HONORARY DOCTORATES ARE A SELLOUT

Few things make my blood boil more the the crass and indifferent manner in which our universities hand out honorary doctorates to notary publics. Doctorates not earned through any academic effort but conferred because they are deemed to be important people.

The ‘Australian’ today noted that Adam Goodes had been awarded his third honorary doctorate – this time from the University of Adelaide. He already has honorary doctorates from the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales. He joins the myriad of sportsmen, politicans and other citizens who have done good works but not in the academic field.

No one denies that Mr Goodes is a standout citizen who earned the Brownlow Medal and was deemed to be our Australian Citizen of the Year in 2014. My point is that academic qualifications should be earned through academic application and deep study. Honorary qualifications are not so earned and discount the worth of the efforts made by those who study hard for years and years in pursuit of academic excellence. They may help university administrators in some feel good way, but they are given in arrant disregard of the worth of genuine academic effort.

Hundreds and hundreds of people in Australia have been given honorary status and then lauded in a way that must be off-putting for genuine university students.

Honorary doctorates waive all thesis, research and examination requirements. They are pyrrhic. They acknowledge people who have contributed in other arenas in life’s world but not through university study. Their conferral at awards ceremonies must do little to make genuine doctorate earners feel good about the work they have done, their hundreds of hours of study and the many thousands of dollars surrendered in university fees.

Those with the ‘honorary’ title go on their way, generally in a quite affluent financial environment, and in a manner totally unrelated to the university, to students and to tertiary education.

I wish the practice of giving out honorary qualifications would become history.

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