Only 32% of honorary degrees given out by Newcastle University since 2006 were awarded to women, investigations by the Courier have revealed.
From 2006 to 2019, 109 honorary degrees were awarded, of which 35 went to women. The amount allocated varied drastically each year, with 2008 being the only year where more women received honorary degrees than men.
All six honorary MDs awarded since 2006 have gone to men. 84% of the 19 Doctor of Science degrees (DScs, also known as ‘higher doctorates’) also went to men.
The most common type of honorary degree, the Doctorate of Civil Law (DCL), has been awarded 66 times since 2006. Of these, 24 – or 36% – went to women.
A spokesperson for the University told the Courier “We have a long tradition of awarding honorary degrees to individuals who are distinguished in their field and who have made a significant contribution to society. The University welcomes nominees from a diverse range of backgrounds.”
The University identifies three main aims of honorary degrees. They exist to reflect the University’s links; to publicly show its values and commitments; and to promote opportunities for future developments and partnerships.
The University uses the following criteria for awarding honorary degrees:
- The individual must have obtained the very highest standards in scholarship or have outstanding achievement worthy of national or international recognition
- The award should acknowledge, or help establish, a clear, ongoing connection with the University
- There should be a balance over a period of time of the various subjects or professions recognised by the award of honorary degrees
- The majority of degrees awarded in any one year should reflect the University’s academic commitment and profile
- The University should not normally award honorary degrees to government ministers or opposition front bench spokesmen. Honorary degrees may be awarded to politicians but normally only after they have retired from front bench roles.
Notable recipients of honorary degrees from Newcastle include Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus – the current Director-General of the World Health Organisation – and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Perhaps the most notable recipient of an honorary degree from Newcastle University is Martin Luther King Jr., who received an honorary DCL in 1967. Newcastle was the only UK University to award King an honorary degree during his lifetime, in a ceremony that took five months before his death.
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Last modified: 3rd August 2020