6 Reasons Why Honorary Degrees Are A Joke (FAQs)

Reasons Why Honorary Degrees Are A Joke

Honorary degrees are awards that do not hold a lot of value. To most people, receiving an honorary degree is a complete joke and a waste of time.

However, before we consider some of the factors that justify this ideology that people share about honorary degrees, we will first look at what honorary degrees are.

So, read on to find out:

What Is An Honorary Degree?

An honorary degree is an academic degree awarded by a tertiary institution to a person without the need to complete the standard academic requirements for such a degree.

Honorary degrees are normally awarded as doctorates or master’s degrees.

This degree is conferred on a person who has not undergone any academic program at the university.

You can easily spot a recipient of an honorary degree if their award carries the following convention: Doctorate in Business Administration (Hon.)

Moreover, an honorary degree is given to an eminent visitor to honor their positive impact on a particular industry or the country.

To avoid any mix-up, it has been recommended that honorary degrees be listed in the award section of a CV rather than the education section of the same document.

There are currently lots of free honorary degrees available online.

Honorary Degree vs. PhD

One does not need to go through the rigors of academic study or research to receive an honorary degree. Nonetheless, the institution must first approve the nominees.

Bestowing honorary degrees draws attention to and celebrates outstanding achievements and services to society.

Philosophiae Doctor is the Latin term for “Doctor of Philosophy,” where the initials “Ph.D.” come from.

In most fields of study, a doctorate is a last and final degree one can earn. Doctoral degree holders are widely recognized as having accomplished the highest scholarly achievement in their respective fields.

When a university decides to bestow an honorary degree on a deserving individual, they essentially bestow a special (albeit largely symbolic) status on that person within the university’s community.

The academic value of an honorary degree is significantly lower than a regular doctorate’s.

Honorary doctorates are awarded to famous people and other notables, but the academic community does not recognize them.

Reasons Why Honorary Degrees Are A Joke

Since the inception of honorary degrees, most people have received them more than anything else for their contributions to a particular industry.

However, while some may think that awarding a Grammy winner an honorary degree for releasing several hit songs yearly may be a nice idea, the opposite is true.

This is because awarding a musician a doctorate degree is a complete disregard to people who worked so hard to obtain it.

On the other hand, it completely misrepresents his or her credentials.

Earning a Ph.D. is one of the most difficult tasks that anyone can be asked to do. This is why many drop out of Ph.D. classes halfway without finishing them.

The rest of the people who work so hard to complete the program put in a lot to actualize that and also emerge with excellent grades in a grading system where the minimum grade is a B.

So, simply giving out the same award to someone else who did not have to work hard for it is a complete injustice to those who have put in a lot of work to earn this degree.

Moreover, some educational institutions award honorary degrees to people who have never set foot on their campuses.

So, awarding such people an honorary degree that bears the same name as one awarded to people who have lived on campus for three or four years should not have been encouraged in the first place.

No matter the accomplishment of any honorary degree holder, they do not have the experience of investing a lot of time into earning that particular degree.

So, awarding them that same degree title disrespects those who have toiled hard to land the academic award.

Reasons Why Honorary Degrees Are A Joke (In Details):

1. No Academic Effort:

Beyond Formal Education:

The very essence of an honorary degree is recognition that extends beyond the classroom.

However, the heart of skepticism is rooted in the comparison of years of rigorous academic work versus recognition without that formal structure.

Equity and Recognition:

The juxtaposition of effort versus accolade can seem inequitable.

When two individuals, one with a traditional degree and another with an honorary one, are placed side by side, it can raise questions about the recognition’s value and fairness.

2. Celebrity Influence:

Branding and Image:

Institutions often use honorary degrees to boost their image.

A university might gain much attention by awarding a popular figure, leading to increased applications, donor contributions, and general public interest.

Setting Precedence:

Once an institution starts awarding celebrities regularly, it may inadvertently set a precedent where future awards are expected to be equally glamorous, diverting from the genuine intent of recognizing outstanding societal contributions.

3. Unpredictable Standards:


The lack of a standard metric means that decisions are often based on committee opinions, which biases or external pressures can influence.

Potential Conflicts of Interest:

Institutions might award business magnates, philanthropists, or political figures who could offer something in return, leading to questions about the motive behind the recognition.

3. Dilutes Value:

Perception of Worth:

Over time, as more and more honorary degrees are awarded, especially without clear justification, the perceived value of these awards can decrease, much like currency inflation.

Credibility of the Institution:

If an institution frequently grants honorary degrees without a clear rationale, it can start to affect the institution’s credibility, not just the award.

4. No Real Authority:

Public Misunderstanding:

The general public might not always differentiate between an honorary degree and a traditional one. This can lead to misconceptions about a recipient’s expertise.

Implications in Professional Settings:

In fields like medicine or science, using a title from an honorary degree can be misleading. This is particularly concerning if it influences decision-making in areas that impact public health or policy.

5. Potential Bias and Lack of Diversity:

Limited Representation:

Historically, honorary degrees have often been awarded to individuals from specific backgrounds, potentially neglecting diverse voices from different races, genders, or socio-economic backgrounds.

This can lead to criticism that the selection process isn’t wholly inclusive.

Echo Chamber Effect:

When institutions recognize individuals from a particular group, they risk creating an echo chamber where only certain achievements or perspectives are valued and celebrated.

6. Temporal Relevance and Changing Societal Values:

Controversial Figures:

An individual deemed worthy of an honorary degree in the past might become a controversial figure due to changing societal norms, values, or revelations about their actions.

Such situations can put institutions in a challenging position, often leading to debates on whether to revoke the honorary degree.

Modern Scrutiny:

With the rise of the internet and social media, past actions are more easily brought to light.

Institutions need to be extra vigilant, ensuring their honorees withstand the test of time and scrutiny.

Reasons Why Honorary Degrees Are A Joke

Advantages Of Honorary Degrees

Even though honorary degrees are branded a joke by many people, here are the major reasons why many schools still give out doctorate degrees:

1. Popularity

Many schools give out honorary degrees to enhance the popularity of their schools.

By dishing out honorary degrees to celebrities, for instance, many people will desire to learn more about the school, which attracts more students.

2. Source of funding

Colleges also give honorary degrees to wealthy people to attract huge financial support.

3. Recognition

Many colleges give honorary degrees to people who have made important contributions to a certain field or society.

Read more: List Of Universities Offering Honorary Doctorate In India (FAQs)

Where Can You Obtain Honorary Doctorate Degrees Online For Free?

Currently, almost every school gives an honorary doctorate degree. Here are some schools where you can obtain a free online honorary doctorate degree.

1. Abide University

Abide University offers a free doctorate degree to anybody that is interested in it.

But if you want one from the university, you must write something for one of its journals or other publications.

2. Open University

Honorary doctorates are also available from Open University. But this honorary degree is only for people who do not already have a higher degree.

3. Berkshire University

Berkshire University bestows honorary doctorates on people who have contributed financially or in other ways to the school.

4. Prowess University

Prowess University offers an honorary doctorate degree to people who have made major impacts on the lives of others.

In other words, it is given to people who have performed some form of self-service or philanthropic deed for the benefit of the masses.

However, these impacts have to be those that align with the values of the school.

Reasons Why Honorary Degrees Are A Joke

5. Unicaf University

Unicaf awards honorary doctorate degrees to people in many areas. They also award master’s honorary degrees to people who satisfy some conditions.

6. Bethlehem University

Bethlehem University also awards honorary doctorate degrees to people. To receive this award, a school faculty member must refer a person.

Moreover, members of the school’s Board of Trustees, the International Board of Regents (IBOR), alumni of the school, and people who have assisted in one way or another also have the right to recommend a person for an honorary degree awarded by the school.

But any candidate suggested must still send a letter of application to the school’s Vice-Chancellor.

7. Grace Bible University

Grace Bible University provides free honorary doctorate degrees to people who have significantly contributed to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless, considered candidates have only done this for more than 20 years.

8. Alliance International University

Alliance International University awards honorary doctorate degrees to top entrepreneurs.

However, just like other schools on this list, you do not need to pay a penny for the honorary doctorate degree awarded by this school.

9. Newport University

Newport University is awarded to people who have made massive contributions in a particular area. People do not need to pay a dime for these sorts of awards.

10. Universal University

Universal University gives free honorary degrees to people who meet certain requirements offered by the school.

Frequently Asked Questions on Why Honorary Degrees Are A Joke

Do honorary degrees mean anything?

They do not have to complete any coursework to acquire the diploma they receive as an honor. An honorary degree does not qualify you for professional employment such as legal practice or academic teaching. The recipient of an honorary doctorate is not given the same status as a holder of a regular doctorate.

Is an honorary degree an actual degree?

Honorary degrees are not equivalent to regular Ph.D.s in the academic world. Honorary doctorates are awarded to famous people and other notables, but the academic community does not recognize them.

Is honorary degree legit?

More than five hundred years have passed since colleges and universities began bestowing honorary degrees. Honorary degrees are awarded to deserving individuals in recognition of their significant contributions to society.

Is honorary doctorate same as PhD?

Honorary doctorates are awarded to people who have made significant contributions to their respective fields or to society at large. The recipient of an honorary doctorate is not required to complete any specific coursework or research before receiving the degree.


Honorary degrees are awards that do not hold a lot of value.

Many people regard honorary degrees as a joke because they dismiss people who have worked hard to obtain real degrees and diminish the efforts of deserving students.

However, despite the criticisms of honorary degrees, many schools are still giving them because they help enhance the school’s popularity, serve as a way to obtain funding, and serve as a means of recognizing the efforts of people in a particular field.

Also, people must meet certain requirements before getting an honorary degree from any school. 

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