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Scotland's Student Newspaper
Scottish Universities shell out on honorary degrees
QMU and RGU face criticism for spending thousands of pounds on expenses for awarding celebrities honorary degrees
Polly Dallyn
Wednesday, 24 November, 2010 | 07:00

Scottish universities have spent £100,000 over the past three years on honorary degrees for celebrities.

The University of St Andrews has recorded the biggest spend, with £30,000 spent in the last year alone on travel, hospitality and accommodation for celebrities receiving honorary degrees.

Recipients of degrees from St Andrews include cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, actress Dame Judy Dench and golfer Tom Watson.

Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen has spent £20,000 since 2007 on awarding honorary degrees to recipients including controversial American business tycoon Donald Trump.

Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University also ranks high on the list, having spent almost £5,000 on honorary degrees since 2008.

This year, QMU has awarded honorary degrees to actor David Hayman, charity founder David Duke and civil servant Jacqui Lunday. The university has awarded a total of 24 honorary degrees since 2007.

A spokesperson for QMU told The Journal: “The cost of the annual graduation ceremonies, including the costs identified for honorary graduates, is more than covered by the total income arising from the charges made to the graduating students who attend the event. This ensures the event is sustainable.

“The Queen Margaret University Senate ensures that these powers are exercised very carefully, only awarding honorary degrees to individuals who have made a worthy and significant contribution to the society and the economy, or to the academic disciplines offered by Queen Margaret University.

“We believe that it is entirely appropriate to honour and mark the contribution which these individuals have made and that it significantly enhances the experience of this important occasion for students and their families.”

A spokesperson for Robert Gordon University added that an honorary degree often marks a longterm relationship between the recipient and the university which can be extremely beneficial.

However Liberal Democrat MSP Margaret Smith commented: “In straitened financial times, students will be disappointed to see their universities spending so much on honorary degrees rather than resources for learning.”

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