A group of honorary doctors sitting down preparing to be photographed.

Honorary Doctors

Since 1839 honorary doctorates have been conferred at Swedish universities and university colleges. Today this has become custom and occur on a yearly basis.

Search our database of honorary doctorates

Guidelines for the awarding of honorary doctorates

What is an honorary doctorate?

Honorary doctorates may be awarded to individuals whom the faculty wishes to reward and celebrate for their dedication and achievements and who have furthered scholarship and science. The honour may be awarded for research contributions that are of relevance to the faculty or bestowed to recognise and give visibility to valuable ongoing or upcoming collaborations.

To be awarded an honorary doctorate, a person must have contributed to the faculty’s activities in one way or another. However, the nominee need not have any direct connection with the faculty; they may have contributed to its activities in some other way.

Conferment of the honorary doctorate welcomes the recipient into the community of the faculty and its research domain. Recipients of honorary doctorates receive their insignia at a traditional ceremony together with the university’s other new doctors at the annual conferment ceremony. The honorary doctorate means that the person who has been nominated and upon whom the degree has been conferred has the right to use the title ‘honorary doctor’ or (in Latin) doctor honoris causa. An honorary doctorate is valid in all of Sweden, in other words, it is recognised throughout the country.

Since recipients of honorary doctorates are incorporated in the university’s research community through the act of conferment, it is desirable that the university and the honorary doctor remain in contact over time.

Who can be awarded an honorary doctorate?

The recipient of an honorary doctorate may work outside academia or be an academic from another faculty or another higher education institution. In principle, anyone can be awarded an honorary doctorate. There are, however, some exceptions, in accordance with the following principles:

  1. A person who has earned a doctorate by successfully completing a doctoral programme in the Swedish state education system cannot receive the same doctoral title twice. In other words, someone who has earned the title of doctor of philosophy after completing a doctoral programme cannot receive an honorary doctorate of philosophy. This is because an honorary doctorate welcomes a person into the community of the faculty and its research domain throughout the country. No one can become something they already are.
  2. A person who has earned a doctorate at a foreign university can always receive an honorary doctorate, even if the doctoral degree and the honorary doctorate have the same title. This is possible because that person has not earned their doctorate in the Swedish education system.

Who may nominate a person for an honorary doctorate?

It is the university’s faculties that select people for honorary doctorates. Members of the competent body, usually the faculty board, can nominate candidates during the nomination period. Naturally, anyone else is free to draw the faculty’s attention to suitable candidates for an honorary doctorate, for example by discussing the issue orally with the dean of the faculty or some other competent employee in the faculty with the right to make proposals. This is because for an honorary doctorate proposal to be considered, someone employed in the faculty has to support the proposal and make it their nomination.

It is of the utmost importance that confidentiality is maintained in matters concerning honorary doctorates. Nominations must not become known in wider circles before a decision has been made and publicly communicated. Confidentiality also applies to the nominations that have not been approved. Confidentiality is a necessity to ensure that the decision-making body is free to approve or reject nominations for honorary doctorates.

Checking of principles

Honorary doctorates can only be awarded in subject areas in which the university has the right to award doctoral degrees.

The faculty is responsible for checking that the principles are satisfied before processing nominations received. The database of honorary doctorates at www.akademiskahogtider.se contains a list of honorary doctorates awarded at Swedish universities to date. Data about those who have earned a doctorate by successfully completing a doctoral programme in the Swedish state education system is available in Ladok.

Honorary doctorates may not be awarded in return for financial contributions. Similarly, restraint must be observed with respect to active politicians.

What privileges does an honorary doctor enjoy?

The honorary doctorate means that the recipient has the right to use the title Doctor of Philosophy (etc), with or without the addition h.c. (honoris causa), as they wish. By long-established custom, the honorary doctorate can also confer a right to teach at an academic institution. The honorary doctorate does not entail any other financial or official privileges.

Last modified: 2024-01-23