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Latin honors (Latin honours) are Latin phrases used to indicate the level of distinction with which an academic degree was earned. This system is primarily used in Canada, Indonesia, the Philippines, the United States, and in many countries of continental Europe, although some institutions use translations of these phrases rather than the Latin originals.
Generally, a college or university's regulations set out definite criteria to be met in order for a student to obtain a given honors distinction. For example, the student might be required to achieve a specific grade point average, to submit an honors thesis for evaluation, to be part of an honors program, or to graduate early. Each university sets its own standards, and since these standards may vary widely it is possible for the same level of Latin honors conferred by different institutions to represent contrasting levels of academic achievement.
These honors, when they are used, are almost always awarded to undergraduates earning their bachelor's, and, with the exception of law school graduates, much more rarely to graduate students receiving their master's or doctorate degree. The honor is typically indicated on the diploma. Latin honors are often conferred upon law school graduates receiving a Juris Doctor or J.D., where they are generally based upon class rank or grade point average.
Many institutes confer three levels of Latin honors, although some eschew the third, namely:
- cum laude, meaning "with honor"—usually pronounced // or //.
- magna cum laude, meaning "with great honor"
- summa cum laude, meaning "with highest honor"
A fourth distinction, egregia cum laude, "with outstanding honor", has occasionally appeared: it was created to recognize students who earned the same grade point average required for the summa honor, but did so while pursuing a more rigorous honors curriculum.
A rarely used distinction, maxima cum laude, "with very great honor", is an intermediary honor between the summa and the magna honors. It is sometimes used when the summa honor is reserved only for students with a perfect academic record.
Absence of honors may be indicated by simply not stating any honors (as is usual in the United States and Indonesia), or explicitly marked as rite "duly" (meaning "degree requirements have been satisfied"), which is done in Germany and some other continental European countries.
Use of Latin honors around the world 
For undergraduate degrees, Latin honors are only used in a few countries such as the United States, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Most other countries use a different scheme, such as the British undergraduate degree classification which is more widely used (with some variation) in, for example, the United Kingdom, Australia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Canada, Colombia, Georgia, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and many other countries. Malta uses the Latin honors on the degree certificates, but the UK model is shown on the transcript.
In Austria, the only Latin honor in use is sub auspiciis Praesidentis rei publicae (under the auspices of the president of the republic) for doctorate degrees. Candidates must have consistently excellent grades throughout high school and university, making it very difficult to attain: only about 1 out of a total of 2500 doctoral graduates per year (i.e. less than .04%) achieve a sub auspiciis degree.
In Belgium, a university degree is awarded cum laude ("avec distinction" in French, "met onderscheiding" in Dutch) to people achieving a 68% average, which roughly corresponds to the top 25% of a class. It is awarded magna cum laude ("avec grande distinction" or "met grote onderscheiding") to those achieving a 77% average (top 5-10% of a class), and summa cum laude ("avec la plus grande distinction" or "met de grootste onderscheiding") to people with a 85% average (top 1%). These levels might differ somewhat from university to university and even from faculty to faculty, but generally follow these guidelines.
In Brazil, the Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica (ITA - Aeronautical Institute of Technology) awards the cum laude honor for graduates with average grade above 8.5 (out of 10.0), the magna cum laude honor for graduates with average grade above 8.5 and more than 50% of individual grades above 9.5 and the summa cum laude honor for graduates with average grade above 9.5. Up to 2009, only 22 graduates have received the summa cum laude honor at ITA. The Federal University of Rio de Janeiro awards the cum laude honor for graduates with average grade from 8.0 to 8.9, the magna cum laude honor for graduates with average grade from 9.0 to 9.4 and the summa cum laude honor for graduates with average grade from 9.5 to 10.0.
- improbatur (I, failing; "not accepted"),
- approbatur (A; "accepted"),
- lubenter approbatur (B; "willingly accepted"), cum laude approbatur (C; "accepted with praise"), magna cum laude approbatur (M; "accepted with great praise"), eximia cum laude approbatur (E; "accepted with excellent praise") and laudatur (L; "praised"). Finnish universities, when grading Master's theses and Doctoral dissertations, use the same scale with the addition of the grade of non sine laude approbatur (N; "accepted not without praise") between lubenter and cum laude.
In France, Sciences Po Paris (also known as Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris = Paris Institute of Political Studies, or "Sciences Po") attributes a cum laude honor to those graduating in the best 10% of their class and a summa cum laude honor to those graduating in the best 2%. Otherwise, honors are generally given with French expressions: assez bien ("rather good"), bien ("good"), très bien ("very good") for high school graduation (baccalauréat) and university degrees; and honorable, très honorable, très honorable avec félicitations du jury for doctor's degrees. However most universities, in particular in science, do not award any honors.
In Germany, the range of degrees is: rite ("duly" conferred, that is, the requirements are fulfilled), cum laude (with honors), magna cum laude (with great honors) and summa cum laude (with highest honors). These degrees are mostly used when a doctorate is conferred, not for diplomas, bachelors or masters for which numerical grades between 1.0 ("very good") and 4.0 ("pass") and 5.0 ("fail") are given.
In Hungary, the range of degrees-similar to the German system- is: rite ("duly" conferred, that is, the requirements are fulfilled), cum laude (with honors), summa cum laude (with highest honors). These degrees are used in university diplomas and in certain fields of sciences (medical, legal and a very few others) only. The grades of degrees are dependent on the received average points from final exams and from average points from the university studies.
In Italy, the cum laude notation (e lode being the equivalent in Italian) is used as an increasing level of the highest grade for both exams and degrees, in all its levels; sometimes passing an exam cum laude has only an honorific meaning, sometimes it influences the average grade and can be useful for a student to be awarded on his or her degree cum laude. In Italy 110/110 e lode is the highest rank that can be achieved during the academic studies, even though there are some others notations (that can be given only to those who have attained 100 e lode) , including : bacio e abbraccio accademico (academic kiss and embrace ) menzione d'onore (which stands for honour mention) and dignità di stampa (dignity of printing) , that are assigned according to different requirements decided by each University but haven't a legal value.
In the Netherlands, only two classes of honors are used: eervolle vermelding ("honorable mention") and cum laude, typically only to mark exceptional achievement. These are dependent on an absolute minimal grade point average, and an outstanding thesis. Generally, less than 20% receive the "honorable mention" distinction, and "cum laude" is even harder to attain (less than 1%-5% depending on the university and study program). Requirements vary among universities but, unlike the Anglo-American system, the honor is typically reserved only for the best students in an (under)graduate course (somewhat equivalent to summa or magna cum laude in the US). It is also possible to receive a PhD degree cum laude, although this honor is even rarer than for master graduates. Typically less than 5% of graduating PhDs receive this honor, and only if their research results are considered outstanding. In view of the difficulty of determining this, some universities/fields of study very seldom award doctorates cum laude.
In Russia the honor system is based on the grade point averages. At least 4.75 out of 5.0 points are required for the cum laude degree ("с отличием" ("s otlichiem") in Russian or "with excellence"). The graduate has to receive a perfect grade on all final examinations. Usually less than 2% of all graduated students accomplish this (depending on the university and year). In military schools, a "red diploma" may be accompanied by a gold medal ("summa cum laude") for outstanding performance. Russian high schools also award a Gold Medal to the student who achieves a perfect score in all final examinations and in all other subjects not requiring a final exam. A Silver Medal is awarded to high school students who have one or two grades of 4 ("хорошо" in Russian or "good", being second highest grade) on their final exams or other subjects as listed in the high school diploma ("attestat o (polnom)srednem obrazovanii").
In Switzerland, the degrees rite, cum laude, magna cum laude, insigni cum laude and summa cum laude are used, but the exact GPA corresponding to each varies by institution.
In the UK the Latin cum laude is used in Latin versions of honors degrees (e.g. University of Edinburgh) to denote a Bachelor with Honours degree, but the further classification is stated as in English, e.g. Primi Ordinis for First Class etc.
In Singapore, the latin honours, cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude are used by Singapore Management University. Graduates from Singapore Management University have to achieve GPAs of 3.4, 3.6 and 3.8 out of 4.0 respectively and without any exceptions, in order to qualify for the latin honours.
In Ukraine secondary education honor system is not based on the GPA. Instead, in order for a pupil to receive a Gold Medal (summa cum laude) he or she has to achieve at least a 10 (A-) grade in all subjects of his secondary school classes. To receive a Silver Medal (cum laude) pupils have to also receive at least a 10 (A-) in all subjects, but can have up to two grades of 9 (B+).
History of usage in the United States 
In 1869, Harvard College became the first college in the United States to award final honors to its graduates. From 1872 to 1879, cum laude and summa cum laude were the two Latin honors awarded to graduates. Beginning in 1880, magna cum laude was also awarded:
The Faculty then prepared regulations for recommending candidates for the Bachelor's degree, either for an ordinary degree or for a degree with distinction; the grades of distinction being summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude. The degree summa cum laude is for those who have attained ninety percent on the general scale, or have received Highest Honors in any department, and carries with it the assignment of an oration on the list of Commencement parts; the degree magna cum laude is for those who have attained eighty percent on the general scale, or have received Honors in any department, and carries with it the assignment of a dissertation; and the degree cum laude is to be given to those who attain seventy-five percent on the general scale, and to those who receive Honorable Mention in any study together with sixty-five per cent on the general scale, or seventy per cent on the last three years, or seventy-five per cent on the last two....
[Annual Reports of the President and Treasurer of Harvard College, 1877–78]
Instead of attempting to fix the rank of every individual student by minute divisions on a scale of a hundred as formerly, five grades of scholarship were established and degrees were conferred upon the graduating classes according to their grades. If a student was found to be in the first or lowest grade, he was not considered as a candidate for a degree, though he might receive a certificate stating the facts in regard to his standing; if he appeared in the second grade the degree of A.B. was conferred upon him rite; if in the third, cum laude; if in the fourth, magna cum laude; while if he reached the fifth grade he received the degree summa cum laude. The advantages of this course, as stated to the trustees by the president, are that it properly discriminates between those who, though passing over the same course of study, have done it with great differences of merit and of scholarship, and that it furnishes a healthy incentive to the best work without exciting an excessive spirit of emulation.
The new system of administration, of which the above is a part, is so original and peculiar that it is known as the Amherst System.
See also 
- Class rank
- Valedictorian, the highest-ranking student
- Salutatorian, the second-highest-ranking student
- A more direct translation of laude from Latin would be "praise".
- "U of Portland Honors at Graduation". www.up.edu.
- Russian Education Law — В соответствии с Законом Российской Федерации «Об образовании» № 12-ФЗ, 13 January 1996, and типовым «Положением об итоговой аттестации выпускников высших учебных заведений», утвержденным приказом Минобразования России, 25 March 2003 № 1155.
- Latin Versions of Degree Parchments, University of Edinburgh]
- Osvita.ua: http://osvita.ua/legislation/Ser_osv/27955/ Змінидо Положення про золоту медаль "За високі досягнення у навчанні" та срібну медаль "За досягнення у навчанні"