Among them was Bob Burgess, vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester, who was knighted for services to local and national higher education.
Sir Bob paid tribute to his team at the University of Leicester, which won the Times Higher Education University of the Year award in 2008, and said that his knighthood affirmed his commitment to the sector. "I will carry on doing the things I enjoy doing: making a difference to higher education and the student experience."
Other academics honoured included John Burn, professor of clinical genetics at Newcastle University, and Paul Mellars, professor of prehistory and human evolution at the University of Cambridge, who were also knighted.
Valerie Beral, director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, and Claire Bertschinger, course director at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, were appointed DBE.
Michael Wright, vice-chancellor of Canterbury Christ Church University, was appointed CBE in recognition of his contribution to higher education and his adopted home of Kent. Speaking after the list was unveiled on 31 December, he thanked colleagues and the governing body at Canterbury for their "enormous support".
Elsewhere, Alison Campbell, managing director of King's College London Business, made history as the first person to be rewarded in the list for services to knowledge transfer, being appointed OBE.
Expressing her "great delight", she hailed the honour as a "fantastic recognition" of knowledge transfer as a "mature" discipline.
She added that it was particularly gratifying given the funding cuts in the sector and warnings of a turbulent time ahead. "It's a difficult time for all of us, and it's just great to be acknowledged as a sector," she said.