Difference between ‘German Diplom’ and so called ‘Diploma’


Before the introduction of the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Germany, the standard Science, Engineering or Business degree was the Diplom and could be, in several variations, obtained at several types of institutes of higher education.

German Diplom:

Obtained at a university, the degree is simply called a Diplom or rarely a Diplom (Univ.) and took usually between four and six years (240 – 360 ECTS Credits), depending on subject and curriculum. Obtained at a so-called University of Applied Sciences (or Fachhochschule), the diploma degree is called a Diplom (FH) and took mostly four years (240 ECTS Credits). The following text deals with these two kind of degrees. (For further kind of Diploma degrees see the section below.)

The Diplom was usually awarded in the natural sciences, business and in engineering, while students of humanities, arts and languages finished with a Magister. (The degree in social sciences differed from university to university.) All kind of Diplom degrees were usually first degrees. However, the Diplom / Diplom (Univ.) was also the highest non-doctoral degree in science, business or engineering in Germany.

The duration of the Diplom degree programmes differed depending on subject and university. An official average duration (Regelstudienzeit) was set by law in each German state, usually being 4 years for a Diplom (FH) and 4, 4.5 or 5 years for a Diplom / Diplom (Univ.). In exceptional cases, universities were allowed to set longer average durations for certain subjects (HGRP1995 § 26 (3),[2] NHG2007 § 6 (3),[3] HmbHG2001 §53 (3)[4]). However, due to the curriculum set by most universites in Germany, the 4, 4.5 or 5 years for a Diplom / Diplom (Univ.) were often exceeded.[5] Although being a first degree, because of its actual duration, the Diplom / Diplom (Univ.) was and is in Germany not considered as an equivalent to a Bachelor’s but rather to a Master’s degree.

A holder of a Diplom obtained at a university is, depending on subject, for example referred to as “Diplom-Ingenieur” (Diplom-Engineer), “Diplom-Kaufmann” (Diplom-Merchant), “Diplom-Biologe” (Diplom-Biologist) and so on. In Bavaria, sometimes the postfix “(Univ.)” is added. If the Diplom has been obtained at a University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule), the postfix “(FH)” has to be added (e.g. Diplom-Ingenieur (FH)).

To obtain a Diplom at a university, students had to complete two separate periods of study. The first one was a two-year period of coursework in courses of mainly (but not only) introductory nature, theGrundstudium (meaning basic studying period). After (and during) this period, in addition to exams for passing the modules, students attained a series of usually four intermediate exams to obtain theVordiplom (meaning pre-diploma). The second period, the Hauptstudium (meaning main period of study), consisted of two years of coursework in courses of advanced level, an additional period of several months in which a thesis had to be written and eventually a series of usually four[6] final exams. It was not unusual for student to need more than two years for the coursework of theHauptstudium. An obtained Vordiplom and the completion of the coursework of the Hauptstudium were the requirements to register for working on the thesis and for the final exams. However, access to courses of the Hauptstudium was usually not restricted to students who had already obtained the Vordiplom.
The extend of the final exams and the exams to obtain the Vordiplom was set by each university individually in its regulations. Normally, the content of two different modules of the preceding period of coursework was examined in each of the examinations, which could be oral or less often in writing. Most students needed approximately six months to complete the final exam period.
The thesis which followed an independent (although supervised) research project had officially to be completed in not more than 3 to 9 months (depending on subject and university).[7] However, the actual time students worked on these projects could again exceed the official duration by several months.

The curriculum for a Diplom (FH) degree, obtained at a University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule) used to be more application-oriented, in comparison to what was expected for a Univ. Diplom degree. The programme was slightly shorter and often one semester was spent by the students doing an internship.

The Diplom / Diplom (Univ.) is usually a prerequisite for preparing a doctorate (Doktorarbeit). However, under certain conditions, holders of a Diplom (FH) are also eligible for doctoral studies. In German speaking countries and countries, which Germany has bilateral agreements with—regarding the recognition of academic qualifications, the Diplom / Diplom (Univ.) is usually accepted as admission into doctorate programs.

Now What is Diploma?

  • In the U.S., 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 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 Australia, a diploma can mean one of three things: the older usage is of an advanced level course done in the vocational education and training sector or university academically equivalent to some years of a bachelor degree but giving a similar professional status and position as a degree; a Graduate Diploma, which is undertaken after completing a degree but at undergraduate level in a field other than that covered by the degree (e.g. the Graduate Diploma of Education necessary to become a school teacher in most Australian states); and a Postgraduate Diploma, a coursework-only qualification which is undertaken as additional study in a specialisation within one’s degree area. Both the course itself and the certification are referred to as a “diploma” in Australian English.

Recent Updates:

By the year 2010, German universities will have transformed their systems from the previous Diplom into the Bachelor/Masters system. The German Diplom is a degree course which can, so to speak, be compared to a combination of Bachelor and Masters. Students must complete their Grundstudium (undergraduate studies) in order to be allowed to progress to the Hauptstudium (graduate studies).

Talents and interests are as diverse as the demands in the world of work. For this reason, the Diplom degrees and study options offered by the business faculty allow an array of specialisations. All of the programs have, however, one thing in common: solid knowledge of economic fundamentals and expertise over a range of self-chosen fields in the Hauptstudium (graduate studies).


In the course of the so-called “Bologna Process? all German institutes of higher education are transforming their Diplom courses of study into the established, international Bachelor/Masters system by the year 2010. The business faculty is accommodating this development with the start of the new Bachelor of business administration and Bachelor of information systems in the autumn/winter semester 2006/2007. The introduction of the new courses for these new programs of study can mean that the order of courses in your individual Diplom curriculum may have to be adapted.

In order to guarantee the introduction of the Masters of Business Administration for the autumn/winter semester 2009/2010 onwards, gradual restrictions on the study offerings in the Hauptstudium (graduate studies) were necessary.  The temporary arrangement will take the average course of studies into account, with the aim of allowing as broad a freedom of choice as possible concerning the elective special business subjects (SBWL) and the optional modules within the special business subjects (SBWL).

Source: wiki, uni-mannheim.de

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