Honorary degrees are insulting to actual students

Universities are devaluing our degrees

On January 22, Roy Hodgson was awarded an honorary degree from the University of York. Yes, you read that right. The England football manager was awarded an academic qualification for a vocation that merely instructs eleven players to kick a ball.

The University of York isn’t alone in allowing individuals to waive study, yet still achieve a degree. York claims to offer up twelve honorary degrees to “distinguished people”. These individuals often have links with departments or are alumni (Roy Hodgson, as far as I’m aware is neither). However, is it really appropriate to award an academic qualification to people who haven’t participated in the enduring struggle of higher education?

Roy Hodgson hit the nail on the head during his acceptance speech:

“Looking around the room it is also very interesting to see the internationalism of the university, that;s very obvious looking around the room. There are so many foreign students who have had to work for their degree, luckily I actually haven’t had to.”

Okay, maybe I’m just bitter, but I do think working for a degree should be a fundamental element in achieving one. That’s not an unreasonable ask. Those of us who come to uni face the bleak realities of a life of drowning in debt and dreary job prospects. Future students won’t even have a maintenance grant (cheers Davie C). So why should a celebrity, with no link to the University of York, gain a degree without enduring the somber student struggles?

I’m not denying that Roy Hodgson has had a glistening managerial career. However, this doesn’t hide the fact he hasn’t worked academically to achieve the degree.

At York, we’ve been relatively good in rewarding honorary degrees to those deserving of recognition. These include novelist Anthony Horowitz (previously in Vanbrugh), the most senior female judge Baroness Hale and former M&S CEO Sir Stuart Rose.

Other supposedly deserving persons of an honorary degree include boxing legend Mike Tyson (Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Central State University in Ohio), ego maniac Kanye West (Honorary Doctorate from the Art Institute of Chicago) and puppet Kermit the Frog (Honorary Doctorate in Amphibious Letters at Long Island University). Ridiculous.

This is an insult to students. As we attempt to fend off the 2:2 monster, what incentives do students really have to study, when instead of working hard for our degree, we could get slightly famous and have one thrown at us instead?