The University’s mission is to be excellent in delivering learning and teaching, in undertaking research and commercialisation, in promoting research and scholarship, and in governance and management. The University of Aberdeen will be accessible and inclusive. The award of honorary degrees is one mechanism by which the University can enhance its profile and broaden its influence in the national and international communities by extending the range and quality of those associated with the University. To this end, Honorary Graduates will be asked to assist the University in whatever way they consider most appropriate.

Nominations

Nominations for the award of honorary degrees are voted on by the Senate after consideration by the Honorary Degrees Committee. All members of staff are eligible to submit nominations. Heads of School may wish to consult their staff in regard to potential candidates for honorary degrees.

The Senate may confer the following honorary degrees honoris causa:-

Doctor of Laws (LLD)

For those (i) who have made an outstanding and distinctive contribution to legal science, through legal research or in the practice of law; or (ii) who have made an outstanding contribution to public life, at either national or international level.

Doctor Honoris Causa (DHC)

For candidates for whom it was considered appropriate to award an Honorary Doctoral Degree and whose candidature did not meet the criteria for the LLD set out in (ii) above).

Doctors of Letters (DLitt), Science (DSc), Music (DMus), or Divinity (DD)

For those who have made outstanding and distinctive contributions to their subject, at national or international level, either through research or as policy leaders within their profession at national level.

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: candidates would be drawn from a wide range of backgrounds to reflect the diversity of our Region and may, for example, have achieved academic excellence or may have made important contributions to community or University service.

All of the University’s Honorary Doctoral Degrees are of equal standing: each, however, has different criteria for their award, as indicated above.

The University’s ambition is to be a world class University. Our aspirations reflect this aim as we seek to confer honorary doctorates on those who can truly be regarded as outstanding internationally, or those whom we believe, by their contributions in their field to date, will achieve such international recognition in the near future. 

One benchmark in considering whether to submit a nomination is whether there are others in the field/discipline who are more distinguished than the candidate and, if so, what is the rationale for the University to honour the candidate rather than one of their peers. This is not intended to deter staff from submitting nominations but merely to emphasise that the University seeks to award honorary degrees to people who can truly be regarded as outstanding or potentially outstanding. Indeed, our honorary graduates should be proud to be associated with the University, and we should be proud of our association with them.

One rationale for awarding honorary degrees is the potential to foster close relations with those with whom the University is honouring. The University will continue to recognise and honour, by the award of an honorary degree, distinguished academics and those who have made outstanding contributions to public service or their profession, even where candidates have had no or only a limited connection with the University or its Region. However, in considering nominations for candidates who have no connection whatsoever with either the University or its Region, other than those indicated above, the Honorary Degrees Committee will give careful consideration to such nominations and ensure that there are convincing reasons for recommending any such candidates to the Senate for the award of an honorary degree.

The University is committed to the promotion of equality of opportunity and diversity in all its activities. The nomination of candidates from groups that may be currently considered to be under-represented in higher education would therefore be particularly welcome.

Process

Honorary degree nominations are considered in the first instance by the Honorary Degrees Committee.  This Committee, a committee of Senate, reviews all nomations and agrees which should be taken forward for consideration by Senate.  A vote is taken at Senate on each nomination with those being supported by a majority of those voting being approved.  Invitations are sent to those nominees approved by Senate.  Due to the nature of the process, senators are asked to keep the names of those nomiated confidential.

Deadline

Nominations, which may be submitted at any time, should be on the appropriate form, a copy of which can be downloaded (Word) or can be obtained from the Registry (ext 3936).

The Honorary Degrees Committee normally meets twice each year, in May and November. Nominations submitted by 31 March or 30 September will be considered at the next meeting of the Honorary Degrees Committee. Forms should be sent to the Academic Registrar with a brief covering letter indicating by whom the nomination is proposed. Only the form will be considered by the Honorary Degrees Committee (and, where appropriate, subsequently by the Senate).

Staff who would like assistance or guidance in completing the nomination form should contact the Academic Registrar (ext 3936).

Conferment of an honorary degree upon current, retired or honorary members of staff of the University is to be regarded as exceptional and any recommendation for such an award must be supported by special circumstances.

It is also the University’s practice not to award honorary degrees to politicians while still in Office, to avoid the University being considered to have particular political affiliations.

Revoking of Honorary Degree

In very exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary for consideration to be given to revoking the award of an Honorary Degree.  The relevant procedure which would be followed in such a situation is available here.