Nov 20, 2015
Tackling £150bn slave trade wins University of Hull The Queen’s Anniversary prize

The University of Hull has been awarded the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its research into slavery – a problem that continues to blight the world. 

The award was announced tonight (November 19) at a ceremony at St James’ Palace in London attended by the University’s Chancellor, Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone, and the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Calie Pistorius. It recognises the world-leading work of the University’s Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation for its transformational studies of slavery and emancipation issues, both historical and contemporary, and for helping to reveal the extent of the incidence of modern day slavery. 

An estimated 35 million people are enslaved worldwide in an illegal trade worth £150 billion, more than at any point in history. The Wilberforce Institute now serves as the hub for a new five-year project bringing the lessons of the past to bear on issues of modern-day slavery. The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes are awarded every two years to universities and colleges who submit work judged to be beneficial for the institution itself and for people and society generally. They are regarded as the most prestigious form of recognition for UK academic and vocational institutions. For the 2014–16 period, only 21 prizes have been awarded and the medals will be presented at Buckingham Palace in February 2016.

The Wilberforce Institute, named after Hull’s most famous son, the abolitionist William Wilberforce, stands next to Wilberforce House in Hull’s Old Town and has formed an extensive range of partnerships in the UK and overseas, attracting research income worth millions since starting out in 2006. Its director, Professor John Oldfield, said that the institute had helped revise estimates of modern slavery by working with the Walk Free Foundation to develop the Global Slavery Index, which is seen as one of the most reliable indicators of the scale of the problem. 

“Winning the Queen’s Anniversary Prize is a huge honour that demonstrates the cutting edge nature of our work and is a great tribute to our colleagues, past and present. It confirms our position as one of the leading institutions of our kind in the world and shines a light on this critical contemporary issue; there are more slaves today than in the time of Wilberforce.” 

Professor Pistorius said: “We have a hugely talented team and this prestigious prize is testament to their continued passion and dedication. We commend their transformational work on the study of slavery and emancipation issues, and the impact their research has on lives around the world today.” Baroness Bottomley said: “We are absolutely delighted that our world-leading work in the study of both historic and contemporary slavery has received this great honour. It is a proud day for everyone at the University of Hull.” The Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson MP, added: “The outstanding academics recognised with these awards bring benefits to the everyday lives of millions of people in the UK and deserve this high honour for their work.”