Can Colleges Rescind Honorary Degrees?

Can Colleges Rescind Honorary Degrees?

Melissa W.

Can Colleges Rescind Honorary Degrees?


In light of the recent violent insurrection at The US Capitol this week, colleges and universities across the country have sweepingly rescinded President Trump’s slew of honorary degrees (except one). The act of nullifying an honorary degree is rare, as the award is typically set aside for individuals who have made a great positive impact on the world as a way to recognize their accomplishments.

While honorary degrees hold no weight academically, they’re still considered, well, an honor, and while some are given to interesting recipients, the selection process is still a serious one. Colleges and universities are now left reevaluating their guidelines for honorary degrees -- when to give them, and when to rescind.

The University of Washington states their guidelines as, “honorary degrees recognize those who have made profound and enduring contributions to scholarship, culture, and improved quality of life in society at large. Achievements of national or international significance deserve priority consideration. It is important that recipients be persons of great integrity, as the choices we make reflect our values as an institution.”

Georgetown University states, “an honorary degree is one of higher education’s most significant accolades. It is the policy of Georgetown University to award honorary degrees on a selective basis to distinguished individuals who merit special recognition for genuine achievement and distinction in a field or activity consonant with the mission of the University. Only the Board of Directors may authorize the award of an honorary degree.”

Honorary degrees are widely popular throughout the United States and the awarding and rescinding of an honorary degree is up to a college or university’s Board of Directors.

Was an honorary degree given at your commencement ceremony? Let us know in the comments!


Cover photo by Patricia Beatrix Villanueva on Unsplash

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