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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 two and three year academic post-secondary programs taught by colleges and institutes of applied studies, arts, and technology. Two year programs are referred to as college diplomas, while three year programs 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.
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.
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 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 diploma is 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/certificate issuance which are issued in formal education sector & non formal education sector. Formal education sector diploma/certificates are issued by govt. approved/recognized institution, colleges and universities etc. and non formal education sector diploma/certificates are issued by NGOs, companies and societies etc. 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. 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. Nanyang Polytechnic, Singapore 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 for just one year. (e.g. Kaplan / MDIS/ PSB Academy) In Singapore, a diploma is able to land you in a job to start your career. However, many people are not satisfied with the diploma and move on to pursue their bachelor's degree. Diplomas in Singapore are well recognised by various other countries, due to Singapore's high standards or education.
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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- "Testamur (certificate)". University of Wollongong. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
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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.
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- "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.