independent

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Honorary degrees – dubious awards, given the recipients

WITH JIM HAYES

INEVER really understood the notion of the honorary degree. I'm sure anyone who's had to study for years to earn the title 'Dr' can't understand it either when a college dropout made famous through reality TV gets their degree without having to ever set foot on campus.

Susan Boyle is the latest to join the list of celebs with honorary degrees on their CVs. She's been given her degree from Edinburgh's Queen Margaret University for her contribution to ' the creative industries'. Boyle didn't have to attend any lectures or sit exams for her degree, but she's probably more deserving than most.

At least she actually attended St. Margaret's at one point, studying for a certificate in caring. Others have little or no connection with their host college, leading to the suspicion that most honorary degrees are awarded to put universities in the spotlight. Here's a short list of honorary degree recipients which possibly proves the point:

1. Kermit the Frog: The muppet was given an Honorary Degree in Amphibious Letters by Southampton College (the U.S. one) in 1996 for spreading a positive environmental, or maybe green, message.

2. Mike Tyson: heavyweight boxing champ and controversial figure Tyson received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Central State University in Ohio in 1989.

3. Jon Bon Jovi: The Livin' On A Prayer singer was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Monmouth University in 2001. 'Live while you're alive,' he told the attendance, during his acceptance speech.

4. Robert Mugabe: The controversial president of Zimbabwe holds a number of honorary degrees, but the University of Edinburgh, the University of Massachusetts, and Michigan State University have revoked degrees they gave him in the '80s and early '90s due to human rights abuse.

5. Steven Tyler: When the Aerosmith frontman was given an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Berklee College of Music he recalled that he and his his bandmates would drive by the college after playing a midnight set at a local bar for beer. And he recalled telling his mother when he was four years old that he wanted to be a musician when he grew up. His mother told him he couldn't do both.

6. William Shatner: When the Captain of the Starship Enterprise was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from his alma mater McGill University in Montreal he revealed he had turned down offers of other honorary degrees, but had agreed to this one as it meant 'something special'.

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