An honorary doctorate is a high level academic honorary degree that an university confers to a recipient and exempts them from the normal requirements for that academic degree. The degree is given to honor the recipient and also benefits the university or degree-giving institution by association. Recipients’ qualifications may range greatly. They can have no relationship to the school, no prior degrees, and no formal higher education, or they can already have substantial substantive education and other honorary or substantive doctorates.
The university usually awards the degree at a regular graduation ceremony and an accompanying speech is traditionally expected. Typically, several people are nominated for the degree and a university panel decides who deserves it most. In some places, however, an honorary doctorate can be applied for. This is common in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland, and frequently requires a relationship with the university. The recipient usually has a rigorous academic record and is often a member of the university staff.
The conferring of honorary degrees may cause considerable controversy for the university, especially if the recipient is political. Former U.S. President George W. Bush’s honorary doctorate from Yale University, where he had previously earned his bachelors degree in 1968, made waves with faculty and students alike, causing a boycott of the 2001 commencement. Likewise, the 2007 protests of Robert Mugabe’s honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1984 eventually culminated in the stripping of the Zimbabwean leader’s award. A degree awarded in a particular matching field, however, does not tend to make a stir, as seen with Joni Mitchell’s unopposed honorary doctorate of music.
Critics also worry that the degree and the title of doctor could be used to mislead others about the recipient’s qualifications. Others claim that honorary degrees are often given with the motive to secure large donations for the university, not to celebrate outstanding achievements. Because of this, many universities are tightening their requirements and raising their standards for honorary degree nominees.
Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, wife of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, was conferred the honorary Doctor of Letters degree by Australia’s Curtin University on February 12 in recognition of her efforts in the development of education, particularly children’s education through the Permata Negara programme.
Does she deserve it?
Well, from the public outbursts and indignation online, it seems that Curtin University has received widespread scathing criticisms from the Malaysian public.
I saw this photo on Facebook….it succinctly sums up the general feelings of the Malaysian public!