Right To Information (RTI) Act applications to 470 public universities seeking data for the last 20 years from 1997 to 2017. An analysis of responses received showed that 160 public universities and institutions conferred nearly 2,000 honorary doctorates to around 1,400 people; 126 did not give any honorary degree during this period; and, 184 did not respond.
Honorary doctorates do not come with monetary benefits but they carry enormous cache in an educational system that values degrees as markers of credibility and influence — many recipients add the prefix “Dr” to their names.
These honorary degrees broadly come under three categories: Degree of Doctor of Letters (D.Litt) for literature, philosophy, art and music, and for services rendered to the cause of education; Degree of Doctor of Science (D.Sc) for science and technology or for planning, organising or developing scientific and technological institutions; and for contributions to public good.
Universities have the power to confer honorary degrees for which proposals have to be approved by their academic and executive councils before final approval is granted by Chancellors and Visitors.