I Received an Honorary Doctorate

Last weekend, I received an honorary ScD from the University of Westminster, in London.

I have had mixed feelings about this since I was asked early this year. The best piece of advice I've read is: "It's a great honor, but it is an honor, not a degree."

EDITED TO ADD (12/14): It was a Doctor of Science, not a Doctor of Philosophy. I changed it above.

Posted on December 2, 2011 at 1:57 PM • 46 Comments

Comments

remotecoderDecember 2, 2011 2:13 PM

It may only be honorary, but it speaks to the influence you have on the world :)

It's an achievement to be proud of.

ericDecember 2, 2011 2:22 PM

Totally agree with "remotecoder", it's quite an acknowledgement. Very cool. I hope it feels good to be thought of that highly.

Bob TDecember 2, 2011 2:23 PM

I was legally ordained and got my and honorary doctorate from Universal Ministries. The reverendship was free but the doctorate was a 50 or 60 dollar "donation." Legally, you can't buy an honorary degree but you can donate money for one. :)

GregDecember 2, 2011 2:26 PM

Personally I am happy to be working at the most prestigious EDU in the world - which does not give out honorary degrees to anyone for any reason and that includes Feynman.

You earn your degree or you get nothing.

Brian RaaenDecember 2, 2011 2:35 PM

Congratulations, you have contributed much more work to the world than most doctorate dissertations.... do this mean in place to the dissertation you will be putting out yet another book?

PeterDecember 2, 2011 2:52 PM

My father had an honourary degree. The only time he "used" it was when trying to get service from an airline - it was quite useful for that purpose, for some reason.

ErnstDecember 2, 2011 3:01 PM

Congrats! And what striked me second (not first, first was: wow, that's cool!) was: You wrote this: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2011/12/... before that. You're right in that. It's more important what you do than what label is put on you. And I really do think I need to buy the new book as well. Damn. There go several weekends.

Jan WillemDecember 2, 2011 3:42 PM

Congratulations. With your books, and I think about 'Secrets and Lies' you have given more to the world than with a normal doctorate.
Be proud on it!

aikimarkDecember 2, 2011 4:12 PM

Congratulations, Bruce.

When I lamented leaving college without an advanced degree, a professor asked me why I wanted an advanced degree. I said that my articles would be more accepted if I had MS or PhD behind my name. He explained it would be the quality of my writing and not my credentialing that would determine the acceptance of my articles. Very wise words.

Bob StaudenmaierDecember 2, 2011 4:21 PM

Hey, I have no problem calling him Dr. Schneier. It may be an honorary degree based on recognition, but as far as recognition goes, Bruce don't need no steenking doctorate!

ModeratorDecember 2, 2011 4:38 PM

Dr. I. Needtob Athe (is that an honorary doctorate?), your post was off-topic. This is not the place to grind that particular axe.

tzDecember 2, 2011 4:46 PM

Certification theater.

I would add other doctorates, spout enough nonsense, pay big $$$ andypu get one.

Some truly smart people engage in the liturgical rites. Some don't.

Nobby NutsDecember 2, 2011 6:19 PM

It was an hono*u*r if it was from the University of Westminster. We can spell over here, you know, eh what? ;)

Clive RobinsonDecember 2, 2011 9:33 PM

@ Bruce,

You've got yourself another hat, not sure if I like it as much as the one you wear when playing your drum 8)

Seriously though concratulations, yes it is an "Honorary award" but to get that for a significant contribution to a body of scientific knowledge is often way harder to get than an ordinary award.

I know in the US they are a bit "sniffy" about honour awards, but when you are in the UK the old style would be to call you "The Honorable Doctor Bruce Schneier" as a formal introduction, but the "newer universities" are changing that so check with the Westminster awards office.

And yes it does have it's uses over and above being an honour, but for the many ups there are also one or two downs, as someone I know with an Honorary Doctorate found out you will get people come upto you at social functions thinking you are "the other kind of doctor" and ask you for advice about "their little problem"...

One up is you may find it easier to get personal membership of certain institutions with libraries "behind membership-walls" to carry on your research in the direction of your new book. Some will now even give you membership for free.

Ask Ross J Anderson what institutions it will let you into, the ones worth joining though should let you in on "standing" anyway from all your published work.

Oh and in future times when giving evidence before various commities etc the Honorary (because it's for "standing") often actually adds to the weight of your testament, such is the odd way of things.

TamaraDecember 2, 2011 10:38 PM

Congratulations on your Honorary PhD!

Sometimes honorary degrees are political and seem to undermine the academic tradition.
In your case, however, academia is simply acknowledging the body of knowledge you have imparted to our worlds.
Thank you for your excellent contributions to our knowledge base.
Tamara

CarrascoDecember 3, 2011 2:50 AM

You are a Dr. as you accepted the honor: congratulations.
Dr. Ferdinand Porsche used his "Dr." and Germans do take it seriously. Most universities would be honoured :-) to grant you Ph.D. if you bothered to present some of your work.

RobDecember 3, 2011 3:47 AM

Congratulations! Your contributions are worth several doctorates in fact: trust me - I've examined a few. This is a recognition of that. But your authority and stature in the security world is already top-notch for the best of reasons - you've earned them.

Mr. NotadocDecember 3, 2011 2:04 PM

Congrats -- it is a nice honor.

I hold you in higher esteem than those who put nineteen letters behind their names based on tests they've taken. Also in much higher esteem than a colleague of mine who testified before Congress and never corrected them when they called him, "Dr. Soandso," countless times and he didn't have a corresponding degree.

JamesDecember 3, 2011 2:06 PM

I believe that the statement "it's an honor, not a degree" overvalues the degree and undervalues the the honor. From my understanding, an honorary doctorate should recognize a body of work which is at least equivalent to a doctoral program (and often is much more.) When a college/university awards such an honorary doctorate, it isn't a "safe" thing for them to do, like giving a regular doctorate to some person for an arcane thesis which will likely not be read, but it's endorsing an individual's work in a very public and significant way.

JonDecember 3, 2011 2:09 PM

Hail Dr. Schneier.

A doctorate is awarded for work you have done. This was awarded for work you have done.

That it wasn't part of a formal curriculum is irrelevant - It is a title given to you in respect and honour of what you have done.

Technically, every doctorate is an honour. What is a degree except recognition of what you have learned and accomplished?

I think you should wear your new hat with pride, Dr. Schneier.

Nitpicky guyDecember 3, 2011 4:10 PM

Congratulations on the well-deserved hono(u)r. Please note, however, that the degree awarded is properly called a Doctor of Science (abbreviated Sc.D., D.Sc., S.D. or Dr.Sc., depending on the institution). A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, and is always a non-honorary degree.

GabrielDecember 3, 2011 9:16 PM

I can see it now:

Random person: "Dr. Schneier, I think I have a virus"
Bruce: "I'm not tech support, you need to take your PC somewhere to get looked at."
Random person: "What does my PC have to do with my fever and hot flashes?"

Congratulations on being "Piled higher and Deeper"!

GabrielDecember 3, 2011 9:30 PM

@Jon: I'm sure Bruce is glad he didn't have to fight Death to get his honorary doctorate. I must admit I couldn't read past the second page. The heavy intentional misspelling was too hard to read.

BF SkinnerDecember 4, 2011 2:12 PM

There should be a hat that goes with the title.

@Clive "Honorary (because it's for "standing") often actually adds to the weight of your testament,"

Because he's "Honorable" and if you can't belive in what honorable people say what's the point?

PeterDecember 5, 2011 6:21 AM

@Clive Robinson, do you have a source on that use of "The Honourable"? Normally that would indicate either membership of the House of Commons or minor aristocracy.

Clive RobinsonDecember 5, 2011 9:15 AM

@ Peter,

It's not "the honorable" but "the honorable Dr.", that is it is used as an honorific or title of respect.

If I remember correctly the "honorable" part in "Right honorable" and "Most Honorable" originaly refered to an award being bestowed upon a person by a servant of a monarch who has a Royal Warrant or acts under a Royal Charter to do so. And it means effectivly it is an award tracble directly to the monarch.

Thus in the case of a member of parliment "the right honorable MP for Noddinghoff Mr John Snooze". Informaly if the award comes before the name it is traceable to the monarch after the name clarifing titles and positional awards then by education or affiliation to some institution of proffessional standing it can all get quite messy as in,

"Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent, Knight Comander of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath and Commander of the British Empire, Vice Admiral of the United Kingdom, Admiral in Her Majesty's Fleet and Commander in Chief of Her Majesty's Ships and Vessels employed and to be employed in the Fleet".

The Sir (knighthood) is qualified by "Knight Commander of the order of the bath" (KCB) which was originaly a military award and "Commander of the British Empire (CBE) which is usually attached to a senior position within the British Government which in this case is "vice admiral" followed by the responsability of the post...

The title of "The Honorable" is very confusing, and is used in a number of places in different ways. Usually it "goes with the post" in Government circles and can be qualified by "right" and "most". However Universities with Charters are allowed to use it when the give an "Honorary degree" where the purpose is recognition of equivalent standing to the accademic equivalent. That is where it is held self evident or upon submission that the persons contribution to the field of endeavor is equivalent or greater than would be expected of some one who has obtained the qualification by the more normal accademic route. Generaly it is thus the equivalent in every way to that of the accademic award.

Thus the verbal honorific "The Honarable Doctor" is sometimes used to make clear that it is awarded on merit of standing not for some other reason (and yes it is confusing when the person is a Dr. by qualification and holds a government position that carrries "The Honarable".

However when it comes to writing it down it becomes very messy and the rules vary very wildly from place to place and normaly you would recieve guidence from the institutions awards and honours office.

Finally just to make life even more interesting with regards "Honorable" it can be used as a title or honorific in other ways. Firstly the Offspring of various peers are entitled to use the "title" verbaly whilst others can use lord or lady. But also private organisations without a charter can and do in some places issue the title of "The Honorable" to either founding members for life or to those who currently hold position in office of a council (equivalent to a director etc). Which then brings up the issue of what do you call the council member when they nolonger hold office... Some get nothing others get "The distinguished member" and all sorts of other titles as so often is the case the rules are very fluid and the mileage may vary...

The only reason I ever got vaguly interested in this mess was because on a number of occasions I have been refered to as Esquire (ie Esq. after my name) as this is both a title and an honorific, and at one point was the holder of a formal transferable title (I bought it at auction as an investment and shortly there after sold it at a reasonable profit).

Oh and just to show how messy things can get there are certain groups where they do things in an odd way, take surgeons, they use the title "Mister" to distinguish themselves from meer medical men who call themselves "Doctor". All of which was once OK but what do you call a surgeon who is actually a woman? I'm still trying to find out but I've been told "it's still Mister".

C BDecember 5, 2011 12:27 PM

Congratulations, Bruce! You look almost as cute in that little floppy hat and robe as you did in your Renaissance Fair outfit.

JonDecember 5, 2011 10:26 PM

@Gabriel - It's supposed to be read in a very thick accent. It took me some time to get the wheezing down right when trying to vocalize their remarks.

J.

QuirkzDecember 6, 2011 10:27 AM

Congrats! I joked after finishing my Bachelor's that all my future degrees would be honorary, but I don't think I'll ever be offered one. It's a testament to the depth of your work that you were given this honor.

GabrielDecember 6, 2011 8:23 PM

@Jon, Yeah, I figured that, but my eyes decided to quit early. Maybe a little less misspelling and a different font might get that across and be easier to read.

NickDecember 7, 2011 3:28 PM

At least you look good in that ridiculous outfit! Congratulations! It might not be a degree, but it means you've done more than 99% of the people who do have a doctorate.

Philosopher of Higher EducationDecember 9, 2011 3:51 AM

background - M.S. - PhD non-complete or dropout.

1.)First, I would like an honorary degree. Many
of my family, friends, associates are highly educated and yes I am Asian-American and retain
a bit of the 'Chinese culture.'

2.)Second, I reject the 'honor.' It presumes that
the tester or the teacher is the UNIVERSITY and
the student is Mr. Schneier. WRONG! The teacher is Mr. Schneier and the student is the
university organization.

3.)The university only tries to maximize 'recognition and fame.' It finds difficulty in
AWARDING Mr. Schneier (or me) any fame.

4.)Tao te Ching. Best leader is when the people
say we have done it all ourselves. THERE IS
no recognition as to 'subtle influence.'

4a.)let your actions speak louder than words.
4b.)let your influence speak louder than actions
4c.)let your friends and allies speak louder than
your influence.

5.)Much of the 'University' is completely outside
THE REAL WORLD.

6.)Mr. schneier , RETURN AND BURN THE
Piece of Paper. Demand a full scholarship to
be given by you to ANYONE. Then give that
student or 'clone of yours' that scholarship aid.

Finally, ask them to FULLY ADOPT the partial
name or nickname of Mr. Schneier. Then, your
'family' will grow throughout the entire world.

7.)Thank you for allowing me to RENT YOUR NAME. Oh, relax. I only 'think it.' When I am
faced with SECURITY ISSUES, I ask myself:
What would Mr. Schneier say? I can only
imagine it for maybe I am not BRAVE or SMART
enough.

8.)pen-ultimate finally. Immediately request
list of all alumni of university and request that
they buy TWO COPIES per person of your various
books. Post that BOOK BUY COUNTER ONLINE.

Only after YOU ARE NUMBER ONE IN BOOK SALES, (another meaningless figure) and you
donate some to charity,

THEN REJECT THE HONOR and BURN THE PAPER.

For PREDICTION:
eventually the university will disappear and be
replaced by the 'Internet' and various 'hermit
monasteries of tech.'

PS. other readers may find the side note interesting. The rise of Asian and Chinese students in Computer Science and Engineering.
and use of 'slave labor.'

ku - li - bitter tears and word 'coolie' and
'graduate student worker.'

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