Learn more about Academic degree
A degree is any of a wide range of status levels conferred by institutions of higher education, such as universities, normally as the result of successfully completing a program of study.
The first universities were founded in ancient India in Taxila (Takshashila University) and Nalanda (Nalanda University) in the 7th century BC and 5th century BC respectively, followed by Byzantium in the 5th century (in Constantinopolis and Athens). The first university in the Islamic world was founded in Cairo (Al-Azhar University) in the 10th century, while in western Europe, universities were founded in the 12th and 13th centuries. As with other professions, teaching in universities was only carried out by people who were properly qualified. In the same way that a carpenter would attain the status of master carpenter when fully qualified by his guild, a teacher would become a master when he had been licensed by his profession, the teaching guild.
Candidates who had completed three or four years of study in the prescribed texts of the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and logic), and who had successfully passed examinations held by their masters, would be admitted to a bachelor's degree. Thus a degree was only a step on the way to becoming a fully qualified master – hence the English word "graduate", which is based on the Latin gradus ("step").
Today the terms "master", "doctor", and "professor" signify different levels of academic achievement, but initially they were equivalent terms. The University of Bologna in Italy, regarded as the oldest university in Europe, was the first institution to confer the degree of Doctor in Civil Law in the late 12th century; it also conferred similar degrees in other subjects including medicine. Note that medicine is now the only field in which the title "doctor" is commonly applied, albeit informally, to individuals who have only obtained their first academic qualification.
The University of Paris used the term master for its graduates, a practice adopted by the English universities of Oxford and Cambridge, as well as the ancient Scottish universities of St Andrew's, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh.
The naming of degrees eventually became linked with the subjects studied. Scholars in the faculties of arts or grammar became known as "masters", but those in philosophy, medicine, and law were known as "doctor". As study in the arts or in grammar was a necessary prerequisite to study in subjects such as philosophy, medicine and law, the degree of doctor assumed a higher status than the master's degree. This led to the modern hierarchy in which the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.) is a more advanced degree than the Master of Arts (M.A.). The practice of using the term doctor for all advanced degrees developed within German universities and spread across the academic world.
The French terminology is tied closely to the original meanings of the terms. The baccalauréat (cf. "bachelor") is conferred upon French students who have successfully completed their secondary education and admits the student to university. When students graduate from university, they are awarded licence, much as the medieval teaching guilds would have done, and they are qualified to teach in secondary schools or proceed to higher-level studies.
In Europe, degrees are being harmonised through the Bologna process, which is based on the three-level hierarchy of degrees (Bachelor (Licence in France), Master, Doctor). This system is currently in use in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. This system is gradually replacing the two-stage system now in use in some countries.
In the past, degrees have also been directly issued by authority of the monarch or by a bishop, rather than any educational institution. This practice has mostly died out. In Britain, only the universities of Oxford and Cambridge still permit the D.Phil. (Oxford) or Ph. D. (Cambridge) to be conferred upon a student by an individual member of the faculty.
 Types of academic degree
Some examples of specific degrees follow each general term. For more information, see the article about the general term.
- Associate's degrees (U.S.): AA (Associate of Arts), ABS (Associate of Baccalaureate Studies), AS (Associate of Science), AAS (Associate of Applied Science), AFA (Associate of Fine Arts), AES (Associate of Engineering Science), AGS (Associate in General Studies), AAT (Associate of Arts in Teaching)
- Bachelor's degrees: BAccty, BArch, AB or BA, BAI (Dubl.), BSc or SB, BBus, BCom or BComm, BDes, BFA, BEc, BEd, BEng or BE, BD, BDes, BHE, BJ, LLA, BPharm, BPE, BHK, BCL, LL.B., MB ChB or MB BS or BM BS or MB BChir or MB BCh BAO, BN, BMus, B.Math, BPhil BTech, BBA, BAdm, MA (Hons), BDS
- Master's degrees: MA, MA(Oxon/Cantab/Dubl), MEd or EdM, DEA (former French degree) / DESS, Lic. Arts, MS or MSc, MSt, MALD, MApol, MPhil, MRes, MFA, MTh, MTS, M.Div., MBA, MHA, MPA, MPAS, MPD, MJ, MSW, MPAff, MLIS, MMedSc, MN, MLitt, MPS,MPH, MPM, MPP, MPT, MRE, MTheol, LLM, MEng, MAS, MSci, MBio, MChem, MPhys, MMath, MMus, MESci, MGeol, MTCM, MSSc, BCL<ref name="oxb">Note: Despite their names, the Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) and the Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) offered at the University of Oxford are both advanced degrees (in law and philosophy respectively) - what, in America, would be called "second bachelors degrees," because they're bachelor's degrees by name but they require a prior bachelor's degree in order to earn them. Likewise, the Canadian LL.B. is a second bachelor's degree, and that was also the case with LL.B. when it was still conferred by American law schools.</ref> (Oxon), B.Phil.<ref name="oxb"/> (Oxon), ThM MAT
- Engineer's degrees: Ch.E., B.E., C.E., C.E., E.E., E.A.A., E.C.S., Env.E., Mat.E., Mech.E., Nav.E., Nucl.E., Ocean E., Sys.E.
- Doctoral degrees: J.C.D.,Ph.D., EdD,<ref>In the U.S., holders of the EdD (Doctor of Education) are considered "doctorally prepared" only within the field of education (see, for example, AACSB rules for accreditation)</ref> DProf, EngD, DNursSci, DBA, DBA, Doctor of Administration DGov, D.D., DM, DDS, DSc, DLitt, DA, DMA, DPS, D.Min., DMus, DFA, DCL, LH.D. (Doctor of Humane Letters), ThD, S.T.D., J.U.D., S.S.D., PharmD,<ref>Note: In the U.S., the PharmD is a six-year program which does not require a prior bachelor's degree and is more akin to a professional Master's degree. </ref> DrPH, DPM, DPT, DPhil, DOM, OMD, PsyD, DSocSci, DSW, M.D., ND, D.C. Doctor of Chiropractic, DO, OD, DVM, and J.D.<ref>Note: In the U.S., there are those who do not consider the J.D. to be a doctoral level degree and do not believe holders of the degree should use the title "doctor". This is true even though the ABA, which accredits law schools, has stated that holders of the J.D. can use the title "doctor". See the Comparison with other degrees section of the Juris Doctor entry. </ref>
Abbreviations for degrees can place the level either before or after the faculty or discipline, depending on the institution. For example, DSc and ScD both stand for the (higher) doctorate in science. Various other abbreviations also vary between institutions, for instance BS and BSc both stand for 'Bachelor of Science'.
There are various conventions for indicating degrees and diplomas after one's name. In some cultures it is usual to give only the highest degree. In others, it is usual to give the full sequence, in some cases giving abbreviations also for the discipline, the institution, and (where it applies) the level of honours. In another variation, a 'rule of subsumption' often shortens the list and may obscure the chronology evident from a full listing. Thus 'MSc BA' means that the degrees conferred were - in chronological order - BSc, BA, MSc. The subsumption rule reflects the principle that a person of a given high status does not separately belong to the lower status.
For member institutions of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, there is a standard list of abbreviations, but in practise many variations are used. Most notable is the use of the Latin abbreviations 'Oxon.' and 'Cantab.' for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, in spite of these having been superseded by English 'Oxf.' and 'Camb.' Other Latin abbreviations include Exon. for the University of Exeter, Dunelm. for Durham University, Ebor. for the University of York and Cantuar. for the University of Kent (formerly the "University of Kent at Canterbury"). Confusion results from the widespread use of 'SA' for the University of South Australia (instead of S.Aust.) because 'SA' was officially assigned to the University of South Africa. For universities of different commonwealth countries sharing the same name, such as York University in Canada and the University of York in the UK, a convention has been adopted where a country abbreviation is included with the letters and university name. In this example, 'York (Can.)' and 'York (UK)' is commonly used to denote degrees conferred by their respective universities.
The doubling of letters in LL.B., LL.M., LL.D. is because these degrees are in laws, not law. The doubled letter indicates the Latin plural legum as opposed to the singular legis. Abbreviations for the degrees in surgery Ch. B. and Ch. M. are from Latin chiruguriae and often indicate a university system patterned after Scottish models. The combination of M.B. with Ch. B. arose from a need to graduate the students at the time of year allocated to graduation rituals, but the legal inability to confer the M.B. before they had been properly approved by professional regulatory bodies. Thus the Ch. B. was conferred first, and the M.B. was conferred later, after registration, and without ceremony. In recent times the two have come to be conferred together and are widely (mis)understood to constitute a single degree.
Some degrees are awarded jure dignitatis. That is, a person who has demonstrated the appropriate qualities to be given a particular office may be awarded the degree by virtue of the office held. It is another kind of earned degree.
In some countries, such as Australia, a diploma is a specific academic award that is sometimes not considered to be an academic degree. It is usually signified by a stole rather than an academic hood, the latter being used only for those of graduate status.
Australia has several different kinds of diplomas: Diplomas, Advanced Diplomas, Graduate Diplomas and Postgraduate Diplomas. The system is not without anomalies, due largely to the different traditions of individual institutions and partly to anomalies in the Australian Qualifications Framework. A Diploma is usually equivalent to the first year of a Bachelor's degree, although a few have been similar to Bachelor of Arts degrees and permit direct admission to graduate programs.
An Australian Advanced Diploma is usually considered lower than a Bachelor degree, but may qualify its holder for higher advanced placement in a Bachelor program, direct admission to a Graduate Diploma course or direct admission to a Masters program.
Graduate Diplomas are always higher than a Bachelor degree, and usually require one year of full-time study. They are often an additional course taken after a standard Bachelor degree to introduce a specialisation in a particular field or a new discipline. For example, Australian school teachers often study for a bachelor's degree in Arts or Science, then in an additional year complete requirements for a Graduate Diploma of Education, which qualifies them as school teachers. Some Graduate Diplomas are simply the first two semesters of a three- or four-semester Master's program. (In the past, the Graduate Diploma of Education was called the Diploma of Education.)
Some universities have issued Post-graduate Diplomas, which are always in the same discipline as the undergraduate degree, and generally no different from a Bachelor with Honours degree, which requires one year after a regular Bachelor degree.
In Ireland a National Diploma is below the standard of the honours bachelor degree, whilst the Higher Diploma is taken after the bachelor degree. The new National Framework of Qualifications, adopted in 2003, replaced the National Dipoma with the Ordinary Bachelors degree. The framework also clarifies that although the Higher Diploma is taken after the bachelor degree the learning outcomes are at the same level as for the Honours Bachelors Degree.
More technically, a diploma is a document attesting that its bearer has satisfied certain study requirements, as opposed to a degree being a status level in the academic community. For this reason, diplomas are 'awarded to' the recipient while degrees are 'conferred upon' the graduand who then becomes a graduate, or the graduand is "admitted to" a degree. Similarly a person 'has' a diploma, but a graduate 'is in' a status. It is also for this reason that study for diplomas can be at undergraduate or advanced level.
 Germany and Austria
In Germany there are several academic degrees. Traditionally, the lowest degree has been the Magister and the Diplom (in science and engineering). This is somewhat misleading however, as the Diplom, before its gradual displacement by other, Anglo-Saxon-inspired degrees, was also the highest non-PhD/Doctorate-title in many disciplines.
Since 1999, the traditional degrees are being gradually be replaced by Bachelor's (Bakkalaureus) and Master's (Magister) degrees (see Bologna process). The main reasons for this change are to make degrees internationally comparable, and to introduce degrees to the German system which take less time to achieve (German students traditionally take very long to achieve their degrees). Some universities are still resistant to this change, considering it as displacement of a venerable tradition for the pure sake of globalisation.
A Diplom (University), Magister, or Master's student can proceed to a doctorate. Sometimes incorrectly regarded as an academic degree, the Habilitation (Professur) is the highest academic title in Germany.
The situation in Austria is similar to the situation in Germany: students get a Diploma, but they graduate either with a Magister degree or with a Diploma. This depends on the faculty: arts, social sciences, and fine arts earn a Magister degree, while technical sciences get a Diploma in engineering. So the degree that, for example, an Information Technology student earns is "Diplom-Ingenieur". With the Bologna process, Bachelor's degrees (Bakkalaureus) have been introduced.
- licencjat title (the equivalent of a Bachelor's degree, granted after at least 3 years of study),
- magister title (the equivalent of a Master's degree, granted after 5 years of study, or 2 years of additional study by holders of a previous degree),
- doktor degree (Doctor's degree, Ph. D.),
- doktor habilitowany degree (Polish Habilitation degree, requires approval by an external ministerial body),
The profesor (Professor's) title is officially conferred by the President of Poland.
 Fake degrees
A large number of companies (known as degree mills or diploma mills), most of them Internet based, offer degrees which require little or no study, just the payment of a fee. These are either non-accredited, or accredited by some other body or bodies that are not generally recognized as having any credibility themselves.
 See also
- Ad eundem degree
- Bologna process
- Degrees of the University of Oxford
- Lambeth degree
- List of education articles by country
- Higher education
- Honorary degree
- European Higher Education Area
- Lisbon Recognition Convention
- External degree
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