An honorary degree, also known as honoris causa, is a degree awarded by academic institutions to individuals who have been recognized for their work and contribution towards a cause supported by the award-giving body. This type of degree does not necessarily require outstanding academic achievement or attainment of post-graduate studies, as recipients are selected based on their specific accolades. Persons who receive an honorary degree range from politicians, celebrities, writers, to members of the community who have been recognized for their own work.
Qualifications needed for a Honorary Degree
There are no specific qualifications in order to qualify for an honorary doctorate. Colleges and universities provide this degree to selected individuals as a means of honoring their visitor’s contributions not only to the institution itself but to the society in general.
Among the common reasons to grant an individual with an honorary degree are:
- Commitment to a cause supported by the institution;
- Recognized performance in a chosen field, such as the arts, sciences, music or journalism; or
- Long-term involvement in social and community advocacies.
Recipients of honorary degrees normally have no prior connection to the award-giving institution; however, there are individuals who have been awarded with an honorary degree by their supposed alma mater on the basis that they were not able to finish their undergraduate studies.
In the United States, degrees such as LL.D. (Doctor of Laws), Litt.D. (Doctor of Letters), Sc.D. (Doctor of Science), L.H.D. (Doctor of Humane Letters), D.D. (Doctor of Divinity), and Ped.D. (Doctor of Pedagogy) are also honorary doctorates. This is because American institutions do not use “higher doctorates” in their education system unlike in other countries, such as the United Kingdom.
Honorary Degree Application
There is no formal means to apply for an honorary degree, as recipients are nominated and selected by the award-giving institution. A shortlist of individuals is submitted to the board of directors of the institution for them to vote on, and the selected names will be awarded with the degree by the end of the academic year.
Some institutions meanwhile conduct special ceremonies to present honorary degrees to their selected individuals. Reasons to hold such events vary; honorees may be awarded during the time they are visiting the institution, may have been invited for that specific occasion, or in celebration of their most recent achievements.
Individuals who are interested in acquiring an honorary degree may submit their letter of intent to the institution in which they want to be recognized. When making application, a list of achievements, such as honors received from other institutions, diplomas and certifications should be included. The institution will then review the documents and provide an answer by means of a letter of acceptance or rejection within a few weeks or months.
Honorary doctorates are also available in online universities; interested individuals may submit their applications in order to be presented with the degree.
What Can I do with a honorary degree?
Although an honorary doctorate does not require previous academic attainment such as fulfillment of an undergraduate, master’s or doctorate degree, it can be listed under the recipient’s academic achievements. Since an honorary degree is somehow equivalent to an actual doctorate, some recipients address themselves as “doctors,” followed by the field in which they are awarded with the degree.
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