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Random Honorary Doctorates Leave Academicians Fuming

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The New Indian Express |  By Express News Service |  10th September 2015 |

COIMBATORE:Academicians and the academic community have raised serious concerns over private academies and unrecognised organisations conferring honorary doctorates according to their whims and fancies. Recently,  a honorary doctorate was conferred on the chairman of a private engineering college on the outskirts of the city, by the International Development Consultancy and Research Foundation, and Academy of Universal Global Peace, for his contribution in the field of industry and academics, on Monday. The event has shocked the academic community in the city.  C Pichandy, former general secretary of the Association of University Teachers’ (AUT) said, “This practice has been there for a long time. Many academicians are also getting such unauthorised degrees. This has something to do with those who want to decorate themselves with ‘Dr’ as prefix, and it all comes for a price.”

“It is unfortunate that such honorary doctorates are being given in the name of some society or academy, and sometimes, even in the name of universities aboard which are not recognised. This has nothing to do with either the University Grants Commission (UGC) or the universities or colleges in India,” he added. “Even deemed universities, recognised by the UGC, cannot confer honorary doctorates. These are all fancy cosmetic business, where people want to decorate themselves with these kinds of doctorates, which reminds me of Herbert Spencer’s statement, ‘Degrees for Decoration’,” he rued. “It is a honorary degree awarded purely for social work and humanitarian service by the Academy of Universal Global Peace. It is done to honour their service,” said R D Lawrance, director, International Development Consultancy and Research Foundation, in The Nilgiris.

When contacted, Madhu Krishnan, chairman, Academy of Universal Global Peace in Porur, Chennai, said, “It is not conferred on academic grounds. We are only honouring people who have done excellent social work for the benefit of humanity, particularly global peace. We are honouring people who worked for nation building and for the sustainable growth of the citizen.” “Academy of Universal Global Peace is an US-based organisation, and we have conferred honorary doctorates to a few select people from various countries, including Prime Ministers, Deputy Prime Ministers, who worked for global peace. Many universities in the world are affiliated to our organisation,” he claimed. He further said, “When the name of a person is proposed or sponsored for the honorary doctorate, a team of juries from different countries go through their credentials and confer the honorary doctorate. In India, we have conferred honorary doctorates to less than 10 people.”

‘UGC Must Draft Norms to Regulate Such Degrees’

Academicians have felt that it is high time that regulatory bodies like University Grants Commission came up with a proper guideline to regulate the practice of conferring honorary doctorates. Former Vice-Chancellor of Anna University E Balagurusamy said, “Honorary doctorate degrees should be given only to those individuals who have done extraordinary contribution for social cause, say in administration, innovation or agriculture.” “But, after the emergence of Deemed Universities the provision for honorary doctorates was being misused. Even some of the State-funded universities are also misusing it for favouritism. Honorary doctorates are absolutely sold,” he rued.

The award of honorary doctorate to a person by a State-funded university needs to be approved by both the Syndicate and the Governor, he added. “The University Grants Commission should immediately step-in and bring regulations and guidelines about who should be given honorary doctorate. The UGC should also make it compulsory and ask universities to incorporate it in their Act and statute. The UGC should also control private agencies and academies which confer honorary doctorates,” Balagurusamy felt. “Apart from this, a honorary doctorate is only a recognition for their contribution, and a person who received such a degree should not use it to improve his popularity. A person who receives honorary doctorate should not use the word ‘Dr’ as prefix. Only medical doctors and those who have got a PhD degree can prefix the word ‘Dr’ before their names,” he said. Echoing his views, former member of the University Grants Commission, Xavier Alphonse, said, “Only Central or State universities can confer honorary doctorate degrees in recognition of services in some field. No private agency or academy can confer such degrees.” “Even in the case of private agencies or academies having collaboration with foreign universities, honorary doctorates can be given in the name of the foreign university and not in the name of the private agency or academy,” he added. It is the right time that the UGC should and must regulate conferment of Honorary Doctorates, otherwise, anybody and everybody will give honorary doctorates according to their whims and fancy, he opined. Former Vice Chancellor of University of Madras G Thiruvasagam termed it unethical and urged the HRD Ministry and UGC to curtail such practices of private agencies and academies conferring Honorary Doctorate.- Courtesy


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