Footballer Marcus Rashford is being awarded an honorary doctorate - here’s what it means

The footballer is being honoured for his campaign work against child poverty (Photo: Shutterstock)

Footballer Marcus Rashford is to be awarded an honorary doctorate from The University of Manchester in recognition of his campaign against child poverty.

The 22 year old Manchester United and England forward will become the youngest person ever to receive such an accolade from the university. It was awarded after Rashford successfully campaigned to allow children in England access to the free school meal voucher scheme during the summer holidays.

What is an honorary doctorate?

An honorary doctorate is the highest honour a university can bestow, and recognises a person’s contribution to society, or lifetime achievement in their field.

The award is not earned through academic achievement, but rather due to lifetime accomplishments that benefit a community, or nation in general, with individual universities establishing their own criteria for acceptance.

Candidates do not necessarily have to be an alumnus of the awarding institution to receive the honour, although some universities do choose to recognise former graduates or individuals who have made a contribution.

In being awarded the doctorate, Rashford will follow in the footsteps of Manchester United legends Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton, who both have previously received the honour from the university.

Why is Marcus Rashford being given an honorary doctorate?

Rashford is to be given the award after forcing a UK government U-turn last month regarding the free school meal voucher scheme in England.

The Wythenshawe-born striker wrote an open letter to MPs, asking them to reverse its decision not to award the meal vouchers to vulnerable outside of term time. In his letter, Rashford explained how his family relied on the scheme while he was growing up and asked for it to be extended during the summer holidays.

The UK government later agreed to set up a ‘Covid summer school fund’ that will allow around 1.3 million children to continue to receive free school meals over the summer.

Those who are eligible for the scheme during term time in England will be given a six-week voucher to use over the holidays, and will provide around £15 per week for each recipient.

Rashford also teamed up with poverty and food waste charity FareShare during the coronavirus pandemic to help raise £20 million, which will allow 3.9 million meals to be distributed to vulnerable people every week.

Following the news of the award, Rashford said in a statement, “It’s a proud day for myself and my family. When you look at the great names that have been awarded this doctorate in the past, it’s humbling.

“We still have a long way to go in the fight to combat child poverty in this country, but receiving recognition from your city means we are heading in the right direction and that means a lot. Thank you to The University of Manchester.”

Rashford will receive the honorary doctorate later this summer.