Pelé receives honorary degree

Pelé, considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time, has received an honorary University degree.

Katherine Grainger and Pelé

The degree celebrates Pelé’s significant contribution to humanitarian and environmental causes, as well as his sporting achievements - including winning the World Cup three times with Brazil, as well as being named as FIFA’s joint player of the century and the International Olympic Committee’s athlete of the century.

Since his retirement from football, Pelé has been Brazil’s Extraordinary Minister for Sport and was appointed a United Nations ambassador for ecology and the environment in 1992.

Pelé received his degree - his first from a European university - at a reception, held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London on 9 August, which showcased both the sporting and cultural achievements of the University of Edinburgh. Also in attendance was recent Olympic gold medallist and University alumnus Katherine Grainger.

Pelé was also presented with a University football strip.


Watch the highlights from Pelé's honorary degree ceremony:

I am delighted to make this award to one of the foremost sporting figures of our age, who is the epitome of sporting brilliance and élan. He has also devoted time and energy to countless charitable causes throughout the world, and we honour him for his outstanding contribution.

Professor Sir Timothy O’SheaUniversity of Edinburgh Principal

Sporting success


The event celebrates the University’s long and illustrious history of sporting achievement, which includes success at a number of Olympic Games.

Student Eric Liddell won the University’s first Olympic medals at the 1924 Games in Paris, an achievement commemorated in the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire.

More recently, Edinburgh students and alumni to have won Olympic medals include Sir Chris Hoy, Katherine Grainger and Michael Jamieson.

They were invited to the reception along with other University representatives at the London Games, as well as alumni and current students.

Guests could also view a major exhibition at the V&A museum, curated by the Principal of the Edinburgh College of Art, Professor Chris Breward, on British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age.

The exhibition charts the achievements of British Design since the last Olympic Games held in London in 1948.

Office of the Americas

The award of the degree to Pelé comes ahead of the planned opening of a University of Edinburgh Office of the Americas.

The office, which will be based in São Paulo, Brazil, will simplify communication and collaboration between the University and regional partners in education, business and government.

The University’s ties with Brazil range from geosciences partnerships to social science data collaborations and health education links.

Examples include our collaborative centre with Petrobras, Brazil’s national energy company.

The International Centre for Carbonate Reservoirs is a £1.8 million project that uses our world-class expertise to help address the challenge of extracting oil from carbonate reservoirs in offshore fields.

We also collaborate with the Centre for Metropolitan Studies, São Paulo, sharing data and methods in social science research.

Photos by Dave Phillips Photography.

Related Links

Edinburgh University Sports Union

Edinburgh University Association Football Club

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Centre for Sports and Exercise

Study sport at Edinburgh: Institute for Sport, Physical Education & Health Sciences