Honorary Degrees and degrees by diploma

Honorary degrees are the most prestigious awards the University can confer. As such, they are conferred sparingly, and as a general rule only on persons of conspicuous distinction in contributions to academic inquiry and society, whether nationally or internationally, and always with regard to good character.

Honorary degrees are normally conferred at Encaenia in June.

Who is eligible to be nominated?

When considering possible honorands, the Honorary Degrees Committee will focus on individuals:

  • of high academic distinction in the fields of research and scholarship of specific interest to the University of Oxford;
  • distinguished in the visual, literary, musical, and performing arts or in sports;
  • distinguished in business and industry;
  • who have played a distinguished role in public life, for example in contributing to progress and change in society;
  • who have made a significant contribution to the activities of the University of Oxford—such individuals would normally also fall into one of the categories above.

Within those categories, the Honorary Degrees Committee will aim to produce a balanced list, which takes account of the global dimension that characterises this University's activities.

The list of previous honorands may be helpful in indicating the calibre of individuals recognised in this way.

When a degree is conferred upon a royal personage or upon the head of a foreign state it will be conferred by diploma.

The Honorary Degrees Committee has adopted a target that half of the final list of names proposed for the conferment of honorary degrees be women and/or from minoritized groups. Members of Congregation are therefore encouraged to nominate individuals of conspicuous distinction with particular reference to diversity.

Who is not eligible to be nominated?

Honorary degrees will not be conferred on anyone who holds, or who has retired from, a resident teaching, research, or administrative post within the University or in any college or other society, except in exceptional circumstances such as distinguished service outside the terms of his or her paid service. In these circumstances, a proposal for an honorary MA may be put forward.  Further information is available from the Secretary to the Honorary Degrees Committee.

Honorary degrees are not normally conferred posthumously.

Serving and former UK politicians (including those who have no connection with the current government) are normally excluded from consideration, as are individuals closely associated with the government of other countries.

Self-nominations will not be accepted.

How do I make a nomination?

Nominations may be made by current members of Congregation and current members of University Council.

Nominations must be submitted on the online nomination form. If you are making multiple nominations, please complete separate forms. The form enables the Honorary Degrees Committee to receive and consider nominations consistently.

All nominations are welcome, but please consider the guidance above before submitting a nomination.

What happens next?

The Committee will meet three times during 2024 to consider honorands for Encaenia 2025. In order to be considered by the Committee, nominations need to be submitted at least 3 weeks prior to the May or June meetings.

The dates for this year are:

  • 1 May 2024 (deadline for nominations 10 April 2024)
  • 3 June 2024 (deadline for nominations 13 May 2024)
  • September 2024 (tbc)

The Committee will consider all nominations received by the relevant deadline. Nominations received after the May deadline will need to be considered in the next cycle (i.e. for Encaenia 2026). Committee members may also make their own nominations.

At its first meeting, the Committee will long-list those individuals on whom it would like further information and/or those whom it would like to consider further. Informal soundings may be sought from experts in the field within the University.

At its second meeting, the Committee will consider any new nominations received, together with any soundings received since its last meeting. It will review the long-list, adding any further names from the second round of nominations and seeking further informal soundings as necessary.

At its final meeting, the Committee will agree a list of proposed honorands for consideration by Council. In agreeing the final list, the Committee takes into account a number of factors, including (but not limited to):

  • The overall balance of the academic subjects, and the areas of public services, the creative/performing arts and sports
  • The relative eminence of each nominee in their own particular field
  • The reach of the nominee’s impact/contribution to society 
  • The diversity of the nominees
  • The timing of awards in particular subject areas
  • To what extent the nominees’ achievements are consonant with the mission and values of the University

Once Council has agreed the names, the Chair of the Honorary Degrees Committee will write to the proposed honorands, inviting them to accept the invitation to receive an honorary degree at Encaenia the following calendar year. Proposals are subsequently put to Congregation for approval (via the Gazette) at which point, the names become public. 

As nominations may remain under consideration for several years, feedback on the progress of nominations, other than the acknowledgement of receipt, is not given. However, nominators of successful candidates are informed, in strict confidence, shortly before the announcement of nominees in the Gazette.

Nominations are kept under consideration by the Committee for three years (the year of nomination, plus two years) and so should only be re-submitted in the event that there has been a significant change in the case for the nomination.

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Membership as at HT 2024 is as follows:

  Name Conditions of appointment Until
[1] Professor Irene Tracey  The Vice-Chancellor ex officio

Professor Ben Bollig, St Catherine's

 The Assessor ex officio
 [3] Dr Jonathan B Katz, All Souls The Public Orator ex officio
 [4] Professor Richard Hobbs One of up to six members of Council appointed by Council, one of whom shall be the vice-chair. HT 2026
 [5] Vacancy  As above HT 2028
 [6] Professor Gavin Screaton  As above HT 2025
 [7] Professor Timothy Power  As above HT 2027
 [8] Professor Dan Grimley, Merton  As above HT 2026
 [9] Professor Jim Naismith, Jesus  As above HT 2026


One of up to two other members of Congregation, not on Council, appointed by Council HT 2027
[11] Professor Lionel Tarassenko, Reuben  As above HT 2025
Secretary: Planning and Council Secretariat (Ms Sarah Cowburn)

The Committee on Honorary Degrees will meet on the following dates during the 2024/25 academic year:

  • 1 May 2024 (deadline for nominations 10 April 2024)
  • 3 June 2024 (deadline for nominations 13 May 2024)
  • September 2024 (tbc)


For the regulations of the Committee on Honorary Degrees please click here:


Contact us

Sarah Cowburn

Senior Assistant Registrar (Governance)

Planning and Council Secretariat