A Diplom (from Greek: δίπλωμα diploma) is an academic degree in the German-speaking countries Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and a similarly named degree in some other European countries including Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Estonia, Finland (only for engineers), Greece, Hungary, Russia, Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Ukraine. Also applied in Brazil for engineers.



The Diplom originates from the French Diplôme (Diplôme de l'ordre impérial de la légion d'honneur ) describing a certificate devised during the Second French Empire to bestow honours upon outstanding citizens and soldiers of the imperial French army to promote them into the Legion of Honour since 1862. The Magister degree was the original graduate degree at German speaking universities. In Germany the Diplom dates back to the pre-democratic period: In October 1899 the engineering degree Diplom was annonced by a supreme decree of the German emperor Wilhelm II in his function as the King of Prussia on the advent of the Centenary of the Prussian Technical College in Berlin. The Diplom was subsequently adopted by the Technische Hochschulen (Institutes of Technology) which had received university status following this Prussian decree.[1] Later, all German universities adopted the Diplom as their degree in Science or Engineering.

In East Germany, the Diplom was the only first degree and was also granted in disciplines such as medicine or law, which at West German universities were completed with a staatsexamen. Nowadays such diploms are still granted to students of such disciplines, although most universities only grant the diplom status (for example "Magisterjurist" in law) on request. Some universities also grant a master's degree to such students on request.

With the implementation of the Bologna process, the Diplom and Magister are increasingly being replaced by Bachelor's or Master's degrees. In Germany Bachelor's degrees, rarely called Bakkalaureus, are awarded in most cases after three years of regular studies. Master's degrees are awarded in most cases after five years of study. Master's degrees are sometimes called Magister, like the former German graduate degree, but they differ in structure.

Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Before the introduction of the Bachelor's and Master's degree in Austria and Germany, the standard Science, Engineering or Business degree was the Diplom and could be, in several variations, obtained at several types of institutes of higher education.

Obtained at a university, the degree is simply called a Diplom or rarely a Diplom (Univ.) and took usually between four and six years (240 – 300 ECTS Credits), depending on subject and curriculum. Obtained at a so called University of Applied Sciences (or Fachhochschule), the diploma degree is called a Diplom (FH) and took mostly four years (240 ECTS Credits). The following text deals with these two kind of degrees. (For further kind of Diploma degrees see the section below.)

The Diplom was usually awarded in the natural sciences, business and in engineering, while students of humanities, arts and languages finished with a Magister. The degree in social sciences differed from university to university.

The Diplom used to be the first academic degree many German undergraduate students received. The duration of the programme differed depending on subject and university. An official average duration (Regelstudienzeit) was set by law in each German state, usually being 4 years for a Diplom (FH) and 4 or 4.5 years for a Diplom / Diplom (Univ.). In exceptional cases, universities were allowed to set longer average durations of study for certain subjects (HGRP1995 § 26 (3),[2] NHG2007 § 6 (3),[3] HmbHG2001 §53 (3)[4]). However, due to the curriculum set by most universites in Germany, the 4 or 4.5 years for a Diplom / Diplom (Univ.) were in most cases exceeded.[5] Although being a first degree, because of its actual duration, the Diplom / Diplom (Univ.) was and is in Germany and Austria not considered as an equivalent to a Bachelor's but rather to a Master's degree.

A holder of a Diplom obtained at a university is, depending on subject, for example referred to as "Diplom-Ingenieur" (Diplom-Engineer), "Diplom-Kaufmann" (Diplom-Merchant), "Diplom-Biologe" (Diplom-Biologist) and so on. Sometimes the postfix "(Univ.)" is added. If the Diplom has been obtained at a University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule), usually the postfix "(FH)" has to be added.

To obtain a Diplom at a university, students had to complete two separate periods of study. The first one was a two year period of coursework in courses of mainly (but not only) introductory nature, the Grundstudium (meaning basic studying period). After (and during) this period, in addition to exams for passing the modules, students attained a series of usually four intermediate exams to obtain the Vordiplom (meaning pre-diploma). The second period, the Hauptstudium (meaning main period of study), consisted of two years of coursework in courses of advanced level, an additional period of several months in which a thesis had to be written and eventually a series of usually four[6] final exams. It was not unusual for student to need more than two years for the coursework of the Hauptstudium. An obtained Vordiplom and the completion of the coursework of the Hauptstudium were the requirements to register for working on the thesis and for the final exams. However, access to courses of the Hauptstudium was usually not restricted to students who had already obtained the Vordiplom.
The extend of the final exams and the exams to obtain the Vordiplom was set by each university individually in its regulations. Normally, the content of two different modules of the preceding period of coursework was examined in each of the examinations, which could be oral or less often in writing. Most students needed approximately six months to complete the final exam period.
The thesis which followed an independent (although supervised) research project had officially to be completed in not more than 3 to 9 months (depending on subject and university).[7] However, the actual time students worked on these projects could again exceed the official duration by several months.

The curriculum for a Diplom (FH) degree, obtained at a University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule) used to be more application-oriented, in comparison to what was expected for a Univ. Diplom degree. The programme was slightly shorter and often one semester was spent by the students doing an internship.

The Diplom / Diplom (Univ.) is usually a prerequisite for preparing a doctorate (Doktorarbeit). However, under certain conditions, holders of a Diplom (FH) are also eligible for doctoral studies. In German speaking countries and countries, which Germany has bilateral agreements with—regarding the recognition of academic qualifications, the Diplom / Diplom (Univ.) is usually accepted as admission into doctorate programs.

In Switzerland, the Diplom was the typical first degree at the two federal institutes of technology and at the Swiss universities of applied sciences. Since 2004, these Swiss degrees are no longer offered since they are replaced by Bologna style Bachelor's and Master's degrees.

Further kinds of Diploma (Germany)

While the Diplom / Diplom (Univ.) and the Diplom (FH) were the most common Diplom degrees in Germany, further Diploma did and do exist. Those are:

  • Diplom (BA) - The Diplom (BA) was not an academic degree, but instead a qualification designation which students received after completing a three year programme at a so called University of Cooperative Education (Berufsakademie). These colleges combined coursework with apprenticeships.
  • Diplom (DH) - In the German state of Baden-Württemberg, the Universities of Cooperative Education were transfered into the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg) in 2009. Former students of a University of Cooperative Education can transfer their qualification designation Diplom (BA) into the academic degree Diplom (DH)
  • Diplom I - The University of Kassel used to offer this academic degree, which is basically a minor Diplom / Diplom (Univ.) obtained after a shortened programme of study.
  • Diplom II - The equivalent to a Diplom / Diplom (Univ.) obtained from the University of Kassel.

International Comparison and Bologna degrees (Germany and Austria)

International Comparison

Acceptance of the Diplom / Diplom (Univ.) and the Diplom (FH) varies from country to country and from university to university. Usually holders of any of the both degrees are considered for admission to postgraduate (not necessarily doctoral) studies.

Comparison between Diplom and Bologna Degrees in Austria, Germany and Switzerland

Current German legislation states that the old degrees Diplom / Diplom (Univ.) and Magister provide the same qualification as the newly introduced German Master's degree, while the Diplom (FH) provides the same qualification as the German Bachelor's degree.[37] The following chart illustrates a comparison when the old degree (Diplom, Diplom (FH)) and the new European degrees (Bachelor/Master) are obtained with some sample durations of studies.

It should also be noted for comparison purposes that at the time of the Bologna process, schools in most German states started changing from 13 school years to 12 years. (An exception are the states of Saxony and Thuringia, where Gymnasium has always lasted only 12 years ever since the German Reunification.) Most of the students going for a Diplom therefore spent 13 years in school before starting their university studies, while the younger Bachelor students nowadays may start one year earlier. (However, in some states, such as Rhineland-Palatinate or Schleswig-Holstein, the first class which completes school after 12 years will graduate as late as 2016.) Regarding international comparison, one may argue that British, Irish and French high school students have school also in the afternoons which could compensate with the (former) additional year of school attendance in Germany.

1st year 2nd year 3rd year 4th year 5th year 6th year 7th year 8th year 9th year
Vordiplom Diplom (FH) with excellent grades additional coursework Doctorate
Vordiplom Diplom (FH) 2 Sem. Master Doctorate
Vordiplom Diplom (Universität) Doctorate
Bachelors (Bologna only)[38] Masters Doctorate

Note: For the Diplom (FH) a student has to spend one to two obligatory semesters during his studies in a company where he/she does not study. These semesters are included in the table. The study time is therefore one to two semesters shorter. Bachelor studies have them included in the table too. For the Diplom (Universität) those semesters are sometimes not included in the table.

Also note: In Germany, a Diplom (Universität) student can enter a doctoral program directly (if the student meets the admission requirements). A Diplom (FH) student has to have excellent grades to directly enter a doctorate program.[39] With the Higher Education Act of the Land Lower Saxony as of August 2010, outstanding Bachelor graduates can commence their Doctorate at the Universities of this German state.[40] In addition, a few German graduate schools, such as the Saarbrücken Graduate School of Computer Science or the Berlin Mathematical School also admit students with a Bachelor's degree and excellent grades to their doctorate programms.


In Greece, a diploma is a 5-year (10-semester) (diplom uni) (300E.C.T.S – I.S.C.E.D. 5A) degree, formatted similarly to the German Diplom, awarded to students of the Greek Engineering Schools and Departments (called Polytechinc in Greece – not to be confused though with the polytechnics of the UK).

While every institution has its own individual approaches, the curriculum usually consists of general knowledge and essential background subjects in the first five semesters. After the end of the fifth semester, students select their academic area of interest and pursue a set of specialised courses for the next four semesters. The last semester is devoted to the preparation of a thesis on the student's chosen area of interest, which is presented before a three-member panel.

Diplomas are considered equivalent to master's degrees (MEng)and allow the holder to sit in the Technical Chamber of Greece exams without any prerequisite. It also allows the engineer to be considered for doctorate studies without taking any additional classes.

Since adoption of the 2001 Higher Education Reform Act (Ν. 2916/2001 – Ν. 3549/2007) the higher technological institutes (Ανώτατα Τεχνολογικά Εκπαιδευτικά Ιδρύματα – Α.T.E.I) constitute a parallel, equivalent, and complementary part of public higher education in Greece. They confer a 4-year bachelor's degree formatted similarly to the German Diplom (FH) (240E.C.T.S – I.S.C.E.D. 5A).

Grades range between 0 and 10, 5 being the passing mark. However, since grading practice differs amongst awarding institutions, a descriptive mark is used, which is more or less universal throughout Greece. For example, in the National Technical University of Athens, a grade in the diploma between 5 and 6.99 is "good" (καλώς), a grade between 7.00 and 8.99 is "very good" (λίαν καλώς) and a grade of 9.00 or more is "excellent" (άριστα).[41] In the University of Patras[42] the ranges are from 5 to 6.49 (good), from 6.5 to 8.49 (very good) and from 8.5 to 10 (excellent).

See also


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  2. ^ http://www.uni-koblenz.de/~intern/downloads/Formales/Universitaetsgesetz.pdf
  3. ^ http://www.studieren-in-niedersachsen.de/rechtliches/NHG.pdf
  4. ^ "Landesrecht - Justiz - Portal Hamburg" (in (German)). Landesrecht.hamburg.de. http://www.landesrecht.hamburg.de/jportal/portal/page/bshaprod.psml?showdoccase=1&doc.id=jlr-HSchulGHArahmen&doc.part=X&doc.origin=bs&st=lr. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  5. ^ [1] – Example: Technical University of Berlin – derivation of actual duration of study from standard duration for the years 1994/1995 (German)
  6. ^ http://hss.ulb.uni-bonn.de/amtliche-informationen/amtl.bekanntmachungen/1997/nrX/dpo-bio.pdf
  7. ^ [2] – Example: Examination regulations for the Diplom degree in Biology, University of Bonn (German)
  8. ^ a b "Report 11 - B The relationship of UK degrees to those elsewhere in Europe". Leeds.ac.uk. http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/ncihe/r11_069.htm. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  9. ^ http://www.nuffic.nl/international-organizations/docs/diploma-recognition/country-modules/country-module-germany.pdf
  10. ^ http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2007/2007006.pdf
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  23. ^ "Graduate Studies | University of Waterloo". Grad.uwaterloo.ca. http://www.grad.uwaterloo.ca/students/prospective/international/intl_adm_guide.asp. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  24. ^ http://fare.uoguelph.ca/files/InternationalCredentialGuidelines_000.pdf
  25. ^ "Database over vurderinger af udenlandske uddannelser - Styrelsen for International Uddannelse". Ciriusonline.ciriusintra.dk. http://ciriusonline.ciriusintra.dk/vdb/cvuu/. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  26. ^ http://www.dtu.dk/upload/dtu%20kommunikation/publikationer/dtu_cdio_final2%202.pdf
  27. ^ "Aberystwyth University - EU Qualifications". Aber.ac.uk. http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/postgrad/howtoapply/entryrequirements/comparability/euqualifications/. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
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  35. ^ http://publications.lib.chalmers.se/records/fulltext/local_7552.pdf
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  37. ^ http://www.kmk.org/fileadmin/veroeffentlichungen_beschluesse/2003/2003_10_10-Laendergemeinsame-Strukturvorgaben.pdf
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  41. ^ [4][dead link]
  42. ^ [5][dead link]

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