Can A University Revoke A Degree?

When a university confers a degree on a student, it serves as the institution’s stamp of approval for their achievements. But have you ever wondered if a university can revoke an already awarded degree?

Yes, the university still has the right to revoke an awarded degree if it decides it is necessary to protect the reputation of its academic programs and the degrees it awards. 

And taking such measures may be considered in cases where it is suspected that the degree was obtained through illegal means. Such means include but are not limited to plagiarism, examination malpractice, and manipulation of student records.

This article explores what it means to revoke a degree and why a university can revoke a degree after it has been awarded.

What does it mean to revoke a degree?

To revoke a degree means to take it back as if it were never given in the first place. 

And yes, colleges and universities have the right to revoke a degree even after it has been awarded.

While some colleges and universities have a limit on how long they can go after students who break the rules of academic integrity (similar to the statute of limitations for criminal charges), some do not.

Reasons why your university can revoke your degree

As a fresh graduate, you might be surprised to hear that your university can revoke your newly acquired degree even after being awarded.

This means that the student received a degree despite having engaged in some academic misconduct that should have prevented them from doing so. And to rectify the situation, possibly after many years, it is only right to revoke it.

While a revoked degree should never have been awarded in the first place, the university body might be left with no choice but to protect the academic integrity of the university and the degrees it awards. 

Degrees are rarely revoked; when it does happen, it is usually due to academic misconduct.

Academic misconduct 

Academic misconduct is an act or attempted action that can give an unfair advantage to oneself or any member of the academic community.

This includes a wide range of misconduct, such as cheating, plagiarism, altering academic papers or transcripts, getting early access to confidential materials, impersonation, etc.

And to revoke a degree, an institution must first establish that you violated one or more of its academic policies while still a student.

Different universities have several policies defining what constitutes academic misconduct for their students. However, these are some common types of academic misconduct:

1. Cheating

Cheating is the act of lying, being dishonest, and using or helping colleagues use illegal or unauthorized materials in the context of academic engagement.

It is one of the academic misconducts that attract the harshest penalties and eventually leads to degree revocation. Cheating includes the following:

  • Copying someone else’s work on an exam or assignment or trying to do so.
  • Sharing answers during a test.
  • Reprogramming a calculator/computer with exam answers or other illicit information.
  • Bringing in unapproved materials, written answers, written notes, or concealed information during an exam.
  • Letting a third party do all or part of an assignment for you.
  • Submitting similar assignments for more than one course.
  • Collaborating on a test or assignment with someone else without first getting permission from the teacher.
  • Taking a test for someone else or having someone else take your test.

2. Plagiarism

Plagiarism is using someone else’s intellectual property without crediting the original author.

And it is also considered academic misconduct for which a university might seek degree revocation, mainly if the plagiarism occurred in a scholarly paper for which the student obtained considerable course credit.

Plagiarizing an undergraduate course essay, for example, could result in a degree revocation process.

Hence, whether you are using a large chunk or just a tiny portion of any intellectual property, you are expected to give credit to the rightful author(s) correctly.

3. Falsification of information

Falsification of information is giving the university officials false or misleading information or lying about your identity.

It is also serious academic misconduct that could lead to the revocation of a degree.

4. Fraudulent manipulation of academic documents

  • Falsification of an instructor’s signature on a recommendation letter or any other document. 
  • Submitting a grade-changed transcript from one institution or employer.
  • Putting your name on someone else’s test or assignment.
  • Altering a previously graded test or assignment to get more points during re-grading.

How to avoid academic misconduct

Now that you know what academic misconduct is and the consequences, here are some strategies to help you avoid committing academic misconduct.

Unfortunately, no magic recipe or silver bullet exists. All of these tips require good old-fashioned hard work.

1. Always plan ahead

Always avoid the temptation to cheat, and avoid the need to. Your school’s syllabus should contain important assignment dates, and you should put this knowledge to good use by working backward and making plans to meet these targets.

2. Be familiar with the university rules

Each school has its own set of rules and regulations. Hence, you are expected to read them carefully and get clarification if necessary.

3. Be organized and have a system

Develop and stick to an organized system that works for you. Compile your notes and materials, summarize them, and neatly arrange your gadgets.

4. Always check for plagiarism before submitting

There are various tools like Turnitin, Grammarly, QueText, Copyscape, etc. that you can use to check for plagiarism before submitting assignments.

5. Always backup your data

Losing your data and then being accused of faking it is worse than falsifying it in the first place. So, it is important to back up all your data before submitting your assignment, dissertation, or thesis to avoid such things.

You can back these data up (preferably on a cloud-based disk like Dropbox or Google Drive).

6. Always ask for clarifications

You can ask your professor, lecturer, or instructor for clarification if you need help assessing material, discussing an idea, or figuring out how to improve your work.


Can you appeal the degree revocation?

Yes, you can by addressing a formal written appeal letter to the office of the President.

However, the decisions made by the President are final and cannot be challenged in court. 

Can a Ph.D. degree be revoked?

Yes. If you violated any university rule, that should have resulted in your failing the course.

Usually, this happens when they discover you copied a lengthy academic paper like a thesis or dissertation.


The awarding of a degree is the university’s formal recognition of the recipient’s academic achievements. However, the university still has the right to revoke the awarded degree if there is enough evidence that your degree was acquired fraudulently.

While different schools have their specific rules, it is expected to know your university’s academic policies and do well to avoid engaging in every form of academic misconduct.

I hope you found this article interesting. You can also read to know if you can get a Bachelor’s degree online.

Thank you for reading.