Degrees of value

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I WAS interested to read Robert Smith’s views (Letters, 15 July) on the decision by Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University to award of an honorary degree to Tony Hayward, BP’s former chief executive.

The high point of my academic studies was attending Richard Feynman’s physics lectures in Cal Tech in the early 1960s and he had very definite ideas on the subject of such awards. 

Feynman completed a brilliant PhD in 1942 that would later form the basis of his Nobel Prize but at graduation he had to endure orations for nonentities receiving honorary degrees. He promised himself that should he ever be offered such a “pretendy degree”, he would refuse to accept it because he believed “doctorates should be earned and graduations are for the young”. 

Hayward is a perfectly reasonable choice for a technical university in Europe’s oil capital, but the idea that such ubiquitous and pointless awards are capable of being “devalued” is hilarious.

Dr John Cameron

Howard Place

St Andrews, Fife

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