Nobel Prize winner to receive Honorary degree

Published: 24 November 2008

World-renowned Bangladeshi economist Professor Muhammad Yunus, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work combating global poverty, is to receive an Honorary Degree from the University of Glasgow.

World-renowned Bangladeshi economist Professor Muhammad Yunus, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago for his life’s work combating global poverty, is to receive an Honorary Degree from the University of Glasgow.

Professor Yunus, the founder and managing director of Grameen Bank, will also deliver a free public lecture on ‘Social Business to bring New Economic Order’ as part of the prestigious Stevenson and Adam Smith Research Foundation lecture series.  Yunus with supporters

Sir Muir Russell, Principal of the University of Glasgow said: “Professor Muhammad Yunus challenges the received wisdom on the economic relationship between rich and poor. His thinking resonates with the economic philosophy of one of the University’s greatest luminaries, Adam Smith. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I can announce that the University of Glasgow is to award an honorary degree to Professor Yunus in recognition of his pioneering and inspirational work providing small, unsecured business loans to the poor enabling millions of people to work their way out of poverty with dignity.”

Professor Yunus said: “It is indeed a great honour to receive the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University of Glasgow from a world class university which shines with memories of great economist Adam Smith.”

The Doctor of the University honorary degree will be conferred upon Professor Yunus in the Bute Hall, University of Glasgow at 7.30pm on Monday 1 December. The ceremony will be followed by opportunity to hear Professor Yunus speak about his belief that, “poverty in the world is an artificial creation that does not belong to human civilization.” His sentiments echo Adam Smith’s assertion that “no society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.”

Professor Christopher Berry, of The Stevenson Trust Committee said: “Adam Smith was one of the greatest minds to teach in Glasgow University and Daniel Stevenson one of the city and University’s greatest benefactors. This legacy is conjoined in the Stevenson-Smith lecture series and we are delighted to welcome Professor Yunus to Glasgow for what will be an exciting, unmissable event.”

Free and open to the public, the Honorary Graduation ceremony and lecture starts at 7.30pm on Monday 1 December in the Bute Hall, University of Glasgow.

Earlier the same day, Professor Yunus will deliver a lecture and receive an Honorary Degree from Glasgow Caledonian University.

Further information:
Martin Shannon, Senior Media Relations Officer
University of Glasgow Tel: 0141 330 8593

Muhammad Yunus - Biographical details

Muhammad Yunus was born on 28 June 1940. He is the founder and managing director of Grameen Bank which pioneered microcredit – a method of banking where small loans are given to the poor, mostly to women, without collateral, for income generating activities, with high repayment rate, to help them get out of poverty.

The third oldest of nine children, Yunus was born in the village of Bathua, Chittagong.

In 1957, he enrolled in the department of economics at Dhaka University and completed his BA in 1960 and MA in 1961. Following his graduation, Yunus joined the Bureau of Economics, Dhaka University. Later he was appointed as a lecturer in economics in Chittagong College in 1961. In 1965, Yunus was offered a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States. He obtained his Ph.D. in economics from Vanderbilt University in the United States in 1969. From 1969 to 1972, Yunus was an assistant professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN.

During the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, Yunus founded a Citizen's Committee in Nashville, TN, published a newsletter named, Bangladesh Newsletter, and ran the Bangladesh Information Centre in Washington DC with other Bangladeshis living in the United States, to raise support for liberation of Bangladesh, and lobby at the US Congress to stop military aid to Pakistan.  Inspired by the birth of Bangladesh in 1971, Yunus returned to his motherland Bangladesh in 1972, and joined the Economics Department of University of Chittagong after a brief spell in the Planning Commission. He became actively involved with poverty reduction after observing the famine of 1974, and established Rural Economics Programme as a part of the Department’s academic programme. In 1975, he organized Nabajug (New Era) Tebhaga Khamar (three share farm) which the government later adopted as the Packaged Input Programme.

In 1976, during visits to very poor households in the village of Jobra near Chittagong University, Yunus discovered that very small loans could make an enormous difference to a poor person’s life. Jobra women who made bamboo furniture had to take out loans at usurious rates for buying bamboo, and had to give up their profits to the moneylenders. Shocked by this reality, he lent US $27.00 from his own pocket to 42 people in the village to help them pay back their loans to the loan-sharks and be free.

When he approached traditional banks to lend to the poor, he found that they were not interested as the poor were not considered creditworthy. Yunus strongly believed that given the chance the poor will repay the borrowed money, and that it would help the poor work their way out of poverty. After many efforts, Yunus finally succeeded in securing a credit line, offering himself as the guarantor, for his project from Janata Bank to lend it to the poor in Jobra in December 1976. On October 2, 1983, the project was converted into a full-fledged bank named as Grameen Bank (Village Bank), specialised in making small loans to the poor.

As of May 2008, Grameen Bank (GB) has 7.5 million borrowers, 97 percent of whom are women. With 2,515 branches, GB provides services in 82,072 villages, covering more than 97 percent of the total villages in Bangladesh. It has lent over US$7 billion to the poor people with near 100 percent repayment rate, since its inception. All its money comes from the depositors of the bank.

He is also founder of Grameen Trust which extends the Grameen microcredit system all over the world.

In October 2006, Muhammad Yunus was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Grameen Bank, for their efforts to create economic and social development. The Norwegian Nobel Committee stated "Muhammad Yunus has shown himself to be a leader who has managed to translate visions into practical action for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh, but also in many other countries. Loans to poor people without any financial security had appeared to be an impossible idea. From modest beginnings three decades ago, Yunus has, first and foremost through Grameen Bank, developed micro-credit into an ever more important instrument in the struggle against poverty”. Muhammad Yunus became the first Bangladeshi and third Bengali to ever get a Nobel Prize.

Muhammad Yunus is married to Dr Afrozi Yunus, and has two daughters, Monica, and Deena.

First published: 24 November 2008