This Is What Honorary Doctorate Really Means

Getting an honorary degree has become the new measure of success.

From business executives to people in the entertainment industry, getting a honorary degree is the new cherry on the cake for successful people.

Meanwhile, there seems to be a challenge with how some of the honorary degree receivers have carried themselves after they receive the award.

Some of them start writing or mentioning their names with the title ‘Doctor’.

According to some scholars, that is bad precedence.

Honorary degree is often conferred as a way of honoring a distinguished visitor’s contributions to a specific field or to society in general.

It is a degree for which a university (or other degree-awarding institution) has waived the usual requirements, such as matriculation, residence, a dissertation and the passing of comprehensive examinations.

Generally, universities nominate several persons each year for honorary degrees; these nominees usually go through several committees before receiving approval. Those who are nominated are generally not told until a formal approval and invitation are made; often it is perceived that the system is shrouded in secrecy, and occasionally seen as political and controversial.

Some notable Ghanaians who have received Honorary Doctorate degrees include Asamoah Gyan, Gifty Anti, John Mahama, Akuma Mama Zimbi, Jerry John Rawlings, Osei Kwame Despite, Ekow Spio Gabrah, Lordina Mahama, Sonnie Badu, among others.

Instead of writing their names with the prefix “Dr.” honorary doctorate degree holders could add “honorary” or “honoris causa” or “h.c.” in parenthesis after the degree title.

In some countries, a person who holds an honorary doctorate may use the title “Doctor” pronominally, abbreviated “Dr.h.c.” or “Dr.(h.c.)”.

For instance, ‘Dr.h.c. Asamoah Gyan’ is accepted instead of writing ‘Dr. Asamoah Gyan’.

While they’re a nice recognition and probably look good hanging on the wall, honorary degrees are not ‘real’ degrees; in other words, being awarded an honorary degree is not the same as earning an actual doctorate. In fact, an honorary degree is a degree honoris causa, Latin for ‘for the sake of the honor’.

Some western celebrities also have honorary doctorate degrees and you don’t see them calling themselves Doctors.


Meryl Streep has three Ivy League honorary doctorates.

Ben Affleck was honored for his work in the arts.

P. Diddy has received an honorary doctorate and Oprah Winfrey has four honorary doctorates.


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