If I chose to express my feelings towards honorary graduations through the medium of modern text-speak it would be ‘wtf’.
Don’t get me wrong, the people honoured often have a lifetime of remarkable achievements under their belt. But that, I’m sorry to say, does not a degree make.
Not owning a copy of the OED I turned to the 21st century oracle for a definition:
“An academic degree is a position and title within a college or university that is usually awarded in recognition of the recipient having either satisfactorily completed a prescribed course of study or having conducted a scholarly endeavour deemed worthy of his or her admission to the degree.”
A degree is an award for a set number of years of academic study in a certain discipline, so why give on to an actor or philanthropist? There are other ways to mark their success. In the same vein, I didn’t expect after three years of study to be awarded an OBE or an Oscar!
It’s slightly better when an institution rewards local heroes (or even people within the University who have supported academic life in a non-academic role). Call me a cynic but the whole process often smacks of an easy way to add some celebrity dazzle to university press releases.
On a happier graduation note I really don’t think we celebrate degrees enough! I know so many people who miss graduation…how often to you get to dress up like that?! (Hell, it’s a big factor in doing a PhD, so I get to do it all over again) In that vein I was so very proud of my sister who graduated from Durham a couple of weeks ago. Both her and her boyfriend did amazingly well, although I think the hardest part is deciding what to do next…