Honorary Degree nominations

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The nomination process

The University of Essex awards a number of Honorary Degrees each year to individuals nominated by our community. These are normally presented at the Graduation ceremonies held each year at our Colchester Campus.

After nominations are collected in the Autumn Term, they are then reviewed by the Honorary Degrees and Fellowships Committee and ranked in order of preference.

Nominations are discussed at the main meeting in the Spring Term and recommendations sent to Senate for approval. Recommendations then go from Senate to Council for final approval.

The chosen nominees are contacted in the Summer Term. This allows time for a relationship to be developed and for the chosen nominees to have contact with us ahead of the conferral of their honorary degree the following year.

How to make a nomination

Nominations are welcomed from all members of our University community including alumni, as well as external members of Council. In order to avoid unnecessary confusion and/or embarrassment, those making nominations are asked to ensure that the person concerned is not aware that their name has been put forward.

Nominations for Honorary Graduate for award in 2025, and future Honorary Fellows, should be made by 5pm on Friday 1 December 2023. 

How the Honorary Degrees Committee works

Criteria for nominations

In accordance with Ordinance 32, the University of Essex each year awards a number of Honorary Degrees at the graduation ceremonies that take place in July. Nominations are sought from all members of the University and others connected to the University, such as external members of Council. The Committee may also consider nominations submitted from outside the University.

All nominations are considered by the Honorary Degrees and Fellowships Committee during the spring term each year, for award in the July of the following year. The Committee reports to Senate and Council during the spring term ahead of the public announcement of the names of the successful candidates.

These guidelines set out the procedures for submitting nominations for consideration by the Honorary Degrees and Fellowships Committee and the general criteria by which nominations are considered. The criteria provides guidance for the Committee and does not constitute formal policy.

Nominations in this round will be for award at Graduation ceremonies in 2025 for Honorary Graduates, and for our 2024 and 2025 Honorary Fellows.

1. Procedures for making nominations

All nominations are considered by the Honorary Degrees and Fellowships Committee during the spring term each year. All nominations received ahead of the deadline are considered by the Committee during the spring term. Nominations received at other times are held over until the spring term following their receipt.

All nominations should be submitted using the online nomination form. The form may only be completed once, amendments and additions are not possible once a submission has been made.

Limited research is conducted into each nominee’s background ahead of consideration by the Committee. Please include any relevant background information about the nominee that may support the nomination.

Additional information can be provided to support each nomination, but should be restricted to the equivalent of four pages of A4 paper. The Committee reserves the right to edit any additional information submitted if it exceeds this amount.

In order to avoid unnecessary confusion and/or embarrassment, those making nominations are asked to ensure that the person concerned is not aware that their name has been put forward.

All nominations are acknowledged.

It is not possible to give detailed feedback on nominations, but those making recommendations will be informed, in confidence, of the outcome of their nominations. This feedback is given after both the Committee has met and the successful nominees have accepted the award.

No public announcement is made until after the names of the successful nominees are agreed by Senate and Council. The outcome of the Committee’s deliberations must remain confidential until the time of the official announcement.

2. Criteria for eligibility for the conferment of Honorary Degrees

An honorary degree may be conferred only on persons of conspicuous merit or distinction who are outstanding in their academic or professional life or particular field or who have given exceptional service to the University. Honorary Degrees are not conferred upon current students of the University.

The award of an honorary degree should avoid the perception of political or partisan endorsement on behalf of the University.

An honorary degree shall not normally be conferred on a serving member of Council or a person currently employed by the University.

An honorary degree shall not, save in exceptional circumstance, be conferred in absentia.

When the Council has formally resolved to confer an honorary degree on a person, and the death of that person occurs before the conferment takes place, the honorary degree shall be deemed to have been conferred, the date of conferment deemed to be the day preceding the death.

The Council shall determine the maximum number of honorary degrees the University may confer in each academic year.

The Council may revoke the award of any honorary degree with the consent of the Senate, if good reasons shall have been shown to both bodies for so doing.

Following the conferral of an honorary degree, the recipient shall be entitled to use the letters DU Essex (Hon.) after their name. Recipients may also be referred to as “Dr”, but this must always be in conjunction with (Hon.) after the surname.

The University welcomes continued engagement with its honorary graduates to enrich the life of the University and the experience of students.

Criteria for assessing nominations

Council and Senate have determined that, when awarding honorary degrees, the Committee should have in mind distinction in:

  • the fields of study represented in the University
  • the arts
  • sport
  • industry and
  • public service, including service to the University. 

In accordance with the wishes of the Senate and Council, the Committee has approved the following criteria:

Distinction in academic fields
Nominations intended to honour outstanding academic achievement should relate to a field of study currently represented in the University and be endorsed by an appropriate member of academic staff.

Distinction in the arts
Nominations intended to honour achievement in the arts should reflect an outstanding contribution to the cultural and creative environment whether in the UK or abroad.

Distinction in sport
Nominations intended to honour achievement in sport should reflect sporting achievements whether in the UK or abroad. Nominations for those who have made a contribution beyond the sports arena are particularly welcomed.

Distinction in industry
Nominations intended to honour achievement in industry should reflect a particular individual’s personal contribution to the industry concerned, whether in the UK or abroad.

Distinction in public service
Nominations intended to honour achievement in public service must avoid any suggestion that the University is partisan. For this reason, the University maintains a convention of not considering serving politicians or active partisan campaigners, unless the award is to be made at a Graduation ceremony held outside of the country in which they are serving or active.

Distinction in service to the University of Essex
Nominations intended to honour achievement in service to the University itself must not be made with respect to someone currently employed by the University, and only in exceptional cases to someone recently retired from the University. The University has other means of expressing its appreciation of distinguished retired academic and other staff, for example through emeritus professorships, honorary fellowships and the naming of buildings, laboratories, rooms and prizes.

Other issues to be taken into account:

  • There should preferably be some connection, whether academic, professional or personal, between the person being nominated and the University and/or the county of Essex. This may be indirect and take the form of local birth, local residence, former membership of the University as a student or member of staff, or congruence of interest in an academic area in which the University has a particular interest. Evidence of prior engagement with the University will also be taken into account;
  • At the discretion of the Committee, the University will consider the award of an honorary degree to someone who already possesses such awards from other UK institutions, dependent on the number of previous awards, if the nominee is an Essex alumni or if achievements in their particular field merit particular consideration;
  • In awarding honorary degrees, the University aims for a reasonable balance between the faculty disciplines. It also aims at a gender and ethnicity balance and to ensure that distinguished people from outside the UK are honoured, given the substantial proportion of students who come to the University from overseas; and
  • The University does not normally accept a re-nomination after two previous unsuccessful attempts, unless there has been a long interval since the previous nomination and there is a significant change in the case being put forward.
  • The University does not accept nominations for a current student at the University or at any of our Partnership Institutes, nor a staff member at any of those Institutes.
  • The University does not accept self nominations.

3. University Partner Institutions

The Honorary Degrees and Fellowships Committee considers and approves nominations for the award of honorary degrees submitted by its major partner institutions, in accordance with procedures agreed with those institutions. Such nominations are considered during the spring term alongside nominations submitted by members of the University and others.

The following procedure has been agreed for handling nominations by University Partner Institutions:

All relevant institutions will be emailed in the Autumn Term each year with the partnership nomination form. This form should be submitted by the final Friday in January of the Spring Term.

The Committee will use the same criteria when considering the suitability of nominations submitted by partner institutions, but will also take into account the individual circumstances of the partner institutions and the nominations they make. This will include the fields of distinction that partner institutions may wish to honour, in particular, an academic discipline or specialism that may be offered by a partner institution but not by the University.

Essex graduation ceremony
Make a nomination

Nominations are welcomed from all members of our University community including alumni, as well as external members of Council.

Complete the online form

The Committee


The membership of the Honorary Degrees and Honorary Fellowships Committee is designed to ensure University-wide representation in the process to choose those who are awarded honorary degrees. Chaired by the Chair of Council, the University’s academic and research disciplines are represented through the Chair of Senate and three academic members of staff appointed by Senate, Administrative Staff are represented by an elected member of staff who serves a three-year term, while student representation comes via the President of the Students’ Union. Membership also includes one External member of Council and the Registrar and Secretary. The Director of Advancement is in attendance and the Graduation Manager is Committee Secretary.

The Committee meets once a year, in the Spring term.

Nominations review

The nominations review is an electronic process by which members of Committee list the nominations in order of preference, in preparation for the main Committee meeting. All nominations that have been submitted to the Committee Secretary* over the nomination period are considered at the nominations review to assess how well they meet the guidelines on eligibility. Any nominations that do not satisfy the guidelines are discarded.

The list of nominations is accompanied by due diligence information, and information regarding the subject areas which the nomination aligns with. All this information is included in the review for consideration. Members are then asked to submit voting forms which are then collated and anonymised for presentation at the main meeting.

Any new nominations that come forward after the Nominations Review are held over until the following year.

* except for more than twice previously rejected nominations and previously accepted nominations who subsequently rejected the offer of an honorary degree.

Main meeting of the committee

The meeting is chaired by the Chair of Council and is the Committee's main meeting. Brief formal minutes are taken and decisions noted accordingly. The Chair confirms the number of honorary graduands required (normally one for each graduation ceremony) and it is general practice that the nominations with the most votes are awarded honorary degrees. Discussion of these nominations (and any others whom the Committee considers require further consideration) then takes place before final decisions are made.

At the Committee’s discretion, any candidate who misses out narrowly on securing an honorary degree can be re-nominated automatically for the subsequent year.

At the meeting, the Committee is also responsible for approving formally the honorary degree nominations for Academic Partner Institutions as appropriate, and the annual awards by the University of the Honorary Fellowship and Alumnus of the Year.

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