The University of Aberdeen has revoked an honorary degree given to the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah in an “unprecedented” move.
The university confirmed the step had been taken to revoke the honorary degree after Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah imposed a new penal code in Brunei that introduces the death penalty for homosexuality.
University of Aberdeen: Situation is ‘deeply regrettable’
In a letter to students and staff seen by PinkNews on Wednesday (April 17), University of Aberdeen Principal George Boyne said: “The honorary degree has been revoked following a vote by Senate, our academic body, which approved a recommendation from our Honorary Degrees Committee.
“Our internal process also included an opportunity for the Sultan to respond to the recommendation. The response from the Sultan was considered by the Senate and the Honorary Degrees Committee.
“While it is deeply regrettable to be in this position, which is unprecedented for the University of Aberdeen, I fully support the decision.”
Boyne added: “The University of Aberdeen is proud of our foundational purpose of being open to all and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others.
“The introduction by the Sultan of the new Penal Code is contrary to our strong commitment to the value of diversity and inclusion.”
Boyne also explained that the honorary degree had been offered in 1995 “at a time when the University had operated a successful exchange programme with its counterpart in Brunei.”
He added that the sultan “had encouraged links between Brunei and Aberdeen due to his interest in our geology and petroleum engineering research.”
UK universities pressed to rescind Sultan of Brunei honours
Other UK universities have also faced pressure to rescind honours lavished upon the Sultan of Brunei, who is an unelected dictator.
King’s College London and the University of Oxford have both also said they will review honorary degrees given to the Commonwealth country’s leader.
“We will reconsider this decision through our established process in light of the information now available, as other British Universities are doing,” reads the statement from the University of Oxford.
“At no point has the University declined to reconsider this decision.”
King’s College London said: “King’s is very proud of our diverse community. We take very seriously the concerns raised by our community regarding the honorary degree held by the Sultan of Brunei which was awarded in 2011.
“President & Principal Ed Byrne shares these concerns, and given recent developments has asked the university’s Fellowships and Honorary Degrees Committee to urgently review the award.”
The Royal College of GPs, also pressed to rescind an honorary title, said: “The College will be reviewing the situation in light of emerging developments and in no way condones any abuses of human rights in the UK or abroad.”