Award-winning playwright Gregory Burke has refused an honorary degree from his old university after a furious protest from the family of a man he attacked while studying in the 1980s.

Stirling University had been due to present the award at a ceremony in November but relatives of Mark Campbell, who was hospitalised by the playwright during his first year as a student, were outraged by the decision.

Dunfermline-born Mr Burke - who wrote the Olivier Award winning Black Watch in collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland - studied politics at the university.

Mr Campbell's brother, Michael, said the "unprovoked" attack was so severe that Mark was left in intensive care for three days, and would have died had onlookers not intervened.

Mark Campbell, now 39, required 20 stitches to a wound above his eye and still suffers flashbacks today, his brother said.

When the family lodged formal complaints with the university last week officials initially stood by their decision, defending their right to award the degree with the argument that everyone deserves a "second chance".

However, Principal Christine Hallett has now written to Mr Campbell to tell him that the playwright has since decided of his own accord to decline the degree.

She said: "While the university was considering the position including seeking legal advice in the absence of any explicit power in its instruments of governance to rescind the award of an honorary degree, Mr Burke has advised the university that he wishes to decline the offer of award of honorary degree.

"He explains that he does not wish to embarrass anyone at the university or to make any member of the alumni feel uncomfortable."

The committee that awarded the degree was unaware of Mr Burke's disciplinary record, a university spokesman added.

Though the Campbell family said it was pleased with the eventual outcome, relatives were still appalled by Mr Burke's apparent lack of remorse.

"What shocked us is that he's never apologised for his actions, and to the contrary has actually gloried in the attack," said Michael Campbell, 51.

"He calls it a fight, but my brother never even had a chance to look at him.

"He was attacked from behind and kicked to the ground by Gregory Burke and three of his friends.

"He had several broken fingers from where he'd put his hands up to protect his face, and several broken ribs. Had someone not intervened, he would have kicked my brother to death."

Mark Campbell, originally from Bearsden, was said by his brother to be too upset to talk about the attack even today. He was forced to repeat a year of study before he could graduate.

The family said yesterday that Mr Burke had repeatedly declined opportunities to apologise. The playwright dropped out after just two years of his degree, apparently because of pressure applied in the wake of the attack and a ban imposed by university authorities on all but essential attendance on the campus.

Mr Campbell said: "If Gregory Burke wants to go on record and say that he's truly sorry for the phenomenal beating my brother took that night then we understand that people can change their lives.

"The reason that we took this action is that he has used his public profile to intimate that this was just the prevailing culture of the time."

After the Campbells' complaint came to light, Mr Burke blamed the attack on the "culture shock" of moving from a tough working-class area of Fife to a softer environment.

Mr Burke, whose latest play, Hoors, last night had its first preview performance at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, was quoted in a Sunday newspaper as saying: "I got banned from campus for a fight. I'm not going to apologise for that. Coming from Dunfermline, if someone looked at you squint, you went across and battered them. That was it. I just done it.

"I was only allowed to go to lectures and the library for about a year."

A message was left with Mr Burke's agents yesterday afternoon, but the playwright did not return a call to The Herald.