SOAS University of London

About SOAS

Honorary Degrees and Fellowships: An Overview

Each year, SOAS has the opportunity to award a small number of Honorary Fellowships and Honorary Degrees.  Awards are normally made at the School's graduation ceremonies.

Nominations are normally considered by the Honorary Degrees & Fellowships Committee (HDFC) during the spring term of each session.  The Committee is Chaired by the Director and includes lay members of the Board of Trustees as well as staff and student members. The final deadline for nominations is Monday 04 May 2020 in order to be ready for the final HDFC meeting of 2019/20 academic year.    

The Committee makes recommendations to the School's Board of Trustees for the award of Honorary Fellowships and Honorary Degrees.

This process can be a lengthy one, which is why it is necessary to adhere to the deadline set.  Awards are normally made at the graduation ceremonies in the year following the session in which nominations are made.

There are clearly stated criteria for the award of both Honorary Degrees and Honorary Fellowships and these are set out below.  The criteria are also listed in the guidelines for those wishing to make nominations.  The guidelines include a copy of the form which must be used for all nominations.  It is important to recognise that an Honorary Degree is neither superior to nor inferior to an Honorary Fellowship.  They are distinct awards given for different reasons.

The outcome of this process remains confidential until after the Board of Trustees has made a decision about the nominations recommended to it by the Honorary Degrees and Fellowships Committee, and the individuals concerned have been contacted.

Each nomination must be made by one person.  Nominations will not be accepted where more than one nominator is listed on the form.

Strict confidentiality must be maintained throughout the nomination process. Nominators must not discuss their nomination with anyone, unless asked to do so by the Committee Chair or Committee Secretary.

It is important to recognise that the School only makes a small number of awards in each session.  This means that it is not possible to make awards to all nominees who meet the criteria, and this should not be seen as reflecting in any way on the quality of the nominee.  In order to avoid causing embarrassment to any individual and/or confusion, it is essential that nominees are not informed that they have been put forward for an award.

No public announcement will be made until the Board of Trustees has met, and the nominees have agreed to an award being made.

Further information can be obtained from the Secretary of the Honorary Degrees & Fellowships Committee whose contact details are below:

Governance Team
Faber Building, 4th Floor
Thornhaugh Street
Russell Square
London WC1H 0XG


1. Honorary Degrees

SOAS may award Honorary Degrees (honoris causa) to recognise individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to scholarship, or public life, where this contribution is in areas relevant to the School's mission.

An Honorary Degree may not normally be conferred on a serving politician or Head of State, a serving member of the Board of Trustees, or a current employee or student of the School.

2. Honorary Fellowships

Honorary Fellowships are appropriate for those who have given distinguished service to the School community, or to members of the wider community who have given distinguished service to its regions.

Honorary Fellowships shall be awarded on the basis of one or more of the following:

  1. a significant contribution to the School’s mission;
  2. having played a significant role in the School’s regions;
  3. previous significant donations to the School;

Preference will be given to SOAS alumni.

Normally, no current or former internal member of SOAS will be considered for the award of an Honorary Fellowship.  

Nominators are asked to note that the School will not accept self-nominations for either Honorary Degrees or Honorary Fellowships.