What you need to know about honorary doctorates

Tuesday December 07 2021
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By Louis Kalumbia

Dar es Salaam. Did you know that a person who has been awarded an honorary doctorate degree (honoris causa) does not deserve to be addressed as “Doctor”?
Awarding of honoris causa has become a hot topic in the past few days, with the latest entrants into the group of holders of such papers being two Members of Parliament (MPs).
Pictures of Mr Joseph Musukuma (Geita MP; CCM) and Japhet Hasunga (Vwawa MP; CCM) clad in PhD regalia, have been making rounds in various social media platforms after they were awarded with honoris causa by what is said to be an American college known as the Academy of Universal Global Peace.
A honoris causa is awarded to someone who has no prior connection with the academic institution. It is basically awarded to an individual irrespective of his/her academic background, largely for the sake of honouring a person’s contributions to a specific field or to society in general.
As such, the Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU) says in its third edition of the Handbook for Standards and Guidelines for University Education in Tanzania that honoris causa should not be campaigned by any academic title.
“The university shall be required to indicate that the award referred to as honorary doctorate (honoris causa) degree and not academic as indicated in the following example of Mr Mashauri Maneneo, DSc (Hon. Cause) or as PhD (Hon. Causa) and not Dr Mashauri Maneno or Mashauri Maneno, PhD,” TCU says in the Handbook that was published in January, 2020.
It further says that the honoris causa shall not be an academic award and therefore shall not be used for academic, professional or work-related purposes. “Such an award shall merely reflect to a person who meets the university criteria for that purpose,” TCU says.
Individuals who have been awarded with such papers do not deserve to be addressed by any academic respect that define genuine holders of doctorate degrees.
It, however, notes that every university is to develop guidelines and procedures for the award for honoris causa.
“To be honoured one should make extraordinary contributions to academia and/or society, development of institutions or to the betterment of culture, society or the local community,” the handbook reads in part.
The person to be awarded as such should have international reputation for excellence within a particular academic field and have demonstrated an outstanding academic leadership through strong publication record, graduate supervision, innovation, entrepreneurship, etc.
Such a person should have made a significant contribution to the institution in terms of the charter, vision, mission and strategic goals.
He/she should have outstanding service to the community or nation through activities or endeavours and consistent with the institution’s charter, vision, mission and strategic goals.
But, speaking to The Citizen yesterday, Mr Hasunga said that, apart from the MPs, 13 other Tanzanians - including clerics and retired public officers have received similar awards.
“Mr Musukuma has been awarded an honour in peace, politics and leadership due to his role in the society especially strengthening health services in his constituency, where he has donated 15 ambulances. He has also built houses in which the needy live free-of-charge and in the process, some people have secured jobs,” he said.
Mr Hasunga said he was personally recognized for his role in crops development (cashews, cotton, and tobacco) and national resource supervision during the time that he served as Deputy minister and later Minister.
He served as Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism from October, 2017 to November 2018.
In November 2018, he was promoted to the position of Minister for Agriculture, serving in that capacity until the Parliament was dissolved on June 16, 2020.
“The university says a comprehensive vetting was made in order to get the honoured members. Although the significance of academic awards is known, honorary awards are also respected,” he said.
Former leaders and prominent figures have received honorary doctorate degree awards, name of universities and respective years in brackets are; the late businessman Reginald Mengi (Japan Bible Institute-2012) and former President Jakaya Kikwete University of Newcastle, Australia in 2015.
Others are ex-President John Magufuli (University of Dodoma in 2019) and former National Assembly Speaker, Pius Msekwa (University of Dar es Salaam in 2020).
The list also includes among others: Former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Said Mwema, popular preacher Boniface Mwamposa and Prof Geoffrey Mmari (Tumaini University Dar es Salaam College (Tudarco)-2021).