Higher Education Minister Professor Nkandu Luo says some people pay as much as US$5,000 to be awarded honorary degrees.

In a ministerial statement to Parliament yesterday, Prof Luo observed that a lot of people in Zambia loved to be addressed by titles which they had not worked for and that some institutions had turned this into a money making venture.

“Thank you Madam Speaker for according this opportunity to address the nation on the issue of honorary degrees, which have reached epidemic proportions in Zambia. Madam Speaker, honorary degrees are conferred as a way of honoring an individual for their outstanding to a specific field in their country or globally or their contribution to society in general. These qualifications are but mere decorations for contributions made to society and not anything issued through academic qualifications and therefore must be regarded as such. Furthermore, honorary degrees should be awarded to individuals with sustained lifetime achievements and not a single contribution in life. It is also important to point out that these degrees are given out at a University graduation ceremony and not through Internet or a hotel room,” Prof Luo said.

“Honorary degrees are not given because an individual has followed a particular programme of study with defined learning outcomes, it’s only due to an assessment of particular outstanding achievements and in the absence of a clearly determined achievement, that cannot be an honorary degree and such degrees cannot be designated on qualifications but as honours and must appear on the CV as such. Sadly, of late there are adverts on the internet asking people to pay $1,500 for them to be awarded honorary degrees and most recently letters were sent to individuals to pay $5,000 and an invitation to attend a two-day workshop and be awarded honorary degrees but in my opinion, there are just money making ventures because I have observed that in Zambia there are people who love titles which they have not worked for.”

Professor Luo said the Zambia Qualification Authority would no longer recognize any honourary degree because such did not qualify to be registered and accredited on the framework of qualifications.

“Madam Speaker, given that the Zambia Qualification Authority is a portfolio of qualifications, honorary degrees do not qualify to be registered and accredited on the framework. In this regard, honorary degrees will not be recognized by the Zambia qualifications authority [and] consequently, they shall not be placed on any level of the Zambia qualifications framework. Furthermore, honorary degrees are not recognized anywhere in the world as qualifications but seen as an honour to somebody who has excelled in a particular area. Madam Speaker, there are only three categories of people that can qualify and be recognized a s having achieved doctorate degrees; that will be somebody who has obtained a PHD or a medical doctor somebody who has obtained a degree in dentistry,” she said.

Professor Luo also urged people who had honorary degrees to explicitly indicate so on their Curriculum Vitae in order to avoid misleading the public.

“The people who have obtained honorary degrees may use it on the CVs but list it under awards and honours and not on the section for qualifications. When the title for honorary is used on a CV, the recipient should indicate that it’s an honorary degree against their names. The authority wishes therefore to advice those with honorary degrees to indicate clearly on their CV to avoid misleading the public and those that earned their doctorates and to also preserve the future generation. What is obtaining in Zambia madam Speaker is extremely unfortunate because to obtain a degree is difficult and it calls for very high levels of intellectual ability, hard work, resilience and commitment. If this continues, we are definitely demeaning the title of a doctor and worse still, it will make our children not want to pay attention to school because they know they can go to Internet or a hotel room and obtain their doctorate,” said Prof Luo.

“Madam Speaker, I hope this statement will bring an end to this epidemic of wanting honorary degrees and let people work hard and obtain degrees after hard work. My ministry is saddened by those people who want to obtain titles they have not worked for. But what we are doing as the ministry at the moment is that we are reviewing the higher education act and strengthening the law so that we are able to address some of these issues.”