Frequently Asked Questions - Honorary Degrees

Through example, honorary degree recipients provide inspiration and leadership to the graduates of the University. In accepting an honorary degree, renowned individuals who have achieved extraordinary accomplishments bring honour and distinction to the University.

Nominations may be submitted by anyone. A nominator does not need to be a U of T alumnus/a, faculty, staff, or student, although members of those groups may be especially interested in identifying outstanding nominees who reflect the diversity of the University. Individuals external to the University are strongly encouraged to consider partnering with an academic unit within the University when preparing a nomination package. Questions about the nomination process can be directed to the Secretary of the Committee for Honorary Degrees.

  1. An honorary degree nomination may be submitted at any time, but for consideration for the current academic year, the nomination must be received by the deadline in September.
  2. The nomination form (fillable PDF) is available here.
  3. A complete nomination package is required. Guidance on submitting a complete nomination package is available here.

The Committee for Honorary Degrees seeks those whose merit is extraordinary, and not merely impressive. This includes individuals who have made an extraordinary and impactful contribution to their discipline, community, or society. The recipient will reflect positively on the University and will preferably have a connection to the University. In keeping with the University’s commitment to diversity, the Committee encourages the submission of nominations that reflect diversity in all of its dimensions.

Nominations will not be considered for the following categories until a minimum of two years has elapsed following retirement from active service:

  1.  active politicians, although exceptions may be considered for Governors-General and Lieutenant-Governors, as well as for judges and others whose appointments place them outside active partisan politics.
  2. Members of the Governing Council or University Staff.

It is expected that an individual  will have an association or relationship with the University of Toronto or a nexus between the individual’s achievements and the mission or life of the University.

While letters of support are not required, it is recommended that as part of the nomination package, lead nominators include at least two and a maximum of four letters of support (though exceptions might apply). Letters of support should come from individuals who are familiar with the nominee and the nominee’s achievements, and who themselves may be considered to be experts in the relevant field(s). If applicable, the inclusion of a letter of support from the Dean of the Faculty with which the nominee’s achievements are related can strengthen a package.  Please note that letters of support should be part of a completed nomination package and should not be submitted separately to the Secretary of the Committee for Honorary Degrees.

Nominations are accepted on an ongoing basis throughout the year. However, the deadline to submit nominations for consideration for the following year’s spring Convocation is normally in mid- September. The current year’s deadline can be found here. Please see the nomination package instructions for submission details.

Recipients represent a range of disciplines and backgrounds. Their community, national, or global involvement is noteworthy, and their extraordinary achievements are easily identified by their peers and the broader community. The list of recipients from 1850 to the present will provide a sense of the range of individuals who have been honoured.

An honorary degree recipient is normally expected to attend a Convocation ceremony for the conferral of the degree within two years of receiving an offer from the President. As well, the recipient usually is asked to address the graduands at the ceremony. Recipients may also be invited to participate in activities sponsored by an academic division of the University, such as seminars, lectures, student receptions, etc.

The Committee for Honorary Degrees seeks those whose merit is extraordinary, and not merely impressive. The Committee for Honorary Degrees takes into account a number of factors when evaluating nominations that have been received. Some questions which are considered include the following:

  • In what way is the candidate’s achievement truly outstanding in a field of highly accomplished peers?
  • How far-reaching is the nominee’s impact/contribution to society, Canada, Toronto, the University, or a particular community?
  • What is the nexus between the individual’s achievements and the mission or life of the University?
  • Does the nominee reflect the diversity of Canadian society?
  • To which category of nominations does the recipient belong? (e.g. excellence in the academy or professions, outstanding service for the public good, outstanding service to the nation, outstanding service to the University, excellence in arts, entertainment, and sports)?

The Committee for Honorary Degrees meets during the fall term to discuss nominations. Each December, the Committee normally recommends to the Governing Council a list of proposed honorary degree recipients. The names of those individuals who have agreed to accept an honorary degree are typically made public each February.

It is recommended that lead nominators wait for at least two years before submitting a nomination again, unless there are special circumstances. It is also recommended that re-submissions be such that they can stand on their own, rather than recycling or relying on earlier nominations, as this ensures that the Committee will take a fresh look at the submission.

Honorary degrees will be conferred posthumously only if the honoree had been approved by the Governing Council and had accepted the honorary degree, but has died before the degree could be conferred. Where a candidate for an honorary degree dies, the name of that candidate will be removed from the names under consideration.

If you have any other questions not answered here, please contact the Secretary of the Committee for Honorary Degrees.