Honorary doctorate

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Honorary doctorates in Heidelberg , 1886

The honorary doctorate is an honorary award from a university or faculty that is awarded to academics or non-academics for special academic or scientific merits. The doctorate with an honorary doctorate is called an honorary doctor (Latin: Doctor honoris causa , "Doktor ehrenhalber"; abbreviated Dr. h. C., Dr. E. h., In theology also D. )

Honoris causa

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 as well as 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. For (only) two honorary doctorates, the abbreviation Dres. Hc , i.e. doctores honorum causa , is sometimes used, which, however, is incorrect according to the rules of Latin grammar and logic, since doctores always consists of a plurality of people ( Dres. Schmitz and Meier) and never denotes a plurality of titles.


Awarding of an honorary doctorate from Maryland University in Heidelberg to Federal Chancellor Ludwig Erhard

The honorary doctorate should primarily 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. An honorary doctorate is often also 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 more 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 awarding 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 gives a lecture on the occasion of the award.

For the technical universities in Prussia , the honorary doctorate right - like the right to award doctorates per se - was only introduced in October 1899 by a decree of Kaiser Wilhelm II .

After research by the Spiegel , honorary doctorates can be acquired through financial contributions and donations, that is, “bought”. 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 honorary doctorates:

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 Justified 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 economic 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 field as an honorary church doctorate the Doctor Divinitatis or Doctor of Divinity (DDiv).


The 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 been awarded 43 honorary doctorates, mostly from US universities.


  • Alexander Pinwinkler, Johannes Koll (ed.): Too much of 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 Doctorate Awards  - 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. Column "My judgment" "Dres. Hc" In: faz.net , July 24, 2009.
  3. z. B. Manfred Broy or Thomas Hillenkamp
  4. Hermann Horstkotte: Academic Doctoral Games: Professor Dr. H. c. Volkswagen . In: Spiegel Online . November 15, 2007
  5. Dirk Biernoth: Spongy criteria for an honorary doctorate . In: Deutschlandfunk . Deutschlandradio , March 6, 2013, accessed on January 8, 2017 .
  6. Armin Himmelrath: How to buy a fake doctorate at spiegel.de
  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 Degree 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's honorary doctoral regulations from April 23, 1988.
  10. Extract from § XI of the doctoral regulations of the University of St. Gallen from December 11, 2006 (as of May 7, 2012).