Controversial recipients of Scottish honorary degrees

Calls for real estate tycoon and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's honorary degree from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen to be removed are mounting. Image: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Calls for real estate tycoon and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's honorary degree from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen to be removed are mounting. Image: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

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DONALD Trump wasn’t the only holder of an honorary degree from a Scottish institution to court criticism.

ROBERT MUGABE

Robert Mugabe was stripped of his honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh earlier last decade. Photo: Jesse Awalt

Robert Mugabe was stripped of his honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh earlier last decade. Photo: Jesse Awalt

During the early 1980s, Mugabe was awarded an honorary degree for services to African education by the University of Edinburgh,

Twenty-three years after it was awarded to the oppressive ruler, Mugabe’s degree was revoked by the same institution off the back of concerns over human rights injustices which he has presided over.

The removal of this award made him the first international personality to be stripped of an honorary degree by a British university.


SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH
While the nature of Attenborough’s accomplishments is not controversial, the face of countless wildlife documentaries is believed to hold at least 32 honorary doctorates from universities across the UK, making him Britain’s most academically awarded celebrity.

Sir David Attenborough has approximately 32 degrees to his name. Image: Sarah Ward

Sir David Attenborough has approximately 32 degrees to his name. Image: Sarah Ward

When asked by the media as to why he accepts the degrees, the broadcaster and naturalist said: “It’s a compliment from the academic world. It’s a real compliment - it would be churlish not to accept one.”



DONALD TRUMP

Back in 2010, Trump was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, thanks largely to his company’s efforts in building the Trump golf resort in Menie, Aberdeenshire.

Now, the US presidential candidate’s qualification has come under fire from more than 17,000 signatories who are demanding that the university strip him of the qualification following his intent to ban Muslims from entering America if elected.

Calls against Trump have intensified after a series of “unrepentant, persistent verbal attacks on various groups of people based on nationality, religion, race and physical abilities” have been made during his campaign speeches and he has since had his degree removed.

RICHARD DAWKINS

The outspoken evolutionary biologist was rewarded with an honorary degree from the University of Aberdeen 150 years after Charles Darwin had published his magnum opus “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”.

While the November 2009 award was widely accepted, some religious and social organisations opposed the Doctor of Science award because of its recognition of Darwinian principles.

MOHAMMAD KHATAMI

Scotland’s oldest university bestowed upon the ex-Iranian President the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 2006, amid protests from the National Union of Students regarding his country’s questionable human rights record.

Khatami’s speech focused on compassion without borders, with then-Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson describing Khatami’s St Andrews as a “slur on Scotland”.

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