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Brian Cantor, the University's Vice-Chancellor has been made a CBE for services to education.
He is one of three University of York academics to be given an award in the New Year Honours List.
Prof Susan Mendus, Morrell Professor Emerita of Political Philosophy has also been made a CBE for services to political science and an MBE has been awarded to Prof Sarah Thompson, The head of the Department of Physics, for services to Higher Education.
Cantor has been Vice-Chancellor since 2002 and it was revealed by Nouse earlier in the year that he would stand down by the end of 2013.
While he has been behind the expansion to Heslington East and York have gained awards under his tenure, including University in the year in 2010, he has faced plenty of criticism.
Many within the student body have felt he has guided York down the league tables and out of the top ten. He has also been criticised for his expenses claims and lack of visibility and contact with students.
The announcement comes ahead of an important year for the University which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013.
A university spokesperson said of the announcement: "Prof Cantor has led the university through its most dynamic period of growth, which has included the major campus expansion at Heslington East, and York's recognition on the world stage, including being ranked being in the Top 10 of young universities worldwide."
Prof Cantor commented: "I am enormously proud to receive this honour as we enter our 50th year. I do so on behalf the staff, students and friends and supporters of the university who have helped to make York such a success story in higher education."
YUSU President Kallum Taylor commented on the Vice-Chancellor's CBE: "Despite being a young institution, just coming into our 50th year, we've grown terrifically under Brian Cantor's Vice Chancellorship, and we continue to punch above our weight. To see this work go noticed is very positive for our institution."
He also praised the two other York academics who received honours: "As well as celebrating Brian's success, much credit should go to Professors Susan Mendus CBE and Sarah Madeleine Thompson MBE for the recognition they've received. A University's success depends upon the hard work and passion of all of its members, not just one person, so it's fitting that Brian took his CBE on behalf of our key stakeholders here; the students notably, the staff, and York's friends. Hopefully we'll have many more in time to come!"