Aberdeen University revokes Sultan of Brunei’s degree over gay death penalty

The discussion came after he made it legal to stone gay men in Brunei to death


Aberdeen University announced today they will be revoking the Sultan of Brunei's honorary degree after he began implementing a gay death penalty in Brunei.

In an email sent to staff and students this morning, a spokesperson said the senate had voted to rescind the degree after deciding the Sultan's implementation of Sharia Law, which included capital punishment for gay sex and adultery, was "contrary to our strong commitment to the value of diversity and inclusion".

The email told students the degree had originally been awarded "at a time when the University had operated a successful exchange programme" with its counterpart in Brunei, and "when the Sultan had encouraged links between Brunei and Aberdeen due to his interest in our geology and petroleum engineering research."

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Two weeks ago, Aberdeen University told The Aberdeen Tab it would be "urgently" reviewing the honorary degree, saying: "The University of Aberdeen is inclusive and open to all. In light of this new information this matter will be raised as a matter of urgency with the University’s Honorary Degrees Committee.".

The Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, was originally awarded a Doctor of Letters from Aberdeen in 1995. He also has honorary degrees from King's College London and Oxford University, both are in the process of reviewing the degrees.

A petition launched at King's protesting the degree passed 2,500 signatures last week.

Asked why the Sultan had been awarded the degree in the first place and whether they had any plans to rescind it, KCL told The King's Tab: "An Honorary Doctorate was bestowed upon the Sultan of Brunei in April 2011 for his lifelong commitment to higher education."

Celebrities, such as George Clooney, have also spoken out, urging their peers to boycott the nine luxury hotels with links to Brunei. Clooney said: "Let that sink in. In the onslaught of news where we see the world backsliding into authoritarianism this stands alone."

Homosexuality has been illegal in Brunei since colonial laws, but under Sharia Law it is now punishable by stoning or whipping, rather than a prison sentence.

The full statement from Aberdeen University reads: "The Sultan was awarded an honorary degree by our University in 1995. It was given at a time when the University had operated a successful exchange programme with its counterpart in Brunei, and when the Sultan had encouraged links between Brunei and Aberdeen due to his interest in our geology and petroleum engineering research. In light of recent developments, the University undertook a review of how this award now fits with our values.

"Today I can inform you that the honorary degree has been revoked following a vote by Senate, our academic body, which approved a recommendation from our Honorary Degrees Committee. Our internal process also included an opportunity for the Sultan to respond to the recommendation. The response from the Sultan was considered by the Senate and the Honorary Degrees Committee.

"While it is deeply regrettable to be in this position, which is unprecedented for the University of Aberdeen, I fully support the decision. The University of Aberdeen is proud of our foundational purpose of being open to all and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others. The introduction by the Sultan of the new Penal Code is contrary to our strong commitment to the value of diversity and inclusion."