About the honorary doctorate

The right to confer the degree of honorary doctorate is enshrined in the Act of May 12, 1995, No. 22 relating to Universities and University Colleges. It states in §3-2 that

"An institution that has a right to award doctorates or corresponding degrees, may in the same fields award honorary doctorates (doctor honoris causa) for important scientific or artistic contributions, or outstanding work for the benefit of science or art."

The right to confer the doctorate degree

The University Foundation of 1824 gave the Royal Frederik University the right to appoint honorary doctorates. But the university "found no practical application for it," and this right was rescinded in 1845. However, in connection with the 50th anniversary of 1861, such a right was missed, and the university then repeatedly applied for it - obviously unsuccessful. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Abel's birth in 1902, the university was granted a temporary permit, with the Storting making its own legislative decision that made it possible this year to award its own degree, doctor matemathicae honoris causa, to 29 prominent foreign scientists in mathematics, physics and astronomy. Among them were many of the greatest scientists of the time.

"Anniversary awards"

Also after the Act of 1905 had granted the university a permanent right to award honorary doctorates, this right was often used to appoint honorary doctorates in special fields in connection with anniversaries. Up to and including 1938 ten conferments occurred at irregular intervals, and half of these were more subject-specific anniversary awards. There were two reformation anniversaries, in 1917 and 1921, an Ibsen anniversary in 1928, and another Abel event, the memorial celebration in 1929. If one counts the university´s 100 year anniversary in 1911, six of the ten honorary conferments were associated with various anniversaries. In total, some of the ten appear to have taken place in connection with the University´s Annual Celebration (1902, 1911 and 1930), while others either took place on a specific date determined by the anniversary or in connection with the university's doctoral conferment celebration in spring.

Of the subject-specific anniversaries, only the Abel events have been followed up more recently in connection with the 200-year anniversary in 2002. In a different category are the university anniversaries every fifty years (in 1911 and 1961), which both garnered numerous honorary doctorates in a wide variety of academic fields (51 doctorates in 1911 and 25 in 1961, both with a significant inclusion of Nobel laureates).

The Faculties´ rights

The Act of 1905 provided that any faculty, with the consent of university leadership, could appoint foreign men and women of recognized scientific merit to honorary doctorates without prior doctoral degrees, and in 1908 Louis Renault was awarded an honorary doctorate. He had received the Nobel Peace Prize a year before. A law amendment in 1910 transferred the right to appoint honorary doctorates to the university leadership while the faculties were granted the right to propose candidates. Already that same year, recently departed US President Theodore Roosevelt was created as doctor philosophiae h.c. He had received the Nobel Peace Prize four years earlier.

In 1955 the law was amended so that it also became possible to award honorary doctorates to Norwegians "for outstanding personal efforts in the service of science or for the advancement of Norwegian science".

Appointments during the University´s Annual Celebration

Since 1976, honorary doctorates have been regularly awarded at the University of Oslo. Prior to this, honorary doctorates were appointed during conferments of doctoral degrees which were held approximately every five years, but in the 1974 university leadership decided to move away from this, and instead add the honorary doctoral appointments to the University's Annual Celebration as an extended program every five years. In 1993, the University leadership decided to appoint honorary doctorates every three years, still in connection with the University's Annual Celebration.

Published Jan. 29, 2020 9:32 AM - Last modified Jan. 29, 2020 9:32 AM