Honorary doctorate

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Honorary doctorates of the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg in the Heiliggeistkirche (drawing 1886)

The honorary doctorate is an honorary conferred award of a university or faculty that for special academic , scientific can be awarded, cultural or public services also to non-academic people. A with the honor doctorate doctorate person as honor doctor designated (Latin Doctor honorary 'Doctor ehrenhalber "abbreviated Dr. h. C. Or h Dr. E.,. In the theology also D. ).

Honoris causa

Certificate from the University of Erlangen ( Jürgen Gebhard , 1998)

The term honoris causa (h. C.) Is Latin and means "honorary" (originally "honorary" or " because of honor "). The entry of the honorary doctorate in a German passport is usually carried out as “DR. HC. "Or" DR. EH. "And thus in contrast to doctoral degrees that are entered as" DR. "Without any further addition. The honorary doctorate, but also clerical titles, are not academic degrees and must not be presented as such or confused with them. Such intent to deceive (pretending to hold an academic degree) is punishable in Germany under Section 132a of the Criminal Code. If a person has received three or more awards, the abbreviation Dr. H. c. mult. common (in Austria DDr. h. c. ), which stands for honoris causa multiplex , i.e. multiple honorary doctorates. With (only) two honorary doctorates, the abbreviation Dres. H. c. , i.e. doctores honorum causa , which is, however, incorrect according to the rules of Latin grammar and logic, since doctores always denotes a plurality of persons ( Drs. Schmitz and Meier) and never a plurality of titles.


Award of an honorary doctorate from the University of Maryland to the German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard (Heidelberg 1965)

The honorary doctorate is primarily intended to be awarded on the basis of outstanding achievements in the scientific field. The honor is often given on the occasion of general or direct services to the university or faculty , even if this is usually not a formal requirement. A typical case is the award of an outstanding scientist who has made a special contribution to the faculty as the founding dean (such as Manfred Broy or Thomas Hillenkamp ). The honorary doctorate is often awarded for political, financial or other reasons, for which the excellence of the academic achievements of the recipient is not always recognizable. In an international comparison, German universities are cautious about the award.

The honorary doctorate is an honor for merits and not an academic degree of a doctor , which is awarded after a degree and doctorate completed with a university examination . No examination is planned for the award of an honorary doctorate. The procedure and the exact conditions for the award are regulated by the doctoral regulations of the university faculties. As a rule, the honoree holds a lecture on the occasion of the award.

The University of Leipzig has the title of Dr. H. c. awarded for the first time in 1805 (first to a woman in 1946: Katharina Kippenberg ). Josepha von Siebold was the first woman in Germany to be awarded the title in 1815 (from the University of Giessen in the subject of " Maternity "). For the technical universities in Prussia , the honorary doctorate right - as well as the right to award doctorates per se - was only introduced in October 1899 by decree of Kaiser Wilhelm II .

According to research by the magazine Der Spiegel in 2012, honorary doctorates can be acquired, ie “bought”, especially at less well-known universities abroad, through financial contributions and donations. There are numerous providers on the Internet who would be helpful in this promotion fraud.

Examples of honorary doctoral procedures

In many universities, the doctoral regulations of the faculties also regulate honorary doctorates . However, some universities have central regulations for the honorary doctorate:

Facility requirement Initiation of proceedings Appraiser Decision-making body
University of Augsburg outstanding services in the scientific field Reasoned request from the majority of professors in the department two professionally competent professors Faculty Council
University of the Federal Armed Forces Munich not specified Justified request from at least three professors from the same faculty not specified the faculty council expanded to include the professors of the faculty [...] The honorary doctorate requires the approval of the Senate.
University of Regensburg excellent scientific achievements Reasoned request from at least 3/4 of the professors in the department at least two professionally competent professors Faculty Council
University of St. Gallen excellent merits; z. B. to

a) Economics or business practice
b) Political science or the public good
c) Law or
d) Research into society or the endeavor to solve social problems

Written and reasoned application from a member of the Senate or a department not specified senate

United Kingdom

The Doctor of Humane Letters ( Latin Litterarum humanarum doctor ; DHL ; or LHD ) is awarded on an honorary basis, in the ecclesiastical and theological area as an ecclesiastical honorary doctorate the Doctor Divinitatis or Doctor of Divinity (DDiv).


Most honorary doctorates, namely 150, received the American Catholic theologian Theodore Hesburgh (1917-2015), which is why the Guinness Book of Records leads him as the title holder in this regard. Over 120 honorary doctorates have been awarded to Daisaku Ikeda (* 1928), President of Sōka Gakkai International. Nelson Mandela (1918–2013) received over 50 honorary doctorates. The American Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983) received 47 honorary doctorates . Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (* 1954) has 44 honorary doctorates, Tenzin Gyatso (* 1935), the XIV. Dalai Lama , has received 43 honorary doctorates, mostly from US universities. Claus Roxin (* 1931), a German legal scholar, currently has 27 honorary doctorates. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926–2004), Swiss-American psychiatrist and death researcher, was awarded 20 honorary doctorates.

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel received 20 honorary doctorates.


  • Alexander Pinwinkler, Johannes Koll (Ed.): Too much honor? Interdisciplinary perspectives on academic honors in Germany and Austria . Böhlau, Vienna et al. 2019, ISBN 978-3-205-20680-4 .

Web links

Commons : Honorary doctorates (honoris causa ceremonies)  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Honorary doctorate  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. § 4.1.3 of the passport administration regulation (PassVwV) of 2019-12-16; GMBl. 2020 No. 2/3, p. 24
  2. Volker Rieble: "My judgment" column: "Dres. hc “ In: FAZ.net. July 24, 2009, accessed November 12, 2020.
  3. ^ Hermann Horstkotte: Academic Doctoral Games: Professor Dr. H. c. Volkswagen. In: The mirror . November 15, 2007, accessed November 12, 2020.
  4. Dirk Biernoth: Spongy criteria for an honorary doctorate. In: Deutschlandfunk . January 8, 2017, accessed November 12, 2020.
  5. Sarah Marak, Heike Paul : Equal Opportunities: Frau Dr. hc undesirable! In: The time . November 11, 2020, accessed November 12, 2020.
  6. Armin Himmelrath: Doctoral fraud in self-experiment: How I cheated on a doctorate. In: The mirror . July 5, 2012, accessed November 12, 2020.
  7. Extract from § 29 of the General Doctoral Regulations of the University of Augsburg from July 2, 2009
  8. Excerpt from Section 16, Paragraphs 1 and 2 of the doctoral regulations ( memento of March 3, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) of the University of the Federal Armed Forces, Munich, of November 8, 2000.
  9. Excerpt from § 1 to 3 of the Regensburg University of Regensburg's Honorary Doctoral Degree Regulations from April 23, 1988.
  10. Extract from § XI of the doctoral regulations of the University of St. Gallen dated December 11, 2006 (as of May 7, 2012).
  11. To say goodbye, a look into the future. Chancellor Merkel in the USA. In: Tagesschau . July 15, 2021 .;
  12. tagesschau.de: Merkel in Israel: "A real friend". Retrieved November 3, 2021 .