My SO just earned a PhD and received their diploma, and we were both puzzled by the wording. I'm copying it line by line, including punctuation (but omitting the school/personal specifics in brackets). Would someone please explain the grammar of the parts I've put in italics?

By authority of the Board of Trustees of the

[University Name]

and upon recommendation of the [Governing Body]

at [City Name]


has been admitted to the Degree of


and is entitled to all rights and honors thereto appertaining [sic, no period]

Witness the Seal of the University and the Signatures of its Officers

this ninth day of August, two thousand and twenty-one.

I've never heard anyone use the phrase "admit to" with anything other than an event, place (literal or figurative), or membership. Are people also admitted to degrees?

Since there is no punctuation breaking up the last 3 lines except the capitalized W of Witness, should we assume there is a missing period, or are the first and second lines grammatically connected? And either way, what part of speech does Witness serve here? Is it an imperative verb? A noun indicating that the Seal and Signatures are the witness with some understood linking verb?


  • The official seal and signatures bear witness that the document is genuine. Sep 21, 2021 at 7:22
  • Anyone want to follow up on the Witness grammar?
    – wordsworth
    Oct 11, 2021 at 17:44

1 Answer 1


Yes, people are admitted to degrees.

One of the original meaning of degree is ones social or official rank. For example we used to talk about people of "high degree" or "low degree". Things like "Bachelor" or "Master" or (in your SO's case) "Doctor" were originally rankings, and a person is admitted to the ranks of Doctors. My degree certificate also "admits" me to the degree of Bachelor. Maybe your SO's degree is also from an old, British university.

I can't comment on the missing period.

  • 1
    The use of high and low "degree" for social rank persisted in normal colloquial speech until at least the 18th if not the 19th century.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 21, 2021 at 8:02
  • 1
    It's a rank in a hierarchy and the Doctor (< Lat 'teacher') is at the top. It's the same terminology as someone being admitted to a Masonic degree. Read Haskins' The Rise of Universities for details Sep 21, 2021 at 15:06

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