Since 1973 the University has awarded over 1,100 honorary degrees. Honorary graduates are an important part of the OU family and provide the University with an opportunity to recognise the achievements of society’s most outstanding people. They particularly recognise those whose work, or achievements reflect the University’s values of openness to people, places, methods and ideas, or who promote educational opportunity or social justice.
Any current student, alumni or member of staff can make a nomination for an honorary degree. The Senate has approved the award of two types of honorary degree; Doctor of the University (DUniv); awarded to people whose achievements have had an impact nationally or internationally, and who are widely recognised by others working in the same field; and Master of the University (MUniv) for people whose work has been influential at a regional or national level.
If your nomination is successful and the award is accepted by your nominee, you will be invited to attend their ceremony. The Ceremonies Centre will contact you with all the information you need regarding this, so make sure you include up-to-date contact details on your nomination form.
Honorary graduates don’t have to be famous or well-known, in fact over the years, The Open University has conferred honorary degrees on people from all walks of life, many of whom continue to support the University in a variety of ways. Please see the full listing of all the Honorary Degrees awarded by The Open University up to the end of 2019.
Here are a few examples of ways our honorary graduates have recently been involved with the University, long after their ceremony. ...
Joan Armatrading MBE is a three-time Grammy nominee, twice BRIT award nominee and is both an honorary graduate of the University, and an alumna of the University having studied History achieving a BA (Hons) in 2001. Her honorary doctorate was awarded in 2013 for Services to the Arts and Sciences. Joan has attended and spoken at many events that the OU has hosted and is a strong advocate of the University. Most recently, Joan has attended and spoken at the University’s 50th Anniversary Parliamentary Reception.
Sir David Attenborough was awarded Doctor of the University in 1980 and has been involved with and supportive of the OU since the beginning. More recently, he attended and gave a speech at the celebratory dinner for the OU’s 50th.
The world-renowned illustrator and Children’s Laureate, Sir Quentin Blake, was awarded Doctor of the University in 2006 for Exceptional Contribution to the Cultural well-being of Society. His work is recognisable across the globe and to celebrate the University’s 50th Anniversary he created a special sketch titled The Gift. This bespoke drawing was used as the front cover for the 50th Anniversary edition of alumni magazine, OpenMINDS.
Marcus du Sautoy, received his honorary doctorate in 2008 for Exceptional Contribution to the Educational well-being of Society. Marcus is a mathematician and author and has also been involved with the University in the 50th anniversary year by contributing to January’s successful social media campaign ‘Brainteaser Month’. He also took part in the University’s Hay Festival Talk.
There are many other honorary graduates that have been involved with the University in our 50th year, including, Andy Haldane, Chief Economist of the Bank of England, was awarded his honorary doctorate in 2014 for Public Service, and Prue Leith, businesswoman and television presenter, was awarded her honorary doctorate in 1997 and has most recently been part of an OpenTALK panel on Bridging the Digital Divide in July. Honorary graduate Benjamin Zephaniah, who was awarded his doctorate in 2004 for Services to Arts and Sciences, created a spoken word poem to commemorate 50 years of the OU. You can watch the poem here.
It’s easy to nominate someone for an honorary degree, any member of the University can do it, and there is no limit to the number of nominations you can make. All you need to do is download and complete the nomination form and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, making sure your email is marked as ‘Strictly confidential’.
To give your nomination the best chance of success, we’ve created some useful guidelines for making a nomination.
Nominations are accepted all year round, but every year there is an annual cut off at the end of October. This is when nominations are collated for consideration by the Honorary Degrees Committee. You’ll be notified of the outcome of your nomination in July the following year, after Senate have approved their final list.
If you need a bit of inspiration, here is our list of honorary degrees awarded.