A diploma is a certificate or deed issued by an educational institution, such as college or university, that testifies that the recipient has successfully completed a particular course of study. The word diploma also refers to an academic award which is given after the completion of study in different courses such as diploma in higher education, diploma in graduation or diploma in post-graduation. Historically, it can also refer to a charter or official document, thus diplomatic, diplomat and diplomacy via the Codex Juris Gentium Diplomaticus.
The diploma (as a document certifying a qualification) may also be called a testamur, Latin for "we testify" or "certify" (testari), so called from the word with which the certificate begins; this is commonly used in Australia to refer to the document certifying the award of a degree. Alternatively, this document can simply be referred to as a degree certificate or graduation certificate, or as a parchment. The certificate that a Nobel laureate receives is also called a diploma.
The term diploma is also used in some historical contexts, to refer to documents signed by a King affirming a grant or tenure of specified land and its conditions (see Anglo-Saxon Charters and Diplomatics).
The "Vocational Graduate Diploma" was a short lived AQF qualification equivalent to the "Graduate Diploma", intended to be delivered exclusively in the VET sector. On January 1, 2015, all such qualifications being offered lost the word "Vocational" from their title.
In Ontario, Canada, diplomas are two and three year academic post-secondary programmes taught by colleges and institutes of applied studies, arts, and technology. Two year programmes are referred to as college diplomas, while three year programmes are called Ontario College Advanced Diplomas. Baccalaureate degrees in Ontario are commonly a year longer than an Advanced Diploma and are offered by both colleges and universities.
In Germany, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary and other countries that adopted the German academic education system, diploma (in German Diplom) is the standard academic degree, needing at least 3.5 years to complete it, being comparable with a bachelor's and master's degree in one.
In Greece, diplomas can be awarded by educational institutes as a proof of a certain educational level. The diploma in engineering is a degree provided by Greek technical universities and universities after the successful completion of a five-year integrated study programme and it is equivalent to the Master of Engineering degree, which is awarded by the European universities.
Also in Greece there are the Vocational Training Diploma (Post-Secondary Education EQF 5 level) provided by the National Qualifications and Vocational Guidance Organization (E.O.P.P.E.P.) to the Vocational Training Institutes IEK, following certification exams carried out by the E.O.P.P.E.P.
In Hong Kong, Diploma or Advanced Diploma/Certificate (Qualifications Frameworks Level 4), Professional Diploma/Certificate (Qualifications Frameworks Level 4), Higher Diploma, and associate degree are below the level of the bachelor's degree.
Certificate (not Post-Graduate Certificate) Qualifications Frameworks Level 3 or below; are below the level of Diploma, Advanced or Professional Diploma/Certificate (Qualifications Frameworks Level 4), Higher Diploma or associate degree.
In India, a diploma is a specific academic award usually earned in professional/vocational courses, e.g., Diploma in Engineering, Diploma in Nursing, Diploma in Pharmacy etc. Engineering diplomas are concentrated for the area of study, e.g., diploma in Electronics Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Engineering etc.
There are two types of diplomas/certificates that are issued in formal and non-formal education sectors: formal diplomas are issued by government-approved/recognized institutions, colleges and universities and non-formal diplomas are issued by NGOs, companies and societies etc. outside the formal education sector.
In the Republic of Ireland, a National Diploma was awarded before 2004. It was at the same level as the ordinary bachelor's degree and below the honours bachelor's degree, whilst the Higher Diploma is taken after the bachelor's degree. There is BTEC Extended Diploma also after which one gets progression to a Degree (University).
In Mexico and other Latin American countries, a diploma may be awarded for short courses of vocational training. The university-issued diplomas finalizing higher education are most often called título (title) or certificado (certificate). A "Diplomado" can also be a short, specialized executive education program for experienced professionals.
In Pakistan, a diploma is a specific academic award usually earned in professional/vocational courses e.g. Diploma in Engineering, Diploma in Nursing, Diploma in Pharmacy etc. Engineering diploma is called Diploma of Associate Engineering (DAE) and is concentrated for the area of study, e.g., Electronics Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering etc. DAE holders are often called associate engineers in Pakistan.
In Singapore, most diplomas are awarded after a three-year course, offered by the various polytechnics (e.g. Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic, etc.) or the two arts institutions (e.g. Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, LASALLE College of the Arts). Other private schools also offer diploma programmes between a period of 1 to 2 year. (e.g. Kaplan / SIM / PSB Academy / MDIS).
In the Kingdom of Spain, university diplomas are issued in the name of the King. As such, they are Public Official documents, strictly regulated and protected by the law. They are internationally recognized by the Hague Convention of October 5, 1961.
In the UK, diploma can refer to several different types of qualification. A Diploma can be a qualification worth 37 or more credits on the Regulated Qualifications Framework, e.g. Entry Level Diploma, Level 3 Diploma. The Diploma of Higher Education is a higher education award equivalent to the second-year of a bachelor's degree. The Higher National Diploma is a vocational qualification at the same level. A Graduate Diploma is a one-year qualification at bachelor's degree level, normally taken by those who have already obtained a degree. A Postgraduate Diploma is an award at the level of a master's degree, but normally taking less time to complete.
Some universities may offer other qualifications, such as the University of Cambridge's and the University of Oxford's Undergraduate Diploma (a 1-year, part-time course at the same level as a Diploma of Higher Education) and Undergraduate Advanced Diploma.
The document certifying the award of a degree is normally called a degree certificate in the UK, and details are printed in English, not in Latin.
The Undergraduate Advanced Diploma (UGAdvDip or UGAD) is a FHEQ Level 6 award, the academic level is the equivalent to the final year of a bachelor's degree and they are generally accepted as equivalent to a Bachelor's degree or a Graduate Diploma. An advanced diploma is an undergraduate degree that prepares students to enter into a specific career or further study in an advanced degree, like a Master of Arts. After graduated from an Undergraduate Advanced Diploma, it enables student to apply for postgraduate studies such as Master's degree or Postgraduate Diploma. Even though they are considered equivalent to a Bachelor's degree they usually have a duration of two years and they can be offered both on a full time and a part time basis. Students are eligible to apply for College Membership and they are considered alumni of the universities they attended.
In the United States, the word diploma usually refers to the actual document, especially in the context of academic degrees earned at the college or university level. That is, Americans normally draw a distinction between a diploma as documentary evidence of the award of an academic degree, and the underlying degree itself (which is not called a diploma). The reason this distinction matters is that many American universities do not print diplomas until several weeks or months after the dates on which graduates were formally awarded their degrees on their academic transcripts. In other words, when a diploma says on its face that so-and-so degree was "given at [city] on [date]", the diploma itself was not physically handed to the holder on that date. (For ceremonial purposes, the documents handed out at graduation are simply certificates of participation in the graduation ceremony itself.) Thus, asking alumni when they received their diplomas is usually pointless; what really matters for most purposes (e.g., occupational licensing) is when they received their degrees. This important distinction can lead to some confusion when persons who obtained degrees at American universities are presenting their academic credentials in other countries.
There are two major exceptions where Americans have merged the document with the qualification it represents (as seen in other countries). The first is the high school diploma. Second, the term "diploma" can refer to a specific academic or training award. For example, the Diploma in Nursing was offered by hospital-based nursing schools.
Historically, American universities emulated their European counterparts by issuing diplomas written in the Latin language. That is now the exception today: "While most colleges and universities now issue English diplomas, some prominent holdouts -- including Yale, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania -- still use Latin."
The term diplomate (always ending with an e) is used in the United States to refer to a person holding a specialized certification in a professional field, although the documentary evidence of this is traditionally called a "certificate" and not a "diploma". For example, board-certified physicians in the United States traditionally indicate their board-certified status on their letterhead and business cards with the title "Diplomate", a comma, and then the name of their certifying board.
It has not been practice for UK providers to issue degree certificates in Latin for at least 10 years. Contemporary certificates are in English. Latin versions are occasionally issued as mementos, but are supplementary to the English version.