The head of the standards watchdog, Peter Williams, and the retired vice-chancellor of London South Bank University, Deian Hopkin, have been honoured by the Queen.
Professor Hopkin, who is a member of the Times Higher Education editorial board, was knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for services to higher education and skills.
Mr Williams, the outgoing chief executive of the Quality Assurance Agency, was appointed CBE for services to quality assurance.
Professor Hopkin, who was appointed vice-chancellor of London South Bank in 2001 and who retired earlier this year, said: "The citation is for higher education and skills, an acknowledgement therefore of the importance of skills in education, something I feel passionate about."
Mr Williams, who is due to step down from the helm of the QAA in October, was too modest to comment after learning that he was to receive the honour.
The award comes after a period of scrutiny of the QAA, which has been accused of "lacking teeth" during a parliamentary inquiry into standards in higher education.
Mr Williams and Professor Hopkin were among a host of figures from the sector who received awards in the annual honours list.
Others to receive knighthoods included: Bill Wakeham, vice-chancellor of the University of Southampton; Christopher Ricks, professor of poetry at the University of Oxford; Charles Rice, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Aberdeen; David Hendry, professor of economics at Oxford; David Baulcombe, professor of botany at the University of Cambridge; and Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Linda Partridge, director of the Institute of Healthy Ageing at University College London, and Joan Stringer, principal and vice-chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University, were both appointed DBE, while David Warner, vice-chancellor of Swansea Metropolitan University, was appointed CBE.