Honorary Degrees

Honorary Degrees

The award of an honorary degree by the University of Aberdeen is one means by which we seek to continue to achieve our foundational purpose of being ‘open to all and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others’.

By awarding such degrees the University endeavours to promote learning and community, while creating enduring ties with outstanding individuals across a wide range of fields.

The Honorary Degrees Committee’s primary role is to consider nominations for honorary degrees and make recommendations to the Senate, where ultimate approval rests.



The Honorary Degrees Committee’s primary purpose is to consider nominations for honorary degrees and make recommendations to the Senate.


The Honorary Degrees Committee's primary role is to consider nominations for honorary degrees and make recommendations to the Senate.  Ultimate approval of decisions on whether to offer honorary degrees to a particular candidate, rests with the Senate.

The Honorary Degrees Committee also, from time to time, reviews the University's practices and procedures regarding honorary degrees and makes recommendations to the Senate, as appropriate.

Composition and Membership

Composition and Quorum

  • Principal (Convener)
  • Senior Vice-Principal
  • Vice-Principal (Education)
  • Vice-Principal (Research)
  • Vice-Principal (Regional Engagement and Regional Recovery)
  • University Secretary
  • External Relations Representative
  • President of the Students' Association
  • 12 Members of the Senate, for a four-year term of office

Quorum:  50%

Membership for 2022/23

  • George Boyne
  • Karl Leydecker
  • Ruth Taylor
  • Marion Campbell
  • Pete Edwards
  • Tracey Slaven
  • Phil Bale
  • Vanessa Mabonso Nzolo
  • Kate Gillies (until Sept 2023)
  • Andrew McKinnon (until Sept 2024)
  • Sam Miller (until Sept 2024)
  • Pietro Marini (until Sept 2024)
  • Vacant (until Sept 2024)
  • Vacant (until Sept 2024)
  • William Barlow (until Sept 2026)
  • Karen Scott (until Sept 2026)
  • Mary Stephen (until Sept 2026)
  • Vacant (until Sept 2026)
  • Vacant (until Sept 2026)
  • Vacant (until Sept 2026)

Clerk:  Rachael Bernard (Governance & Executive Support)


The procedure is in three stages:

  1. A nomination by a member of University staff
  2. Consideration by the Honorary Degrees Committee (HDC)
  3. Approval by vote of the Senatus Academicus


Any member of the University staff may nominate a candidate by completing and submitting a nomination form.

As part of its commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion, the University is particularly keen to receive nominations for members of under-represented groups.


All nominations are considered by the Senate Honorary Degrees Committee (HDC).  Due diligence checks are undertaken on nominated candidates prior to nominations being considered by the HDC.  The HDC consults with the Heads of Schools as well as the Chancellor and the Senior Governor, as appropriate, regarding the merits of the nominees. The HDC may also make whatever further consultations it considers appropriate.

If a candidate is considered suitable for the award of an honorary degree, the recommendation is then confidentially communicated to the Senate.


Members of the Senate are invited to confidentially inform the Principal, in his capacity as Convenor of the Honorary Degrees Committee, of any grounds why a candidate may not be suitable for an award. If the Principal receives any objections he will consult with the members of the HDC as to whether it is appropriate to withdraw a nomination.

At the subsequent plenary meeting of the Senate attending members carry out a confidential vote on whether or not to award an honorary degree to the submitted candidates. A simple majority is required for a nomination to be confirmed.

The proposer of any candidate will be confidentially informed of the outcome.


The University places great importance on the values of diversity, equality and inclusion, as well as on the values of freedom of expression and of freedom of academic, religious, political and moral belief.

Honorary degrees are only given to those who share these values and meet the following criteria, which should be seen as alternative, rather than cumulative.

They seek to recognise and honour excellence and high achievements in:

  • Teaching, learning and scholarship in any academic discipline
  • The creative and performing arts
  • Athletics and sports
  • Public service
  • The promotion of human welfare and human rights
  • Private enterprise
  • Philanthropy
  • Outstanding service to the University of Aberdeen

University and community connections

In any of the above areas it is especially appropriate that the University recognise outstanding achievements by its alumni and staff, and by persons who have lived or worked in the City of Aberdeen or the north-east of Scotland. However, such a link is not a pre-requisite if a potential nominee satisfies the criteria as set out above.

Political service

The University does not normally award honorary degrees to serving UK politicians, although retired politicians may well be considered, as politics is an important form of public service.

University staff

An honorary degree may be an appropriate recognition for a former member of staff who has satisfied the criteria of excellence or service as set out above.  Members of staff may also be considered for the award of a degree of Master of the University for their exceptional service to the University where that is thought appropriate.

Members of the University Court and the Senior Management Team

Honorary doctorates may be conferred on former members of the University Court or the Senior Management team who have satisfied the criteria of excellence or service as set out above.  Former members of these bodies may also be considered for the award of a degree of Master of the University for their exceptional service on Court or in Senior Management where that is thought appropriate.


The following criteria should be used to ensure the award of the appropriate honorary degree for the appropriate achievement:

Appropriate degree

Doctor of the University (DUniv)* (formerly DHC): persons prominent in the arts, sport, public service, environmental protection, cultural heritage and private enterprise.

Doctor of Divinity (DD)* : i. distinguished scholars of religion and theology and ii. distinguished ministers, priests and other religious leaders.

Doctor of Laws (LLD): i. distinguished legal scholars, ii distinguished legal practitioners including lawyers, distinguished judges and iii. distinguished former elected members of the British, Scottish and other democratic parliaments (as all legislators are law makers)  

Doctor of Medicine (MD)*: distinguished medical academics, researchers and practitioners [Currently available by thesis but not yet available h.c.]

Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)*: distinguished dental researchers and practitioners [NOT YET AVAILABLE]

Doctor of Letters (DLitt): i. distinguished scholars in the arts and social sciences and ii. distinguished writers, directors and actors.

Doctor of Science (DSc): distinguished scientists and mathematicians.

Doctor of Music (DMus): i. distinguished scholars of music, ii. distinguished composers, musicians and singers.

Doctor of Education (DEd)*: distinguished scholars of education, distinguished school teachers and administrators.

Doctor of Engineering (DEng)*:  distinguished scholars of engineering and distinguished professional engineers.

Master of the University (MUniv):  for those who have made important contributions to the success of the University, to the local community, and/or to the Region. To be awarded in any area of endeavour.

* Subject to resolution



Nominations can be submitted at any time using the appropriate form, a copy of which can be downloaded here (Word) and here (PDF) or can be obtained from the Governance & Executive Support (ext. x2871).

The Honorary Degrees Committee meets twice a year, in April/May and October/November. Nominations submitted by 31 March or 30 September will be considered at the next Committee meeting.

The Committee’s recommendations will then be considered by the Senate at its November and June meetings. Occasionally nominations are considered by circulation.

Completed forms should be sent to the Clerk to the Honorary Degrees Committee with a brief covering letter indicating by whom the nomination is proposed.

Staff who would like assistance or guidance in completing the nomination form should contact the Clerk to the Honorary Degrees Committee (r.bernard@abdn.ac.uk, ext 3388).