Student Administration

Honorary Degrees - Procedure Guide

Honorary Degree nomination procedure


Degrees which may be conferred:

  • Doctor of Divinity (DD)
  • Doctor of Laws (LLD)
  • Doctor of Medicine (MD)
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)
  • Doctor of Letters (DLitt)
  • Doctor of Science (DSc)
  • Doctor of Music (DMus)
  • Doctor of Science in Social Science (DSc (Social Science))
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery (DVM&S)
  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc)
  • Doctor of Education (DEd)

The University may also confer the Degree of Doctor honoris causa (Dr h c). Nominations for the degree of Doctor honoris causa should meet the following criteria

  • Outstanding personal contributions to the work and development of the University – in the case of (normally former) members of staff, extending beyond their immediate area of responsibility;
  • Outstanding social, economic or cultural contribution to Edinburgh or Scotland;
  • Outstanding work, public service or contribution to society more generally in areas of particular relevance to the University’s values and mission;
  • Outstanding achievement by an alumnus/a, especially combined with one of the above.

Format of Nominations

Nominations should be submitted on the forms provided by the Secretary to the Committee:

(a) a completed nomination form

(b)(i) a supporting submission which contains an introductory statement setting forth the principal grounds for the distinction;

(ii) a brief chronological, narrative account of the nominee's life and work;

(iii) an outline of the nominee’s most significant academic or other achievements;

(iv) an assessment of his/her standing on a basis of international comparison or in the life of the nation;

(v) Edinburgh connection or link (please provide evidence of what benefit has been received within the University or the City); and

(vi) any other information the proposer would wish to bring to the attention of the Committee.

(c) nominations should be accompanied by details of the nominees' published works in an Appendix.


Guidance on Nominations

At their meeting of 4th May 2018, Chaired by Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Mathieson, the Honorary Degrees Committee discussed and agreed the points noted below. 

Colleagues from across the University are encouraged to propose candidates for Honorary Degrees and should note the following guidance which summarises how the committee will consider the nominations:

General principles

  • Conferring one Honorary Degree at each graduation ceremony is considered the ideal number.
  • The first choice is always to confer Honorary Degrees at one of our own graduation ceremonies rather than a special ceremony at a different time of year.
  • Only in exceptional circumstances will we confer out of cycle, such proposals must demonstrate a compulsive case and should be checked at an early stage with Principal’s Office (Fiona Boyd). 
  • If degrees are conferred at special events, such as the International Book Festival, then the proceedings should be recorded, where possible, so that parts can be played at the relevant graduation ceremony.

Nominators should consider 3 key questions and seek to answer them when putting together the information on the nomination form:

  1. Why am I nominating this particular person?
  2. Why is it important to the University of Edinburgh?
  3. Why at this specific point in time?

Indication of priorities

The committee will consider:

  • Excellence in the candidates’ chosen field.
  • The relevance of the candidate to the graduating students and the strength of their ability to be a role model for the students.
  • Connections to/with our University or, occasionally, the city itself.  The committee will look for an element that makes the nomination unique to Edinburgh.  If this is not evident then the other criteria, such as the extent to which the nominee will be seen as a strong role model, must be particularly evident.
  • The number of Honorary Degrees already held by the individual, a high number not being desirous as there is a sense that this may negate the argument for the degree being unique to Edinburgh.  

Other considerations the Committee will take into account:

  • The distinction between University Benefactor status and that of awarding an Honorary Degree.
  • Diversity matters.


Nomination Form