An honorary degree, in Latin a degree honoris causa ("for the sake of the honor") or ad honorem ("to the honor"), is an academic degree for which a university (or other degree-awarding institution) has waived the usual requirements, such as matriculation, residence, a dissertation and the passing of comprehensive examinations. The degree is typically a doctorate or, less commonly, a master's degree, and may be awarded to someone who has no prior connection with the academic institution or no previous postsecondary education. An example of identifying a recipient of this award is as follows: Doctorate in Business Administration (Hon. Causa).
The degree is often conferred as a way of honoring a distinguished visitor's contributions to a specific field or to society in general.
It is sometimes recommended that such degrees be listed in one's CV as an award, and not in the education section.Rev. Theodore Hesburgh held the record for most honorary degrees, having been awarded 150 during his lifetime.
The practice dates back to the Middle Ages, when for various reasons a university might be persuaded, or otherwise see fit, to grant exemption from some or all of the usual statutory requirements for the awarding of a degree. The earliest honorary degree on record was awarded to Lionel Woodville in the late 1470s by the University of Oxford.He later became Bishop of Salisbury.
In the latter part of the 16th century, the granting of honorary degrees became quite common, especially on the occasion of royal visits to Oxford or Cambridge.On the visit of James I to Oxford in 1605, for example, forty-three members of his retinue (fifteen of whom were earls or barons) received the degree of Master of Arts, and the Register of Convocation explicitly states that these were full degrees, carrying the usual privileges (such as voting rights in Convocation and Congregation).