Shakira has been named the Harvard Foundation's 2011 Artist of the Year.

The Columbian singer will receive "the Foundation's most prestigious medal" in recognition of her music and charity work at the annual Cultural Rhythms festival which is held at Sanders Theatre on the grounds of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on February 26.

Acknowledging the world's most celebrated artists, scientists and leaders for their humanitarian efforts, the initiative is the college's centre for intercultural arts and sciences.

The foundation's director S. Allen Counter said Shakira had been chosen to receive the accolade this year because of her musical contributions to culture and her work helping children in impoverished areas such as Haiti.

He said: "The students and faculty of the Harvard Foundation are honoured to present multi-platinum artist Shakira with the 2011 Artist of the Year award. Her contributions to music and distinguished history of creativity have been applauded by people throughout the world, and she is greatly admired worldwide for her humanitarian efforts through her Barefoot Foundation."

The 'Hips Don't Lie' hitmaker - who has sold 50 million albums worldwide - started the Barefoot Foundation when she was just 18 and has opened six schools through it.

The charity's goal is to ensure that every child has the basic right to a quality education.

Shakira has also been a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador since 2003.

Previous recipients of the Harvard Foundation's Artist of the Year award include Sharon Stone, Will Smith, Matt Damon and Salma Hayek.