An honorary degree, which usually is a doctorate degree (it can also be a master’s degree but it is less common), is a high-level academic degree conferred by a degree-awarding institution to an individual without the need to complete the normal requirements for the degree. This degree represents a recognition of outstanding accomplishments or significant contributions of an individual to the degree-awarding institution, a specific field or the community in general.
The first honorary degree in history was issued to Lionel Woodville. He was awarded a doctoral degree in canon law by Oxford University in around 1478. Honorary doctorate degrees have become more common since then. Celebrities who have been awarded honorary doctorate degrees include Celine Dion, Taylor Swift, Muhammad Ali, Kanye West and Oprah Winfrey.
Awarding an honorary degree is beneficial to both the recipient as well as the degree-awarding institution. Though not a standard practice, people holding an honorary doctorate degree can use the title “Dr” in their name cards or correspondence. As for the institutions, it is often said that it is a good way of advertisement as the honorary degrees are usually awarded to well-known individuals.
The universities or schools would award different types of honorary degrees, depending on the achievement or contribution of the recipient. Examples of honorary degrees include Doctor of Divinity, Doctor of Laws, Doctor of Fine Arts, Doctor of Humanities and Doctor of Science.
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