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Honorary Degrees

Classification number ACD 1599.04
Framework category Academic
Approving authority Academic Council
Policy owner President
Approval date December 2005
Review date To be assigned
Last updated Editorial Amendments, February 18, 2020


Honorary degrees are to recognize persons who have:

  • made an outstanding intellectual and/or scholarly contribution in their chosen field of academic eminence; 
  • provided outstanding service and/or contributions to greater society through non‐academic achievements and/or public service; or  
  • made major contributions in areas relevant to the mission of the University and/or to Durham Region/Northumberland County. 


Academic Council may award either of the following honorary degrees:

  1. Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LLD)

    Awarded for outstanding achievement in the social sciences in the broadest sense, or significant community contributions at the local, national, or international levels.

  2. Doctor of Science, honoris causa (DSc)

    Awarded for outstanding achievements in the pure and applied sciences and engineering, usually through research.


Academic Council shall establish a Committee on Honorary Degrees to be comprised of:

  • The Chancellor 
  • The President (Chair) 
  • The Provost 
  • The Vice‐President of Advancement 
  • Three faculty members 
  • One student representative 
  • The Secretary, Academic Council (ex‐officio, non‐voting)

The Committee on Honorary Degrees is charged with reviewing all nominations and recommending to the President a list of names of potential degree recipients, the type of degree in each case, the appropriate convocation at which the degree should be granted, and the choice of convocation speaker.


  1. Faculty and staff at the University are not eligible for nomination until at least three years after retirement. 
  2. A nominee may not be an active Canadian politician. 
  3. The nominee must be living (if the candidate was to pass away after accepting the nomination, but prior to its award, the degree would be awarded posthumously). 
  4. Nominations that reflect the diversity of Canadian society are encouraged. 
  5. The University shall be under no obligation to award an honorary doctorate in any year.
  6. Normally not more than one honorary degree will be awarded at convocation, although a second single degree may be awarded in exceptional circumstances.
  7. The Committee shall direct particular focus to individuals who have not received honorary degrees from other institutions, but who are clearly meritorious candidates.


  1. The Committee on Honorary Degrees shall call for nominations for honorary degrees in September of each year. Nominations may be received from members of the university community and the community at large. 
  2. Nominations should include appropriate background information, such as basic personal information, a summary of the nominee's achievements and other appropriate supporting documentation. 
  3. All nominations must be forwarded to the Committee on Honorary Degrees on or before October 31. 
  4. The Committee shall meet in November of each year to develop a list of worthy candidates to serve for the convocation(s) of the coming year. 
  5. Recommendations of the Committee on Honorary Degrees will be forwarded to the President for his/her consideration. Names of candidates will be kept on a reserve list for three years. 
  6. Recipients will be selected by the President from among the approved candidates on the reserve list. Candidates chosen shall be contacted directly by the President. 
  7. The outcome of the Committee's deliberations shall not be released out of respect for the nominee and to ensure the integrity of the process. 
  8. If the nominee declines the invitation or is unable to be present at the respective convocation, the President may approach the next nominee on the approved list. 
  9. In the event that an individual declines acceptance of an honorary degree that has been approved by the Committee, or where the conferring of an approved degree has not been scheduled within three years of approval by the committee, the Honorary Degree will be deemed to be cancelled. 
  10. Confidentiality at all points in the nominating process is critical. No discussion concerning nominees shall take place outside of those directly involved in the evaluation process or the formal evaluation meetings. Discussion and voting will be in executive session by all evaluating groups. 
  11. Whenever possible, names of Honorary Degree recipients should be reported to Academic Council before being announced to the media. 
  12. Due to the confidential nature of the proceedings, nominators will be contacted after nomination consideration only if the candidate is selected to receive an honorary degree.


  1. The President will identify someone to present each nominee at convocation. This will normally be a University faculty member and frequently the individual who nominated the recipient.
  2. Each honoree, and especially those from out‐of‐town, will be hosted by a University faculty or staff member, usually the individual performing introductions at convocation. He/she will be responsible for ensuring that the honoree(s) are met at airports, escorted to and from campus events and generally made to feel welcome and appreciated. 
  3. Nominees will normally address convocation but, in some cases, may not be asked to do so.
  4. Speeches should be brief (not to exceed ten minutes) and introductions should be confined to three minutes. All speeches should be directed to the graduating class.
  5. The University will normally host either a luncheon or a dinner for honorees, their immediate families, and special friends.