Vocab alert: "Diploma" has multiple meanings

In Australia, "diploma" has a precise meaning, one that implies a pretty serious study programme. You wouldn't embark on an Aussie diploma lightly.

It's not like that all over the world, however. Internationally, a diploma can be anything from a post-graduate 2-year course of university study to a short, solid professional development qualification, like ours.

Oops, that's another international terminology trap! "Professional development" in New Zealand applies to all professions, but in some countries is used mostly by the teaching profession.

Our Diploma in Web Content is an integrated bundle of 10 discrete short courses. You can complete the work and pass the tests (hopefully) in about 10 hours; you're enrolled for 3 months so you can benefit fully.

We use the word "diploma" because:
~ there's no international agreement on what a diploma should be
~ we need to differentiate between a 10-course diploma and a single 1-hour course.

Get it? Our Diploma is a short, focused, practical study programme that easily fits into the working life of busy professionals. You can do it, starting tomorrow and finishing within 3 months.

Nevertheless, terminology is a real problem, because in Australia the word "diploma" seems like a nonsense for a qualification that takes 3 months. Credibility suffers.

We're thinking that for Aussie graduates we might provide an alternative version of our hard-copy Diploma, using words that make sense in their work environment. But what phrase should we use?

"Professional Development Diploma"?

We need your advice please!

Photo: (c) Tokyo Institute of Technology in spring.


Feb 24, 2010 • Posted by Richard Grevers

Well, even in New Zealand, I am used to the following scale:

Degree: Equivalent to 3 years of full-time study, and issued by a limited range of degree-conferring institutions (I’m still not used to polytechs offering degrees!)

Diploma: Equivalent to 2 years of full-time study. The highest qualification issued by NZQA-registered Private Tertiary Institutions who are not polytechs or universities.

Certificate: 1 year full-time study or below. (many certificates are 12-16 weeks).
I am about to complete a Certificate in Permaculture Design – about 144 hours of instruction, plus home study, spread over 10 months.

So, with all due respect, I think your offering should be a certificate.

Apr 08, 2010 • Posted by Susan Aaron, Alpha Omega Editing Services

I appreciate your explaining why you use the term “diploma.” I, too, would consider your 10-course offering a certificate program. Here in the U.S. a diploma means one has completed an academic degree through a college or university, typically 2 (associate) or 4 (bachelor) years, or beyond.

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