Serious or Celeb? More Honorary Degrees

More Honorary Degree diversions

Detailed investigation of Honorary Degrees down the years has led me to a simple conclusion – almost all recipients fall clearly into one of two categories: they are either serious or celeb. Needless to say, the former don’t get much press coverage so you could be forgiven for thinking that the 90% of recipients who are huge achievers in their field, who may be Nobel prize winners or tremendously distinguished artists or scientists, simply don’t exist because they aren’t, well, just celebrities. Indeed this is what the papers now seem to suggest as they really just don’t get it.

The Independent recently carried a piece in which seemed to misunderstand the honorary element of honorary degrees. This echoes a piece several years ago in the Daily Mail which, without a trace of irony, bemoaned the debasing of the educational currency of honorary degrees as evidenced by the increase in the involvement of celebrities.

So, although there are a few borderlines, by and large I think you can divide the worthy holders of honoraries into serious or celeb. And, having criticised the media for focusing exclusively on the latter, I am going to do exactly the same, because it’s more fun.

A previous post on last year’s round of awards noted the wide range of celebrities who have collected honoraries, from Donald Sinden to Pam St Clement. An earlier piece noted the success of some individuals in accumulating large numbers of honorary awards (although Kermit has still only got the one degree as far as I can tell).

Anyway, the cream of this year’s crop is as follows. You have to say that most of them you would regard as celebrity awards rather than serious. But I am open to challenge on that:

Fabrice Muamba – University of Bolton

Susan Boyle – Queen Margaret University

Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter films) – Leeds Met

June Spencer (Peggy Archer) – here at University of Nottingham

Jools Holland – University of Kent

Walter Smith (former Rangers manager) – Glasgow Caledonian University

 Hilary Devey (Dragons’ Den star) – University Bolton

Michael Eavis – University of Creative Arts (presumably not just for services to the dairy industry)

Ann Widdicome waltzed along to the University of Birmingham

Barbara Dickson – Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Steve Heighway (former Liverpool footballer) – Warwick

Johnny Marr – Salford (actually debatable – definitely celeb but also musical genius)

So, serious or celeb? You decide.

One of the best awards this year though must be to Elbow singer Guy Garvey who was made an honorary Doctor of Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University:

The Bury-born singer was made an honorary Doctor of Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University at a graduation ceremony for the Faculty of Art and Design.

He told the audience that the award means a lot to him and dedicated it to his bandmates, his family and girlfriend, novelist Emma Unsworth.

Guy said: “Because of the band, none of us went to University – well, Pete did a term at Salford until we spent his grant – so this means a lot to me.”

And to finish off, my favourite piece in which Stella McCartney and Lulu Guinness get great coverage here of their recent awards from the University of the Arts London. Lulu Guinness said. “I did not have a formal training in handbag design, so this makes this extra special.”

Roll on next year.

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