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A diploma (from Greek δίπλωµα ''diploma'', meaning "folded paper") is a certificate or deed issued by an educational institution, such as a university, that testifies that the recipient has successfully completed a particular course of study, or confers an academic degree. In countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia, the word diploma refers to a level of academic award.
In some countries, such as the UK and Australia, such a document can be called a testimonium or testamur, Latin for "we testify" or "certify" (testari), and so called from the word with which the certificate begins. In Ireland, it is generally called a parchment.
Originally, diplomas were made of thin sheepskin, as paper was difficult to create and also extremely delicate at that time. The entire diploma was written by hand due to the lack of printing presses. Soon, parchment was used for the diploma and at the turn of the 20th century, the diploma became bound in leather.
Diplomas used to be printed on large paper, but it has become common to print diplomas on standard letter or A4 size paper.
* In the U.S., the word ''diploma'' usually refers to the actual document received at the end of higher education. This can lead to some confusion when persons who obtained a degree in the USA are presenting their academic credentials in other countries (see below).
**It also can refer to a specific academic award. An example would be in the field of Nursing where the Diploma in Nursing was offered by hospital based schools.
* In some countries, such as Australia, Pakistan and India a diploma is a specific academic award of lower rank than a bachelor degree (and in some areas an Advanced Diploma falls in between as well). The piece of paper documenting one's degree is usually referred to as a "degree certificate", not a "diploma".
* In India, a diploma is a specific academic award usually awarded in professional/vocational courses e.g. Engineering, Pharmacy, Designing, etc. In such cases, a diploma is lower in rank than a specific Bachelor's degree of that discipline but equivalent to general degree in that discipline e.g. Diploma in Engineering of Electronics Engineering is lower than Bachelor of Technology in Electronics Engineering but is equivalent to Bachelor of Science in Electronics. Also Diploma are little bit specific in nature e.g. Diploma in Engineering of Electronics Engineering may be in Advanced Communication Systems (ACS) or Integrated Circuits (IC) or Industrial Electronics (IE).
* In Pakistan, a Diploma is a specific academic award usually awarded in professional/vocational courses e.g. Engineering, Nursing, Fashion, etc. In such cases, a diploma is lower in rank than a specific Bachelor's degree of that discipline. As diploma studies started on vocational route of study after school for 3 years, the Bachelor of Technology is the logical degree for diploma graduates if they want to complete the Bachelor. Also Diploma are little bit specific in nature e.g. Diploma in Engineering of Electronics Engineering or Industrial Electronics, Civil Engineering. graduates of Diplomas work as associates to Engineers and often called as 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 courses after a university degree.
* In 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 degree.
* In Germany, Ukraine, Serbia, Hungary and other countries that adopted the German academic education system, diploma (in German ''Diplom'') is the standard academic degree, comparable with the Bachelor's and Master's degree in one.
* In Hong Kong, 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 higher diploma and associate degree. Postgraduate Certificates and Postgraduate Diplomas are taken after the bachelor degree, and are more vocational oriented than a master's degree.
* 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 be a subtle difference between a college and a university.
*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 5th 1961.
* The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma is a pre-university qualification normally taken by students in the final two years of high school.
* In the UK, ''diploma'' can refer to several different types of academic qualification. The Diploma of Higher Education is a higher education award below the standard of a bachelor's degree. The term can also refer to a Postgraduate Diploma or to the new 14–19 Diploma to be introduced in England in September 2008. Postgraduate Diploma award is higher than the Bachelor's degree.
* In Greece, diplomas can be awarded by various educational institutes as a proof of a certain educational level. Diploma in engineering is a high award provided by Greek technical universities after the successful completion of a 5-year programme and is equivalent to British bachelor and master of engineering.