Labour legend Tony Benn has described the university's graduates as academic Olympians.
Mr Benn, 87, who retired as an MP in 2001 after 51 years, collected his Honorary Doctorate from the University of Lincoln.
He said he was honoured at being chosen for the award, which recognises his exceptional contribution to politics.
"There's all the proper graduates getting their degrees and I'm one of the honorary ones," said Mr Benn, who read philosophy, politics and economics at New College, Oxford.
"I think of the real graduates as academic Olympians.
"When you think about it, they have worked so hard over the years, which is why people should be interested in people with degrees.
"Fees are a heavy burden and I think it's quite wrong.
"These graduates have paid in kind by giving up three years' wages, while most of the Cabinet took their degrees at a time when you got a grant."
Mr Benn, who launched Speakers' Corner, in Cornhill, Lincoln, in September 2010, said undergraduates should not be put off despite inevitable debt.
"It's a genuine sacrifice to do a degree but I think it is worth it," he said.
"It opens you up to more interesting work and a degree is a requirement for certain jobs."
After speaking at the Magna Carta 2008: Exploring Democracy event, hosted at the university, he shared his thoughts on education with the Echo.
"I'm not very keen on the idea of the state failing people at the age of 11," he said at the time.
"Some of the least well-educated people I have ever met went to public schools and Oxford."
Mr Benn's 1975 Who's Who entry stated: "Education – still in progress."