modern Germany.
Sir David and Professor Colley were among dozens of luminaries from the sector who made the honours list.
Andrew Cubie, formerly chair of the court of Napier University, was knighted for public service in Scotland. Sir Andrew, who was made a CBE in 2001, wrote the 1999 review that led to the abolition of upfront student tuition fees in Scotland.
He was joined by Martin Taylor, professor of pure mathematics at the University of Manchester, who was knighted for services to science.
Wendy Hall, professor of computer science at the University of Southampton, was made a dame, the only female academic to receive such a lofty honour, for services to science and technology.
Among other women in academia to have had their contributions recognised were Tina Bruce and Henrietta Leyser, who were both made CBEs.
Professor Bruce is visiting professor of early childhood studies at Roehampton University and was honoured for services to early years education, while Professor Leyser is professor of plant developmental genetics at the University of York.
The Order of the British Empire was awarded to more than 20 academics, including Thomas Acton, professor of Romani studies at the University of Greenwich, and Isabel Bruce, vice-chair of the University of the West of Scotland, who was honoured for services to higher education in Scotland and Malawi.
Several other honours announced in the overseas list nodded at the increasingly global outlook of universities and their modern-day links with industry.
Peter Nolan, Sinyi professor at the Judge Business School at Cambridge, was made a CBE for services supporting British business in China and China's integration into the global economy. Meanwhile, David Norse, emeritus professor of environmental management at University College London, was made a CBE for services fostering Sino-British relations.