Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is to be given an honorary doctorate by Sussex University.

Mr Tatchell, who has campaigned for equality worldwide for more than 40 years, will receive the honour for services to human rights.

The award will be made by university chancellor Sanjeev Bhaskar at a graduation ceremony at Brighton Dome on Friday.

The Australian-born activist began campaigning at the age of 15, moving to London in 1971.

Unusually for a veteran campaigner, he has never been offered a royal honour and has declared he will never accept one.

In a statement, he said: “I was hesitant about accepting this honour. After all, my contribution to human rights is very modest. I am a long way from being a brave and effective campaigner. Many others are much more deserving than me.

“I would never agree to a royal honour but this award is different.

“My decision to accept was partly because the initiative for this honorary doctorate was a grassroots one, from the staff and students. I am honoured by their recognition of my human rights work.”

Although the doctorate is honorary, rather than academic, Mr Tatchell may use the title Doctor if he wishes.

However, he told PinkNews.co.uk: “Since it is an honorary doctorate, I don’t think it would be appropriate to call myself a doctor. I think it would devalue the efforts of those who have studied for doctorates.

“More worryingly, it might prompt some people who are not up to speed to think I have had a change of career.

“I guess my mother will be happy though. When I was young she wanted me to be a doctor, which has finally come true. Although perhaps not in the medical sense she had hoped for.”

University of Sussex vice-chancellor Professor Michael Farthing said: “The degree is awarded in recognition of his 40 years’ human rights campaigning and his devotion to issues of democracy, civil liberties, social equality, environmental protection, peace and global justice.

“Peter Tatchell’s championing of such causes is very much in the Sussex tradition of radical thought and commitment to social change.”