In our front page story yesterday with the banner headline: “Don’t use honorary doctorate titles – It is wrong –NAB”, the National Accreditation Board (NAB) said it was seeking legal backing to prosecute institutions and persons behind the award of fraudulent honours.
The Executive Secretary of NAB, Mr Kwame Dattey, who spoke with the Daily Graphic, said: “Our law is being revised and one of the provisions in it is to protect the award of professional and academic qualifications.”
While the debate on fraudulent degree-awarding institutions and honorary doctorates rages, it is a known fact that obtaining a degree from an institution of higher learning anywhere in the world does not come cheap but with hard work.
People have to spend years studying in various academic fields for the award of even bachelor’s degrees. Some students even do not make the ultimate, although they put in so much effort and resources.
It is in the light of this that the Daily Graphic believes obtaining a degree, be it a master’s, a doctorate or otherwise, must not be taken lightly and dubious institutions whose degrees are not recognised need to be taken on.
In his very incisive article in the September 20, 2014 issue of the Daily Graphic titled: “Dubious academic titles and the politics of honour”, Professor Kwesi Yankah, the Vice-Chancellor of the Central University, explained it even better that in the conferment of academic titles or degrees during graduation ceremonies in universities, there was a good reason why it took the highest authority in the university’s governance, the Chancellor, or in his absence, the Chairman of Council, to declare candidates graduated “with the words: By the power vested in me by the Council of the university…”.
Emphasising the rigorous work required for a degree, Prof Yankah said: “In the case of candidates on whom a PhD or Doctor of Philosophy degree is being conferred, the prerequisites are clearly stated in the university’s regulations. Oftentimes, a thesis of at least 250 pages examined, passed and defended through a viva is required.
“The recipient, as a mark of having attained the highest academic degree, is publicly robed or vested with a distinctive insignia. The handshake and congratulations that follow complete the ceremony and put the academic achievement on public record. That is, indeed, why graduating candidates or their parents have sometimes travelled across continents to undergo or witness such ceremonies of conferment.”
He also made reference to honorary degrees, saying that apart from academic work, a doctorate could be earned as an honorary degree conferred by a university for distinguished contribution to knowledge or practice or society.
Indeed, the Daily Graphic is not against the conferment of honorary degrees or degree honoris (causa), which means in English ‘for the sake of honour’, to members of society who are deserving of that honour.
However, apart from the fact that some institutions are not qualified, in the first place, to award such honour, since they themselves are fraudulent (some actually sell the doctorates to the highest bidder) and unaccredited, we share the worry of NAB that people who have been so honoured carry the title ‘Dr’ as if they had duly worked for it. Indeed, the title ‘Dr’ is carried as a badge of honour by many of those so honoured.
We believe that personalities who have distinguished themselves in various disciplines or facets of society must be honoured, but even if that honour comes from academia, it still remains just an honour.