Genetic fingerprinting, work with refugees, Charles Darwin's letters and the science of cleaning were among 20 winners of the Queen's Anniversary prizes for higher and further education, awarded last night.
Fourteen universities, four further education colleges and two sixth-form colleges were honoured at a reception in St James's Palace.
They will receive a medal from the Queen in February.
The prize awarded to Leicester University's 5*-rated department of genetics, for its work on DNA fingerprinting, was described as a "terrific accolade" by vice-chancellor Bob Burgess. DNA fingerprinting was invented in the department by Sir Alec Jeffreys.
The Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University, which was also awarded a prize, was set up in 1982 to carry out multidisciplinary research and teaching on forced migration. Crucially the centre aims to understand the experience from the migrant's point of view.
It has set up a number of research projects from understanding the media representation of refugees to a study of medical humanitarianism. Many of the projects have looked at children caught up in conflict.