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Limkokwing University responds to criticisms of its honorary doctorates awards

Publishing Date : 06 November, 2014

Author : Professor Cedric D Bell

I refer to the article appearing under the above designation in your paper of Sunday 5th October 2014 and would wish to respond as your contributor is laboring under a number of misconceptions as to the award generally and is in particular seriously misinformed as to Limkokwing University of Creative Technology the object of his misplaced ire.

Your contributor starts his modest effort to try to inform by giving the impression that the award of Honorary Doctorates/degrees is perhaps a comparatively new phenomenon. The reality is that the award of an honorary degree dates back to the Middle Ages. The earliest recoded honorary degree was awarded to a Lionel Woodville in the late 1470s by the University of Oxford – the recipient subsequently becoming the Bishop of Salisbury.

He emphasizes the considerable efforts that recipients of normal University Doctorate awards have to attain in order to be successful but rather surprisingly fails to make the basic point about an Honorary Degree that recipients of the same do not earn the degree through academic achievement. Rather the conferring institution waives its usual degree award requirements to honour an individual who is judged by the University in question to have made through altruistic action or through a lifetime of achievement has conferred benefit upon a community, nation or humanity in general.

The original Latin designation was Honoris Causa (for the sake of honour) and it is widely understood that the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate can use the title ‘Doctor’ despite not having completed a regular Doctoral programme of study. Your contributor then decries what he sees as such awards being made ‘by obscure higher learning institutions some of which until yesterday did not have a full license to operate as tertiary institutions’. Unfortunately he fails to give any examples of institutions that accurately fall within his description. The only institution he specifically mentions is Limkokwing University. Let us see if his denigration matches the facts? Limkokwing University is a global University of close to 30,000 students with campuses in ten countries across three continents.

Its award winning website www.limkokwing.net attracts 300 million ‘hits’ a year from around 229 different countries and territories – tangible evidence of the global appeal of our programmes and ethos. In the world ranking of Facebook Likes, Limkokwing University is in the top ten Universities and above the University of Cambridge and Yale University. Is that the profile of an ‘obscure higher learning institution?’ Further Limkokwing University is not as suggested a ‘yesterday’ University. The key facts are as follows in 2003 it was the first private sector HE provider to be recognized as a University College by the Government of Malaysia and in 2007 it was granted full University status by the Government of Malaysia and changed its title to Limkokwing University of Creative Technology. Your contributor then asserts that ‘the conferment of honorary doctorates by Limkokwing University (Botswana Campus) seems irregular as it is offensive and malicious’.

If your contributor had taken the care to check the necessary facts he would have discovered that the University’s Botswana campus itself does not confer any Honorary Doctorate (not indeed does any other international satellite campus of the University). Rather, it is the Senate and Council of the parent University in Malaysia who alone confers Honorary Doctorate awards. Accordingly, his further assertion that the University has no experience of Masters Degree awards is totally false and spurious. The reality is that Limkokwing University is accredited by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (the equivalent in Malaysia of the Botswana Qualifications Agency) to award not just Masters programmes but also Doctorate awards and at our Kuala Lumpur campus alone we currently have close to 1,000 students studying for Masters and Doctorate awards.

Accordingly, Limkowing has the requisite standing, experience and postgraduate credentials to make the appropriate judgments as to the conferral of Honorary Doctorates. The caliber of the recipients of our awards is compelling evidence of the high standards that we observe in making awards. Our role call of Honorary Doctorate holders includes as your contributor concedes the late Nelson Mandela (indeed we were the only Asian University from whom he accepted such an award) and the following -

• Dato Sri Dr Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia (Honorary Doctorate in Social Transformation)

• His Excellency Festus Mogae, Former President of the Republic of Botswana (Honorary Doctorate in Humanity)

In particular Limkokwing University has eschewed the tendency to go for ‘celebrity cult’ figures which several UK Universities have chosen for Honorary Doctorate awards like Kim Cattrall (Sex & the City star) awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Liverpool John Moores University and Orlando Bloom of Pirates of the Caribbean fame who received his Honorary Doctorate from the University of Kent.

Rather we select people of proven ability and in relation to Botswana most recently at our 2014 Convocation your distinguished Vice-President Kedikilwe. Indeed it was my personal pleasure to read his citation at the Convocation and to spend some time with him afterwards and I found him to be a most worthy recipient – certainly ‘no clown or sleep-walker’.

Indeed in compiling the citation for Dr Kedikilwe I noted that he had previously been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Botswana – your contributor’s alma mater – so it is good to note the Limkokwing’s decision processes in this regard mirrored those of the national University. Further our distinguished Honorary Doctorate alumni could have chosen to decline the offer of an award the fact that they willingly accepted is further tangible endorsement of the high esteem in which Limkokwing University is held globally. Each University has its own criteria and procedures for the conferral of awards and Limkokwing University is no exception. In the case of Limkokwing I am satisfied as the University’s senior academic and with over thirty five years of experience of UK and international higher education that our procedures are reflective of good industry practice.

Finally, the University will continue to honour global leaders of distinction through its well established and respected Honorary Doctorate award system.

Yours Sincerely,

Professor Cedric D Bell
Pro Vice-Chancellor
Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Worldwide

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