These are all the celebrities who have been awarded honorary degrees from UK universities
David Attenborough has 32 honorary degrees 😭
Getting a university degree is no mean feat, you grind away for a minimum of three years (if you’re lucky) and hope that by the end of it you’ve managed to scrape a 2:1. By the time you’ve finished your undergrad, the prospect of going on to do a Master’s, let alone a PhD, is so far off the radar for most people.
However, for celebrities and other famous people of note, getting honorary degrees doesn’t involve the blood, sweat and tears most students would usually have to go through. In fact, universities give out honorary degrees to celebrities without them ever having to step foot in a single lecture.
Celebrities are usually selected to be awarded an honorary degree for outstanding contribution to society, or in their respective fields, over the course of their career. Honorary degrees are the most esteemed award a university can give out and the celebrities given the award graduate alongside the uni’s then cohort. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Stormzy and a former Spice Girl at your graduation ceremony is pretty cool if you ask me.
But what other celebrities have received honorary degrees by universities and what exactly did they do to deserve the award? These are all the celebrities who have received honorary degrees from UK universities:
Stormzy – University of Exeter
The icon that is grime rapper Stormzy was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Exeter this year for his outstanding contribution to society. Alongside his impressive achievements in the music industry, including three Brit awards and one MTV award, Stormzy is also a social justice campaigner. His organisation #Merky Foundation pledges to supports organisations and movements committed to fighting racial inequality, justice reform and black empowerment within the UK.
Stormzy attended the graduation with his family, and said it had always been his mother’s “biggest dream” to see him graduate. He finished his acceptance speech in style, saying: “Dr. Mike, over and out.”
Ncuti Gatwa – Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
The Rwandan-Scottish actor Ncuti Gatwa found fame after starring in Netflix’s Sex Education and is now set to take over the role of Doctor Who. Ncuti is set to receive an honorary degree this week from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the university he graduated from in 2013 with a BA in acting.
Professor Jeffrey Sparkey, the principal of the Conservatoire said he was “delighted to be honouring exceptional artists who not only entertain audiences across the globe but continue to inspire and show real leadership”.
Geri Halliwell – Sheffield Hallam University
This year former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell Horner was awarded an honorary degree from Sheffield Hallam University for her years of philanthropic work in diversity and education.
After rising to fame in the best-selling female group of all time Spice Girls, Geri has spent the last 25 years advocating for children’s literacy, access to education, and women’s rights. Geri has also been the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for women and the role of Vice-Patron for the charity Breast Cancer Care.
Geri described the award as a “great privilege” and will graduate this November alongside the university’s current cohort.
Dolly Alderton – University of Exeter
Journalist Dolly Alderton graduated this year with an honorary degree from the University of Exeter. Dolly found fame for being the agony aunt for The Sunday Times and more recently as the author of Everything I Know About Love, which was turned into a BBC series.
Dolly completed her undergraduate at Exeter, graduating with a degree in Drama and English. In her acceptance speech for the award, she said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to be here. Dr. Dolly is not a title I thought I would have in my lifetime.”
Marcus Rashford – University of Manchester
Marcus Rasford, known as a footballer for Manchester United and the English national team, was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Manchester in 2020 for “for his remarkable campaign against child poverty off the field and outstanding sporting achievements on the pitch.”
During the pandemic, Marcus campaigned for the government to allow about 1.3 million children to claim free school meal vouchers in England’s summer holidays. Marcus was the youngest person ever to receive an honorary degree as he was just 21 years old when it was awarded to him.
Richard Madden – Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Game of Thrones and The Bodyguard star Richard Madden received an honorary degree in 2019 from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The Golden Globe winning actor previously attended the university and graduated in 2007 with a degree in acting. He was awarded the honorary degree for his services to acting and was serenaded at the ceremony by his fellow graduating peers.
In his speech he said: “‘I missed my undergraduate graduation because I was fortunate enough to be working so it feels particularly special to be here today – it feels like I’m finally graduating, albeit 12 years late.”
Justin Trudeau – University of Edinburgh
Randomly, the University of Edinburgh awarded prime minister of Canada Justin Trudeau an honorary degree in 2017. Justin, who combined his trip to Scotland with a visit to the Queen, received the award for his advocacy for equality and diversity.
Alluding to his Scottish heritage and giving the audience a sample of his best Scottish accent, Justin said in his acceptance speech: “If you think you have all the answers then sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you probably don’t. I used to be a bouncer in a nightclub and a snowboard instructor. The last thing I expected to be was a politician.
“There is no right path, there is only your path. Think boldly, but most importantly, don’t settle.”
He concluded his speech by reminding the audience to donate to charity and not to forget to send flowers to their mothers.
Ed Sheeran – University of Suffolk
In 2015, Ed Sheeran was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Suffolk for his outstanding contribution to music. Ed had dropped out of school at 16 years old in order to pursue his music degree and never attended university.
He celebrated the prestigious award with a post in his gown and cap to his Instagram, captioned: “I graduated today, I am officially Dr. Sheeran”.
In his acceptance speech, Ed said: “There’s no key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone, so make sure you please yourself. Choose something you love and work hard at it and you’ll be surprised how far you can get.”
Orlando Bloom – University of Kent
Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings actor Orlando Bloom was awarded an honorary degree in 2010 from University of Kent for his achievements in the world of acting. Famously now engaged to Katy Perry, Orlando attended the award ceremony in his home town of Canterbury with his then wife, Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr.
On his feelings towards being awarded the degree, Orlando told the BBC he was “chuffed”. A man of few words.
Kim Cattrall – Liverpool John Moores University
The Canadian actress Kim Cattrall was awarded with an honorary degree for her contribution to the arts in 2010 from Liverpool John Moores University.
Before she found fame on the American TV show Sex and the City, Kim grew up in Liverpool then moved to Canada in her teens. In her acceptance speech she said: “I am proud of my roots in Liverpool. I feel part of this city. Thank you for bringing me home.”
Sir David Attenborough – 32 honorary degrees
The wholesome legend that is Sir David Attenborough has been awarded a whopping 32 honorary degrees over his lifetime from universities around the world, including both Oxford and Cambridge. He holds the most degrees anyone has ever had and you can’t argue that there is anyone else more deserving.
In one of his many graduation ceremonies, Sir David said: “I think universities are the most important institutions in our society. They are the one place where truth has no reference to commerce or politics, and such kinds of institutions are rare and should be cherished.
“If one of them gives you an honour it should be an honour to be treasured.”