An honorary degree, honoris causa which is Latin: ‘for the sake of the honor’, is an academic degree for which a university or a degree-awarding institution has waived the usual requirements like the sitting of examinations.
An honorary degree is a doctorate, awarded to individuals who have no prior connection with the institution in question. The conferring of an honorary degree is the greatest honor that any University can bestow to a person.
The degree is usually conferred as a way of honoring a distinguished person’s contributions to a specific field, or to society in general. Honorary degrees are usually awarded at regular graduation ceremonies, at which the recipients are invited to make an acceptance speech before the assembled faculty and graduates – an event which forms the highlight of the graduation ceremony.
This practice dates back to the Middle Ages, when for various reasons a university would be persuaded, or otherwise deem it fit, to grant exemption from some or all of the usual statutory requirements for the award of a degree.
The first recorded honorary degree was awarded to Lionel Woodville in the late 1470s by the University of Oxford.
At the University of Nairobi, the nomination undergoes thorough scrutiny of the respective Faculty/Institute/School Boards and College Academic Boards before being submitted to the Honorary Degrees Committee of Council. A nominee may be a distinguished scholar, who has worked or made a recognized contribution, beyond their scholarly contributions, or who have assisted the University in various activities including fundraising, research or sponsored a professional chair, while others may have made contributions to the country or the world that are considered honorable by the University. Since 1970, the University has conferred 33 honorary degrees.
In 2000, the University recognized the contribution of Gerald Munene Mugera, the first black holder of a PhD in veterinary medicine in Africa.
The University recognized the distinguished academic career of Simon Hongo Ominde, first African Professor of the University of Nairobi and East Africa.
Albert Matson Thomas was singled out for his contribution to the study of the history of Kenyan. His research and writings retrieved fundamental and invaluable material relevant to the study of the history of Kenya.