This paper is concerned with the application of an automated hybrid approach in addressing the university timetabling problem. The approach described is based on the nature-inspired artificial bee colony (ABC) algorithm. An ABC algorithm is a biologically-inspired optimization approach, which has been widely implemented in solving a range of optimization problems in recent years such as job shop scheduling and machine timetabling problems. Although the approach has proven to be robust across a range of problems, it is acknowledged within the literature that there currently exist a number of inefficiencies regarding the exploration and exploitation abilities. These inefficiencies can often lead to a slow convergence speed within the search process. Hence, this paper introduces a variant of the algorithm which utilizes a global best model inspired from particle swarm optimization to enhance the global exploration ability while hybridizing with the great deluge (GD) algorithm in order to improve the local exploitation ability. Using this approach, an effective balance between exploration and exploitation is attained. In addition, a traditional local search approach is incorporated within the GD algorithm with the aim of further enhancing the performance of the overall hybrid method. To evaluate the performance of the proposed approach, two diverse university timetabling datasets are investigated, i.e., Carter's examination timetabling and Socha course timetabling datasets. It should be noted that both problems have differing complexity and different solution landscapes. Experimental results demonstrate that the proposed method is capable of producing high quality solutions across both these benchmark problems, showing a good degree of generality in the approach. Moreover, the proposed method produces best results on some instances as compared with other approaches presented in the literature.