Research Outline

Legislatures - Awarding College Degrees


To identify legislative bodies that have granted college degrees directly to individuals. In addition, we are to provide an overview of the process involved in granting such degrees.

Early Findings

Our preliminary research indicates that legislative bodies in the US (both at the state and federal level) and the UK do not have laws that enable them to grant a college degree directly to an individual.

In the United States, the ability to grant award degrees is vested in degree-awarding institutions by the Congress or state legislative bodies. The legislative bodies themselves do not have the legal authority to grant degrees but possess the authority to vest such powers in degree-awarding institutions recognized by federal, state, and tribal laws.

In both regions, the university (or college) is the predominant process by which individuals earn a college degree. In the UK and US, there are various Acts enacted by the legislatures that grant higher education providers the ability to award college degrees to individuals. However, there are a number of alternative routes through which individuals can earn a college degree without going through the college system.


  • In 2015, the UK government revamped its national apprenticeship policy and began offering the apprenticeship program as an alternative route to earning a degree without necessarily going through the university system. The apprenticeship model is basically for individuals who would like to work, get paid, and earn a degree at the same time. In this model, individuals spend about 80 percent of working hours at their place of employment, and the remaining 20 percent at their place of study.
  • The UK Institute for Apprenticeship and Technical Education regulates degree apprenticeship in the UK. The funding and delivery of degree apprenticeship programs is provided by both the government and the employer. About 6,400 apprentices were enrolled in degree apprenticeship programs during the 2017/18 session. Degree apprenticeship programs in the UK are available to individuals over the age of 18.
  • In the US, degree apprenticeships are still unpopular and unregulated, but several institutions are looking to develop programs that award degrees at the end of a period of apprenticeship — similar to the UK.


  • Honorary degrees can be legally awarded to interested individuals in recognition of achievement in related fields or as an exchange for a donation to the university (or other degree-awarding institutions).
  • The US and the UK both legally support and have laws governing the provision of honorary degree in their countries. Honorary degrees are awarded in top ranking institutions such as the University of Oxford and Havard University.


  • There are also a number of degree-awarding institutions that allow an individual to earn "course credit" from past work experience. Such institutions factor in past work experience and allow such individuals to take an exam to test their knowledge of a subject to determine whether or not they know enough about the course to earn credit.
  • If successful, the subject is classified as earned credit toward the overall degree program. With vast work experience, an individual may earn a vital amount of credit to significantly reduce the learning period by only proving his or her familiarity with key subjects.

Summary of Findings

The power to grant degree awards rests with employers, as with the case of the government-regulated apprenticeship program in the UK, or the providers of higher education in the country, through full-time college degree programs or rewarding the individual with an honorary degree.

The legislative bodies themselves do not possess the legal authority to grant degrees directly to individuals, and there are no records of such happening in recent times all across the globe. However, legislative bodies possess the authority to vest such powers in institutions recognized by federal, state, and tribal laws.