10/04/2018 14:49 SAST | Updated 10/04/2018 14:49 SAST

What Is A Conferred Degree, And Who Has One? 🎓

Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu recently received an honorary degree from UJ.

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 11:  Kanye West receives an honorary doctorate at the School Of Art Institute Of Chicago
Getty Images
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 11: Kanye West receives an honorary doctorate at the School Of Art Institute Of Chicago

Conferred degree: A degree that is granted to a recipient based on their life achievements in their profession/field. The recipient is decided by a panel.

Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu, known for her signature graphic murals, received her honorary doctoral degree from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Monday.

Even though she did not study for any qualification at the institution, Mahlangu received the honorary degree for her contribution to arts and culture – in what is known as a conferred degree.

But what does a conferred degree mean – does this mean Mahlangu qualifies as an official "doctor" in her profession, and can she be acknowledged academically? Well, technically speaking, no.

It is based on the life achievements and not academics –University of Johannesburg

HuffPost spoke to Herman Esterhuizen at the University of Johannesburg's central graduation centre on Tuesday to find out how a conferred degree works, and how Mahlangu became a recipient of one.

"An honorary doctorate does not have the same requirements as a regular degree, and is merited. It is conferred upon an individual as an acknowledgement of his/her notable contributions to a specific field or outstanding service to society, which relates to the university's vision, mission, values and strategic goals and objectives," said Esterhuizen.


He also explained that a panel nominates a candidate for an honorary doctoral degree, and only when they are nominated can they receive a degree.

Here are some other famous people who have received conferred degrees:

Kanye West

Getty Images

Kanye West was honoured with a doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

JK Rowling

Getty Images

In the past 15 years, Rowling has amassed seven honorary doctorates from the University of Exeter, the University of St Andrews, Napier University, the University of Edinburgh, Dartmouth College, Harvard University and the University of Aberdeen.

Ben Affleck


After successfully directing the critically acclaimed movie "Argo", Ben Affleck was honoured with a Doctorate of Fine Arts by Brown University.


EMPICS Entertainment

Diddy was honoured with a Doctorate in Humanities by Howard University. He first enrolled in 1990, but did not complete his degree, only being honoured in 2014 in recognition of his career in music.

Yoko Ono

Edgard Garrido / Reuters

Yoko Ono has honourary doctorates from the University of Liverpool and Bard College.