Cllr Stewart Dickson said: “This was a very offhand and ill-thought through attack on our universities from Margaret Ritchie. It was also a massive own goal from an SDLP perspective. John Hume is meant to be their hero and their current leader is criticising a practice which has seen Mr Hume receive 44 honorary doctorates.
“As an ex-employee of University of Ulster in Jordanstown I was particularly dismayed at her comments that universities were essentially wasting money on honorary degrees.
“The reality is that the vast majority of honorary awards are given to high achievers from the academia. They act as inspirational role models for both students and staff. They also act as excellent ambassadors and provide a vast network of opportunities for both universities and graduates.
“How many universities in the UK can get a former President of Finland to speak at their graduation ceremony like Queen’s did at the end of last year?
“Another highly inspirational figure recently given an honorary award by Queen’s University is Sir Tim Brighouse, who may not be a household name but has written over 15 books on school improvement. His speech at the ceremony will have inspired many students and staff alike. From a University of Ulster perspective, many people from engineering and science backgrounds have been given these accolades and their extensive networks of connections will have provided many opportunities for the university and their alumni alike.
“Is Margaret Ritchie also saying that Queen’s University should not have awarded Bill Clinton, who did so much for our peace process, an accolade of this nature?”