Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 18 June, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


Novel Recipes




core definition

Diploma is:

1. a generic term for  a formal document (certificate) that acknowledges that a named individual has achieved a stated higher education award.

2. an award for a specific level of qualification – diploma level – which in some countries is  between a bachelor and a masters-level award.

3. a term for any award beyond bachelors level up to but excluding doctoral level awards, including continuing education certification.

explanatory context

Diploma is an imprecise term whose meaning is context-dependent and varies from country to country.

analytical review

HEFCE (2010) defines a diploma as:

A qualification awarded for a course of higher education.

HEFCE (undated) changed the definition to:

Diploma: A qualification awarded for a course which may or may not be at higher education level.

For HEA (2004) a diploma is an:

Award usually granted to students upon successful completion of a two or three-year course at undergraduate level. Postgraduate diplomas, generally lasting one or two years, are also available.

AEC (2004) defines diploma as follows:

The term ‘Diploma’ can mean a number of different things.  The following three examples cover most cases: 1. a document which functions as proof of a qualification having been obtained 2.the qualification obtained at the end of the first cycle 3.a qualification with professional meaning or status. For example, in some conservatoires, all qualifications, including those given at the highest level, are called ‘diploma’

associated issues


related areas

See also



Association europeenne des conservatoires [Academies de musique et musikhochschulen] (AEC), 2004, Glossary of terms used in relation to the Bologna Declaration, accessed September 2004. Not available at this address 31 January 2011.

Higher Education Authority (HEA) [of Ireland] 2004, Glossary, no longer available, 29 January 2011.

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), 2010, About us: Glossary, available at, updated 8 November 2010, accessed 29 January 2012, not available 11 July 2012.

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), undated, Glossary, available at, accessed 3 January 2017, not available 20 June 2019.  

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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