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A diploma ( Greek δίπλωµα , Latin diploma , 'handwriting on two folded sheets of paper , folded twice') is a certificate of awards (honorary certificate), outstanding achievements or examinations ( exams ) at academic and non-academic educational institutions .

Concept history

The diploma was actually a writing board made up of two sheets of paper; the Romans generally used it as an official copy, namely a certificate certified by a signature and a seal . The word was no longer used with this meaning throughout the Middle Ages . Instead, important documents were labeled with a charter, pagina or litterae. It was not until the 17th century that the word diploma was used again and referred to all official historical records. Later, the German word Urkunde was increasingly used instead. Diplomas were almost exclusively used to refer to documents attaining academic dignity, the successful completion of training or awards for exceptional achievements. Towards the end of the 18th century, the job title diplomat was created for a foreign politician who was identified by credentials. In diplomacy , the term is used in addition to privilege to designate rulers' deeds of a more sophisticated design with content that has a long-lasting effect (as a counter-term to the mandate ).

Diploma as an academic degree

In connection with the specification of the subject, the diploma is an academic degree ( university education ), for example diploma biologist, diploma sociologist, diploma administrator or diploma engineer.

The diploma courses largely ended in 2010 as part of the Bologna Process . In its place, the tiered study system with the degrees Bachelor and Master was introduced.


Diploma certificate from the university of applied sciences
Diploma certificate for mathematics from the University of Cologne from the 1970s

In Germany the diploma was the most common academic degree . The courses leading to a diploma were mainly in engineering , natural sciences and economics , but also in some subjects in the humanities and social sciences and at art colleges .

The academic degree is always made up of the word "diploma" and the relevant subject area, whereby in addition to the personal form that is by far the most common (e.g. business graduate ), the impersonal form (e.g. diploma in audiovisual media ) can also be awarded. In Germany, academic degrees may only be awarded by universities in accordance with Section 18 of the Higher Education Framework Act (HRG). Word combinations of the designation “Diplom” or “Dipl.” And a subject area or job title that were not awarded by a university can be confused with academic degrees and are therefore not permitted. Using “diploma” designations that have not been awarded by a university or vocational academy (with the addition “BA”) is punishable under Section 132a (2) StGB .

The diploma is also awarded at universities of applied sciences , but with the addition "FH". In principle, but under special conditions, it does not entitle to a doctorate . In addition to the more application-oriented orientation in contrast to the university diploma, the diploma of the technical colleges also differs in the standard period of study of a maximum of eight semesters. For Bachelor and Master courses, however, there are no such fundamental distinctions.

At vocational academies , the diploma is not awarded as an academic degree, but as a state qualification with the addition of "BA". The dual university , which emerged from the vocational academies in Baden-Württemberg, enables this degree to be post-graded into an academic diploma degree, which must be listed with the addition "DH". The diploma (DH) is intended exclusively for postgraduates of former graduates of the vocational academies. The Cooperative State University awards its regular graduates a Bachelor's degree.

Diploma course

The organizational process of a diploma course is regulated by the diploma examination regulations , which in Germany are checked and approved by the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs of the respective federal state . Diploma courses are divided into a two- to four-semester basic course in which basic knowledge and skills are imparted and which can serve as orientation, and a three- to six-semester main course in which differentiation and specialization can take place. The basic studies are completed with the intermediate diploma , which is awarded after passing mostly written, but sometimes also oral exams in the relevant subjects. Some study regulations provide for a pre-study diploma examination, which is made up of partial performances to be achieved during the basic studies. Unlike the bachelor's degree, however, the intermediate diploma is not a qualification for a profession. The main course can either end with large written or oral diploma examinations or with course-related partial achievements. For both procedures, a diploma thesis must also be prepared, which proves the ability to do scientific work. If both the diploma thesis and the examinations are assessed with grades of at least "sufficient", the diploma is awarded.

History of the diploma in Germany

The term "diploma" as a university degree in connection with the specification of the subject has existed since October 11, 1899. The technical universities of Prussia were permitted by a royal decree of Kaiser Wilhelm II in October 1899 to award the academic degree of engineering degree . In some subjects, the diploma was awarded - partly on application - parallel to the first state examination , which does not represent an academic degree.

In the Federal Republic of Germany the diploma was introduced from the end of the 1950s as the first university degree instead of a doctorate in social and economic subjects, parallel to the master's degree in humanities and social science subjects. The introduction of a diploma and master's degree should shorten the course of study and thus also lower certain entry barriers to an academic education. At the end of the 1960s the diploma was introduced as a standard qualification for all university courses in the German Democratic Republic , unlike in the Federal Republic also for courses that prepared for sovereign tasks. In the 1970s, the graded, integrated diploma study model (DI / DII) was developed and applied at the comprehensive university in Kassel . It was the only university that made it possible to recognize different qualification requirements in addition to the general university entrance qualification.

The model has been gradually suspended since 2006 as a result of the Bologna reform and replaced by the Bachelor / Master degrees through private law accreditation procedures .

In addition, there is the graduation of courses that are completed with a state examination . This happens partly through the mere award of the diploma degree, partly this is made dependent on the performance of additional services. Examples are the academic degrees of qualified lawyer and qualified professional pedagogue.

Classification under salary law

At the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) on June 12, 2003, it was said: “The Bachelor and Master degrees are independent, professional university degrees. The integration of a bachelor's degree in a diploma course is also excluded, as is the awarding of a master’s degree on the basis of a successfully completed diploma course ”, so that“ bachelor’s degrees […] basically confer the same rights as diploma degrees from universities of applied sciences; Consecutive master’s degrees confer the same entitlements as diploma and master’s degrees from universities and equivalent colleges. "

In terms of salary, this means that Bachelor and Diploma (FH) graduates are assigned to the higher service , diploma graduates from universities and equivalent colleges and all Magister and Master graduates are assigned to the higher service .

Successfully accredited master’s degrees at universities of applied sciences are automatically assigned to the higher service, an explicit determination no longer has to be made during accreditation.

An exception here in some federal states is the staggered teacher training course, where the bachelor's degree is followed by a master’s degree. Since elementary school teachers do not enter the higher, but the higher service, this assignment is not applicable here.

Bologna Process in Germany

The university compass of the university rectors' conference can be seen as a yardstick for the abolition of diploma courses . As of December 29, 2009, it had 521 data sets for diploma courses among the undergraduate courses and, in comparison, 5803 data sets for bachelor courses.

  • In Baden-Württemberg, since the 2005 amendment to the higher education law, no new diploma or master’s degree programs may be introduced and no new students may be admitted to these degree programs by the beginning of the 2009/2010 winter semester at the latest.
  • In Bavaria, the Higher Education Act stipulates that starting the 2009/2010 winter semester at the latest, students should start studying for a bachelor's degree (with the exception of state or church examinations).
  • In Hesse, according to the higher education law there, only bachelor degrees can be awarded for the first professional qualification, and only master’s degrees for a further professional qualification. The diploma or other academic degrees are no longer mentioned.
  • In Saxony, it is no longer possible to enroll in master’s courses from the winter semester 2008/2009. In contrast, the diploma courses will not be abolished in principle. The TU Chemnitz will offer the diploma course in mathematics again from the winter semester 2018/19.

Some federal states currently make it possible with their higher education laws to maintain courses with diplomas and other degrees under certain conditions or in justified exceptional cases without specifying an expiry period (see Art. 57 Paragraph 4 BayHSchG; § 26 SächsHschG; § 9 Paragraph 6 HSG LSA). It is currently unclear to what extent individual federal states will deviate from the decision of their education ministers after 2010. The structure of the still existing diploma courses has been adapted to the new bachelor and master courses by adopting the modularization .

Since the university was founded, the Munich School of Politics has consistently offered a degree in political science. Students receive the academic degree of "Diplomaticus scientiae politicae Universitatis" (Dipl. Sc. Pol. Univ.) From the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich. The Technical University of Dresden also continues to offer undergraduate degree courses in architecture, civil engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science (new for winter semester 2010/11), information system technology, regenerative energy systems, mechanical engineering, mechatronics, psychology, for new students in the 2010/11 winter semester. Sociology, process engineering, transport engineering and materials science as well as advanced courses in civil engineering, mechanical engineering, software technology and environmental technology. For the 2014/2015 winter semester, the TU Dresden switched the former Bachelor / Master courses in industrial engineering and business informatics back to diploma courses. These options will remain in the subjects of electrical engineering, information systems technology, regenerative energy systems and mechatronics for the time being and will continue to be the standard degree for these subjects. The Zittau / Görlitz offers until further notice to diploma courses in industrial engineering, business administration, housing and real estate industry, mechanical engineering and environmental technology. The University of Greifswald has for years throughout the graduate degree in Economics with the degree diploma in business administration or business graduate to. In Rhineland-Palatinate, too, the TU Kaiserslautern will continue to offer undergraduate diploma courses in the subjects of architecture, electrical engineering, information technology, mechanical engineering, mechatronics, process engineering, biophysics and physics for the 2015/16 winter semester.


In Austria the diploma was only available as an academic degree in the engineering sciences in the form of a graduate engineer or graduate engineer . This degree is abbreviated either with Dipl.-Ing., Or with DI (without abbreviations). Diploma studies in other subjects lead to a master’s degree in Austria , but the academic degree Dr. med. univ. of human medicine according to § 54 Abs. 2 Universitätsgesetz 2002 a diploma degree and not a doctorate degree. The degree of Diplom-Kaufmann  (Dkfm) was awarded in Austria until 1975, since then a degree in economics has been completed with the degree Mag. Rer.soc.oec. from. The envisaged period of study for diploma courses was four to six years, depending on the field of study. They were divided into two to three study sections, each of which ends with a diploma examination. The first section typically consisted of basic subjects. In the last section a thesis was to be written.

This system has been replaced by the Bachelor / Master system. The Universities Act 2002 stipulates in Section 54 (2) that new courses may only be set up as Bachelor, Master or PhD courses. Some existing studies, particularly in the field of law and medicine, will continue to be carried out as diploma studies. In addition, technical master’s degrees are mostly still carried out as a graduate engineer, and probably for longer (since the degree is also highly regarded internationally). In addition, there is also the graduate health and nurse / nurse in addition to the school-based also in the FH form.

As early as 2006, the number of bachelor's programs set up exceeded the number of diploma programs. However, in 2011/12 the number of students in the diploma course (excluding teaching) was 93,611, the number of students in master’s courses was only 32,858.


Diplomatura or Diplomatura universitaria refers to a state university degree ( Título oficial ) in Spain , which corresponds to a standard study period of 3 or 4 years.

The study is application-oriented in general and is offered only in certain subjects (nursing, optical, physiotherapy, FH -like engineering courses). Unlike a Licenciatura, a Diplomatura does not entitle you to a doctorate .

This type of degree will be phased out as part of the Bologna Process and the degrees awarded will most likely be recognized as Bachelor .

Professional diploma


A state qualification for graduates of the professional academies in Germany, e.g. B. Graduate engineer (BA)


In Austria, the final vocational examination of the vocational high school is called Diplom ; together with the matura examination , it will soon be converted into a uniform matriculation and diploma examination for AHS and BHS. The diploma examination comprises the professional qualification (corresponding to the final apprenticeship examination and the final examination at the vocational school / BMS) and the trade license .

Outside the universities there and there were also courses that are also completed with a diploma and are recognized by the state ( medical-technical services , nursing degree , lower teacher , graduate teacher ). Most of these, however, are being phased out and, like the academic diploma courses, will be gradually converted to the Bologna model ( professionalization in human professions ). The job titles of qualified health and nurse and qualified medical assistant have remained .


See also

Web links

Commons : Diploma  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Diploma  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. duden.de: Diploma
  2. ^ Gisela Buchheim, Rolf Sonnemann (ed.): History of the technical sciences. Springer Basel, 1990, ISBN 978-3-0348-6153-3
  3. ^ Resolution of the Conference of Interior Ministers of December 7, 2007 and of the Conference of Ministers of Education of September 20, 2007 ( Memento of January 13, 2012 in the Internet Archive ).
  4. Basic degree programs in Germany ( Memento from February 9, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  5. ^ LHG of Baden-Württemberg i. d. F. of January 1, 2005, Section 29 Paragraph 3.
  6. BayHSchG of Bavaria i. d. F. of May 23, 2006, Art. 57 Para. 4.
  7. Hessian Higher Education Act i. d. F. of December 18, 2006, § 28.
  8. SächsHG i. d. F. of January 31, 2006, Section 127 (3).
  9. tu-chemnitz.de
  10. ^ Resolution of the Standing Conference of 12 June 2003.
  11. Munich School of Politics
  12. TU Dresden study programs 2010/11 ( Memento from September 16, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  13. ^ TU Dresden
  14. ^ Campus , Deutschlandradio.
  15. University of Greifswald ( Memento from September 22, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  16. uni-kl.de ( Memento from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  17. a b Comparison of the titles: Magister, Dipl.-Ing, Dr., Bachelor, Master . bildungsportal.at
  18. Degree course in law at the University of Vienna ( Memento from July 28, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  19. Study of human medicine at the Medical University of Vienna ( Memento from April 28, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  20. a b Dipl. Health and nurse / nurse. AMS occupational information system.
  21. Federal Ministry of Science and Research : Report on the implementation status of the Bologna Declaration in Austria 2007 (PDF; 632 kB)
  22. Statistics Austria : Documented regular studies at public universities in 2011/12 by type of study and main field of study
  23. Standardized, competence-oriented matriculation examination at BHS . bmukk Education and Schools, Classes and Schools, Education Issues ; Standardized matriculation and diploma examination . ( Memento of March 28, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) BIFIE
  24. Dipl. Medical specialist assistant. AMS occupational information system.