It is common language in graduation ceremonies, at least in the United States, to hear a degree conferred with "all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto." How would one discover what the rights and privileges pertaining to a MA or PhD degree actually are?
I don't think any of the seven previous answers attempts to address the question from the body of the post:
How would one discover what the rights and privileges pertaining to a MA or PhD degree actually are?
The first thing to do would be to check the university's website for its regulations, which may go by different names. E.g. in Cambridge they are Statutes and Ordinances, and by reading them you can discover, for example, that both MAs and PhDs are members of the Senate (unless they have resigned or are suspended) and as such can vote in elections to the Chancellorship.
If you can't find the regulations, believe them incomplete, or need clarification on some point, then the next thing would be to write to the university. Again, the name of the body or title of the person equipped to answer the query probably varies: it would probably be reasonable to make an initial approach to the Alumni Office, the Dean's office, or the Vice-Chancellor's office, and to request that should their department not be the correct one that they point you in the right direction.
Each of my diplomas says my degree is awarded "with all of its privileges and obligations" or something close to that. I know of neither an official codification nor a learned treatment of the privileges and obligations involved.
But, along with Thomas Aquinas, C. S. Lewis, and Mr. Spock, as opposed to David Hume and Cmdr. Data, I hold that values are logical. So I deduce that:
- The "privileges" include putting the degree on your curriculum vitae so you can get jobs requiring a degree;
- The obligations include honesty about the subject matter in which you are supposed to have some expertise.
I would think the rights and privileges also includes the not necessarily actualized non-legal right/privilege to teach at universities and colleges (Sorry for the convoluted sentence -- I don't know how to simplify it).
Actualization of course requires being hired by some university and is not wholly exclusive to PhD and MA holders.
For the United States things are pretty limited, but generally the rights and privileges are going to be some sort of guarantee that the degree granting institution will verify that you were in fact awarded the degree in question. Since a lot of jobs now require degrees this is a non-trivial right. Additionally, alumni usually get some sort of perks such as library borrowing privileges, access to athletic facilities, etc. but that is very dependent upon the school.
Of varying use depending upon where you live you can use post-nominal initials to indicate the degree awarded and being addressed as "Doctor" if you were awarded a suitable degree. As noted in the answer by jackbael, you also have the academic right to wear the regalia of the school from which you graduated.
While the rights and privileges are not always physical aspects they do indeed exist. The right to wear Regalia (and the pride that goes with it), the fulfillment of a degree requirement for potential employers, the assumption that some degree of knowledge about the particular degree major exists, the legal aspect of holding a degree (and the fact that you can actually be jailed if you lie about some degrees, i.e. nursing, doctor, minister, etc), the privilege of moving on to the next step in your degree aspirations, i.e. masters, doctorate, etc. The degree process will open many doors that would not be opened if you lack a degree in some discipline. Just a few thoughts.
As for specific countries, both my degrees were obtained in Canada, and both diplomas bear that statement, although one got all hoity-toity, and the entire diploma is in Latin. My understanding is the rights are to use the designation (is: BA, and BEd, in my case) on curriculum vitae and letterhead, etc. It also qualifies me to apply for a higher degree program.
Here is what I used to tell students assembled for commencement: "When the President of the University confers upon you your new degree, she will confer all the "rights, privileges, and responsibilities appurtaining thereunto."
Don't let that go unto your head. You have almost no new rights nor privileges; you may add the initials of your degree after your name, but outside academia, and before the Ph.D., almost no one does that.
What you do have are the responsibilities of an educated person, one example of which is the responsibility to help others understand the social and political implications of what's going on. That turns out to be a substantial amount of work. So, enjoy your new status and exercise your new responsibilities well! We're proud of you, SPSU grads!"
Separately, the president specifically granted "the right to wear the hood appropriate to your degree," so, at least one actual privilege, although perhaps less important now than 600 years ago.
to use the title granted for all your job searches and to receive henceforth the honors to be part of an elite, as a result of the level of education you have achieved by your efforts. to offer a professional expertise as expected for the conduct of the professional tasks that will be asked to you during your professional career and to respect the code of ethics of the specific profession.