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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 etc. 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).
- a "Diploma", a qualification granted by vocational education and training (VET) sector or university. It is typically completed with 12 to 18 months of full-time study. When accepted for credit as part of a bachelor's degree, it is usually deemed to be equivalent to the first year of the degree.
- an "Advanced Diploma", which is equivalent to an Australian "Associate Degree".
- a "Graduate Diploma", which is undertaken after completing a bachelor's degree (or being deemed to have equivalent knowledge). This can be in a field other than that covered by said degree (e.g., the Graduate Diploma of Education necessary to become a school teacher in most Australian states). It can also be a coursework-only qualification undertaken as additional study in a specialisation within one's degree area.
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 awarded by colleges of applied arts and technology whereas bachelor degrees are awarded by universities. In Canada, depending on the provincial legislation, there may also be a difference between a college and a university.
Germany and the German academic education system in Europe
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 program and it is equivalent to the Master of Engineering degree, which is awarded by the European universities.
In Hong Kong, advanced diploma, higher diploma, and associate degree are below the standard of the honours bachelor's degree. Certificate (not to be confused with postgraduate certificate) and diploma are below the standard of advanced diploma, higher diploma and associate degree. Postgraduate Certificates and Postgraduate Diplomas are taken after the bachelor's degree, and are more vocational oriented than a master's degree.
In India, a diploma is a specific academic award usually earned in professional/vocational courses, e.g., Diploma in Nursing, Engineering, Pharmacy, Design, etc. In such cases, a diploma is specific in rank than a Bachelor's degree of that discipline but equivalent to general degree in that discipline; for example, Diploma in Engineering of Electronics Engineering is rated differently than Bachelor of Technology in Electronics Engineering but is equivalent to Bachelor of Science in Electronics.
Also, a diploma is concentrated for the area of study. For example, a Diploma in Engineering of Electronics Engineering may be in Advanced Communication Systems (ACS) or Integrated Circuits (IC) or Industrial Electronics (IE). On successful completion of Parts I and II Technician Examination of Institution of Mechanical Engineers, it is equivalent to Diploma in Mechanical Engineering as per a government of India circular. Similarly Diploma in Engineering of Civil Engineering is rated differently than Bachelor of Technology in Civil Engineering but is equivalent to Bachelor of Science in Geology. Another example of a diploma concentrated for the area of study is Diploma in Engineering of Civil Engineering, which may be in Architecture or Urban planning or Landscape architecture. On successful completion of Parts I and II Technician Examination of Institution of Civil Engineers, it is equivalent to Diploma in Civil Engineering as per a government of India circular.
Successful completion of the Diploma Studies (subject to course selection) allows articulation (also known as Lateral Entry) into the second year of Bachelor of Engineering/Bachelor of Technology programs.
There are two types of diplomas/Certificate issuance - Which are issued in formal education sector & non formal education sector. Formal education Sector diploma/certificates are issued by govt approved/recognised institution, colleges, universities etc. & Non Formal Education Sector diploma/certificates are issued by NGO, Companies, Societies outside 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. Engineering, Nursing, Fashion, etc. In such cases, a dipelor's degree of that discipline. As diploma studies started on vocational route of study after school for three years, the Bachelor of Technology is the logical next degree for diploma graduates. Also Diploma is concentrated for the area of study, e.g., Diploma in Engineering of Electronics Engineering or Industrial Electronics, Civil Engineering. Graduates of Diplomas work as associates to Engineers and are often called Associate Engineers. Few Postgraduate Diploma or PGD are ranked higher than the Bachelor degree as they are completed after graduation. These are normally a year's worth of coursework after a university degree.
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 below the standard of a bachelor's degree, at the same level as a Foundation 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 Undergraduate Diploma (a 1-year, part-time cost at the same level as a Diploma of Higher Education) and Advanced Diploma (equivalent to a Graduate 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.
In the USA, the word diploma usually refers to the actual document received at the end of high school, undergraduate studies, or graduate/professional school. This can lead to some confusion when persons who obtained US degrees are presenting their academic credentials in other countries.
Diploma also can refer to a specific academic or training award. An example of the former is in the field of Nursing where the Diploma in Nursing was offered by hospital based schools.
In an even wider fashion, a diplomat can refer to a person holding a specific accreditation. It can also mean what colleges will be willing to take you in freshman year of college.
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- "What qualification levels mean". Gov.uk. 25 October 2016. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
- "Undergraduate Certificates and Diplomas". Institute of Continuing Education. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
- "Advanced Diploma in Economics". Faculty of Economics. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
- "Advice and Guidance on Degree Fraud" (PDF). Higher Education Degree Datacheck. Prospects. 2016.
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.
- "International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme". Retrieved 2007-05-08.