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The Bologna Process

European Country Practices


General Information

The purpose of the Bologna process (or Bologna accords) is to create the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by making academic degree standards and quality assurance standards more comparable and compatible throughout Europe, in particular under the Lisbon Recognition Convention. It is named after the place it was proposed, the University of Bologna in the Italian city of Bologna, with the signing in 1999 of the Bologna Declaration by Ministers of Education from 29 European countries. This was opened up to other countries signatory to the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe; further governmental meetings have been held in Prague (2001), Berlin (2003), Bergen (2005) and London in Spring 2007.

The Council of Europe together with the members of the Europe Region of UNESCO have jointly prepared the Lisbon Recognition Convention on recognition of academic qualifications as part of the process, which has been ratified by the majority of the countries party to the Bologna process

The Bologna declaration is the main guiding document of the Bologna Process. It was adopted by ministers of education of 29 European countries at their meeting in Bologna in 1999. It has later been followed up by the Prague Communiqué (2001), the Berlin Communiqué (2003) and the Bergen Communiqué (2005). The most recent meeting took place in London in 2007 and produced the London Communiqué. The Bologna 6th Ministerial Conference will take place in Leuven/ Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium on 28-29 April 2009.

Source: and with a link to the text of Bologna Declaration of 19 June 1999

The Council of Europe has made a useful summary of Bologna Process providing detailed information on all dimentions of the process.


Policies and Regulations

Main Bologna Process Documents

Ministerial Declarations and Communiqué (Russian material are also available through this link)
Lisbon Recognition Convention
Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) - adopted by Ministers in May 2005
A Framework for Qualifications in the European Higher Education Area -
adopted by Ministers in May 2005
A Framework for Qualifications in the European Higher Education Area - background report
Strategy for the EHEA in a global setting - adopted by Ministers in 2007
Report on the Bologna Process in a global setting - background report

Other relevant documents

Booklet on Bologna Process and EHEA: web version, print version, professional printing
General reports prepared for ministerial conferences
Stocktaking reports 2005, 2007
National reports 2005, 2007
EUA Trends reports
Bologna with Student Eyes 2005, 2007
Eurydice: Focus on the structure of higher education in Europe. National trends in the Bologna Process 2006/07
Working group reports 2007
Bologna work programme 2007-2009

Creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA)

The overarching aim of the Bologna Process is to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) based on international cooperation and academic exchange that is attractive to European students and staff as well as to students and staff from other parts of the world.

The envisaged European Higher Education Area (EHEA) will

  • facilitate mobility of students, graduates and higher education staff;
  • prepare students for their future careers and for life as active citizens in democratic societies, and support their personal development;
  • offer broad access to high-quality higher education, based on democratic principles and academic freedom.
  • generate easily readable and comparable degrees organized in a three-cycle structure (e.g. bachelor-master-doctorate): Countries are currently setting up national qualifications frameworks that are compatible with the overarching framework of qualifications for the EHEA and define learning outcomes for each of the three cycles.
  • set up Quality Assurance in accordance with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG).
  • Install fair recognition of foreign degrees and other higher education qualifications in accordance with the Council of Europe/UNESCO Recognition Convention.

Work is also undertaken in areas of broader societal relevance, such as the links between higher education, research and innovation; equitable participation and lifelong learning.  

The ongoing reforms will have a strong impact on how European higher education relates to higher education in other parts of the world, which is why Ministers have adopted a Strategy for the European Higher Education Area in a Global Setting.

Further information is available at the following websites:

Booklet on Bologna Process and EHEA: web version, print version, professional printing

Benelux Bologna Secretariat (2007-2009)

Since 1 July 2007, the Bologna Process is being supported by a Secretariat, which is jointly operated by the higher education ministries of the French and Flemish Communities of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The office of the multinational Secretariat is located in Brussels. English is the official communication language of the Bologna Process and of its Secretariat but you are welcome to also contact us in Dutch, French, German or Spanish.


Master’s Degree

The Bologna Process generates a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) in which students and graduates could move freely between countries, using prior qualifications in one country as acceptable entry requirements for further study in another. The principal aims agreed were:

1. "Adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees". That is to say, countries should adopt common terminology and standards

2. "Adoption of a system essentially based on two main cycles, undergraduate and graduate. Access to the second cycle shall require successful completion of first cycle studies, lasting a minimum of three years. The degree awarded after the first cycle shall also be relevant to the European labour market as an appropriate level of qualification. The second cycle should lead to the master and/or doctorate degree as in many European countries."

A Masters degree provides a mastery or high-order overview of a relevant field of study or area of professional practice [1]. Graduates of a Masters degree possess a range of academic and vocational skills including advanced knowledge of a specialist body of theoretical and applied topics; high order skills in analysis, critical evaluation and/or professional application; and the ability to solve complex problems and think rigorously and independently within the area studied.

The master of arts (magister artium) and master of science (magister scientiæ) degrees are the basic degree types in most subjects, and they may be course-based, research-based, or (more typically) a mixture of the two. A dissertation may or may not be required, depending on the program. There are various degrees of the same level, such as engineer’s degrees, which have different names for historical reasons.

There are a range of pathways to the degree, with entry based on evidence of a capacity to undertake higher degree studies in the proposed field. The master's is usually offered at a postgraduate level, although is also offered as an undergraduate degree. Some university programmes provide for a joint bachelor's and master's degree after four or five years.

Titles and abbreviations

In some languages, a master's degree is called a magister, which is Latin for master (teacher), and magister or a cognate can also be used for a person who has the degree. Master of Science often is abbreviated MS in the USA[3] and MSc or M.Sc. in Commonwealth nations and Europe.

List of Master's degrees

Duration of Master’s Degree Studies

In the recently standardized European System of higher education, a master's degree corresponds to a one or two year postgraduate program (60 to 120 ECTS credits) undertaken after at least three years of undergraduate studies. It provides higher qualification for employment or prepares for doctoral studies. In general, though, the structure and duration will differ by university:

  • In some systems, such as in the United States and Japan, a master's degree is a postgraduate academic degree awarded after the completion of an academic program of one to six years in duration.
  • In some countries, such as Denmark, a master's degree is an undergraduate academic degree awarded after the completion of an academic program of one to five years in duration.
  • In some countries, such as England, Scotland, Sweden (students entering their education after July 2007) and Ireland, a master's degree can be both an undergraduate academic degree awarded after the completion of an academic program of four (or sometimes five) years in duration, or a postgraduate academic degree awarded after the completion of an academic program of one to two years in duration.

Admission to Universities

Admission to a master's program normally requires holding a bachelor's degree (in the United Kingdom an 'honours' bachelor degree), although relevant work experience may qualify a candidate. Progressing to a doctoral program sometimes requires that the candidate first earn a master's degree. In some fields or postgraduate programs, work on a doctorate begins immediately after the bachelor's degree, but the master's may be earned along the way, as a result of the successful completion of coursework and certain examinations. In some cases the student's bachelor's degree must be in the same subject as the intended master's degree, or in a closely allied discipline; in others, the subject of the bachelor's degree is unimportant.

European Degrees

In some European countries, a magister is a first degree and may be considered equivalent to a modern (standardized) master's degree (e.g., the German university Diplom/Magister, or the similar 5-year diploma awarded in several subjects in Greek, Spanish, Italian, Polish, and other universities and polytechnics).

In the Francophone countries, a DEA is the postgraduate degree and considered equivalent to the master's degree (e.g, In France, the French-Speaking Belgium a DEA is 1-2 years degree taken after the Licence), after the application of Bologna process the DEA had been given a new name: MAS (Master of Advanced Studies).

In Switzerland, the old Licence (4 to 5 years in duration) is considered equivalent to the master's

This Section can be excluded from the portal

Selected Country Level Practices in Europe

In Europe, degrees are being harmonized through the Bologna process, which is based on the three-level hierarchy of degrees: Bachelor (License in France), Master and Doctor. This system is gradually replacing the two-stage system now in use in some countries.

This system is also currently in use in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Serbia and Croatia.


In Austria, there are currently two parallel systems of academic degrees:

With a few exceptions, the two-cycle degree system will be phased out by 2010.[9] Some of the established degree naming has, however, been preserved, allowing universities to award the "Diplom-Ingenieur" (and for a while also the "Magister") to graduates of the new-style Master's programmes.


In French universities, the academic degree system was quite complicated: the first degree was the baccalauréat (completed in fact after high school), then the two-year diplôme d'études universitaires générales (DEUG General Academic Studies Degree) or premier cycle (undergraduate education), then the one-year licence, the one-year maîtrise (master's degree), the two forming the second cycle (graduate education), the 1-2 years Diplôme d'Études Approfondies, Special Studies Degree and the three-year doctorate, the two forming the troisième cycle (postgraduate education). With the Bologna process, the system is now much simpler: baccalauréat (A-level degree), licence (= Bachelor), master (a new two-year degree merging maîtrise and DEA), and doctorate. This system is called "LMD" system in France, which means licence-master-doctorat.


Traditionally in Germany, students graduated after four to six years either with a Magister Artium (abbreviated M.A.) degree in Social Sciences, Humanities, Linguistics and the Arts or with a Diplom degree in Natural Sciences, Economics, Business Administration and Engineering. Those degrees were the first and at the same time highest non-PhD/Doctorate-title in many disciplines before its gradual replacement by other, Anglo-Saxon-inspired degrees. From the level of academic study a Magister or Diplom has to be considered equivalent to a master's degree and marks the end of four to six years of studying with the writing of a final thesis similar to a master's thesis.

A special kind of examination is the Staatsexamen. It is not an academic degree but a government licensing examination that future doctors, teachers, lawyers (solicitors), judges, public prosecutors, patent attorneys, and pharmacists have to pass in order to be eligible to work in their profession. Students usually study at university for 4-6 years before they take the first Staatsexamen. Afterwards teachers and jurists go on to work in their future jobs for two years, before they are able to take the second Staatsexamen, which tests their practical abilities in their jobs. The first Staatsexamen is at a level which is equivalent to a M.Sc. or M.A.

Since 1999, the traditional degrees are gradually being replaced by Bachelor's (Bakkalaureus) and Master's (Master) degrees (see Bologna process). The main reasons for this change are to make degrees internationally comparable, and to introduce degrees to the German system which take less time to complete (German students typically take five years or more to earn a Magister or Diplom). Some universities are still resistant to this change, considering it a displacement of a venerable tradition for the pure sake of globalization. Universities must fulfill the new standard by the end of 2007. In the future, the Diplom or Magister degree will no longer be awarded.

Doctorates are issued under a variety of names, depending on the faculty: e.g., Doktor der Naturwissenschaften (Doctor of Natural Science); Doktor der Rechtswissenschaften (Doctor of Law); Doktor der medizinischen Wissenschaft (Doctor of Medicine); Doktor der Philosophie (Doctor of Philosophy), to name just a few. Multiple doctorates and honorary doctorates are often listed and even used in forms of address in German-speaking countries. A Diplom (from a Universität), Magister, Master's or Staatsexamen student can proceed to a doctorate. The doctoral promotion (e.g. to Dr.rer. nat., Dr.phil. and others) is equivalent to a Ph.D. degree and is therefore the highest academic degree to earn. The doctorate's degree for medical doctors has to be considered as different: Medical students predominantly write their doctoral theses straight after they have completed studies like other students in other disciplines have to write a Diplom, Magister or Master's thesis.

Sometimes incorrectly regarded as a degree, the Habilitation is an academic qualification in Germany and Austria, that allows further teaching and research endorsement after a doctorate. It is earned by writing a second thesis (the Habilitationsschrift) or presenting a portfolio of first-author publications in an advanced topic. The exact requirements for satisfying a Habilitation depend on individual universities. The "habil.", as it is abbreviated to represent that a habilitation has been awarded after the doctorate, was traditionally the conventional qualification for serving at least as a Privatdozent (e.g. "PD Dr. habil.") (Lecturer) in an academic professorship (now called W2 and W3). Some German universities no longer require the Habilitation, although preference may still be given to applicants who have this credential, for academic posts in the more traditional fields.


In Ireland a National Diploma is below the standard of the honours bachelor degree, whilst the Higher Diploma is taken after the bachelor degree. The new NQAI National Framework of Qualifications, adopted in 2003, replaced the National Dipoma with the Ordinary Bachelors degree. The framework also clarifies that although the Higher Diploma is taken after the bachelor degree the learning outcomes are at the same level as for the Honours Bachelors Degree.

More technically, a diploma is a document attesting that its bearer has satisfied certain study requirements, as opposed to a degree being a status level in the academic community. For this reason, diplomas are 'awarded to' the recipient while degrees are 'conferred upon' the graduand who then becomes a graduate, or the graduand is "admitted to" a degree. Similarly a person 'has' a diploma, but a graduate 'is in' a status. It is also for this reason that study for diplomas can be at undergraduate or advanced level.


In Italy access to university is possible after gaining the high school degree, called diploma di maturità which is obtained at 19 years, after 5 years of study in a particular high school, focused on a certain subject (e.g. liceo classico focus on classical subjects and includes ancient Greek and Latin, liceo scientifico focus on scientific subjects but includes Latin and litterature, liceo linguistico for languages, istituto tecnico for technics).

After the diploma one can enter university choosing any faculty (e.g. physics, medicine, chemistry, engineering, architecture): there is no requirement to complete a specific high school in order to access a particular faculty but most of the university program test to select students. Almost all faculties nowadays offers two academic degrees. A first degree (called laurea triennale) is obtained after 3 years of study and a short thesis on one subject. The second degree (called laurea Specialistica/Magistrale - LS/LM) can be obtained proceeding with usually two additional years of study and specializing in a particular branch of the chosen subject (e.g. particle physics, nuclear engineering, etc.). The laurea magistrale is obtained after the discussion of a thesis (which usually involves some academic research or an internship in a private company).

Only few students continue their university career (after passing a public selection) to 3 further years of Dottorato di ricerca (equivalent to a Ph. D) mainly devoted to research (with some compulsory courses), the degree is also obtained after the discussion of a thesis on the results of the research done.

Alternatively, after obtaining the laurea triennale and the laurea magistrale one can attend a so-called Master, (first-level Master after the laurea triennale; second-level Master after the laurea magistrale) offered by universities and private organisations with a variety of subjects, lengths and prices (one year of Master in Italy can cost more than the fees paid for the entire preceding university education), usually including a final internship in a company.

The Netherlands

See also: Education in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, the structure of academic studies was altered significantly in 1982. In this year the "twee fase structuur" (Two Phase Structure) was introduced by the Dutch Minister of Education, Minister Wim Deetman. With this two phase structure an attempt was made to standardise all the different studies and structure them to an identical timetable. Additional effect was that students would be persuaded stringently to produce results within a preset timeframe, or otherwise discontinue their studies. The two phase structure is still in effect today and is in line with the Bologna process.

In order for a Dutch student to get access to a university education, he/ she has to complete the appropriate pre-university secondary education "Voorbereidend Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs" (VWO (Gymnasium - Atheneum) - 6 years). There are other routes possible, but only if the end level of the applicant is comparable to the VWO levels access to university education is granted. For some studies specific end levels or disciplines are required, e.g. graduating without physics, biology, and chemistry will make it impossible to follow an academic medicine study.

For some studies in the Netherlands a governmental determined limited access is in place. This is a limitation of the number of applicants to a specific study, thus trying to control the eventual number of graduates. The most renowned studies for their numerus clausus are the medicine and dentistry. Every year a combination of good pre-university secondary education grades, luck, and some additional conditions determine who can start such a numerus clausus study and who can not. A study location and/ or university to graduate from are appointed and are not subject to free choice. In practice, it is only possible on very exclusive grounds (e.g. family history connected to a certain university) and seldom granted. For example, all the members of the Dutch royal family studied at Leiden University due to the historic ties between the Dutch Royal family and this university.

Almost all Dutch universities are government supported universities, with only very few privately owned universities in existence (i.e. one in business, and all others in theology). Leiden University is the oldest, founded in 1575. Before, the Netherlands existed out of loose provinces, i.e. "The Low Countries", which were occupied and ruled by other powers like Spain. The occupying monarchs did not encourage eduction at, or allowed the foundation of a university locally, and preferred "moulding" educated people at their own institutions. Therefore, marking the victory on the Spanish, "Willem van Oranje" (William of Orange, William the Silent) underlined the founding of the Dutch Republic (nowadays the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg) by granting Leiden rights to found its own, local university.

As mentioned before all university studies in the Netherlands have in principle the same length (four years) and exist out of two phases:

  • The "propedeutische fase" (1-2 years): Should the student not be able to finish this phase in the given time frame of 2 years, than he or she has to abandon the study and will not be allowed to continue. After finishing this phase the student follows another two years' study after which the student has a level equivalent to the Anglo-Saxon BSc (Bachelor of Science), BA (Bachelor of Arts) or LLB (Bachelor of Laws).
  • The "doctorale fase" (3-4 years): Completing the first phase successfully gives the student access to the second phase. Here the student is expected to conclude the phase within the given time frame of 3 to 4 years. Again, failure to finish within the time given will lead to discontinuation. This phase is concluded with the "doctoraal examen" (doctoral exam). This is not similar to any type of doctoral exam that would grant the student with any type of PhD title. Successful completion however does grant the student the Dutch degree of "doctorandus", abbreviated as "drs". This Dutch title is more and more replaced by the Anglo Saxon titles MSc (Master of Science), MA (Master of Arts), and LLM (Master of Laws), depending on the area of study. For medical students the "doctorandus" degree is not equivalent to the MD (Medical Doctor) degree in the Anglo Saxon culture, and does not give the medical student to opportunity to treat patients. For this a minimum of two years additional study (specialisation) is required. The correct notation for a Dutch physician who did complete his or her medical studies, but did not pursue a PhD study is "drs" (e.g. drs. Jansen) and not "dr". In medicine like with many other disciplines, nothing is noted additionally to clarify the specific discipline, although there are some exceptions. Thus a doctorandus in law is allowed to carry the title "meester" (master, abbreviated as mr. Jansen) and some studies like for example physics grant the title "ingenieur" (engineer, noted as ir. Jansen).

Not uncommon, the Dutch "drs" abbreviation can cause much confusion in other countries, since it is perceived as a person who has a PhD in multiple disciplines.

Nowadays many Dutch universities offer specific MSc studies, thus integrating into and merging with the international scientific community. In addition, on many Dutch universities lessons ("hoor colleges") or complete "curricula" are conducted in English in stead of Dutch.

After successfully obtaining a "drs." or MSc degree, the student has the opportunity to follow a PhD study to eventually obtain a doctorate. These too are structured ideally according to a pre-set time schedule of 4 to 6 years. During these 4-6 years the PhD student has to be mentored by a professor, or more common, multiple professors. The PhD study has to be concluded with at least a scientific thesis that has to be defended to "a gathering of his/ her peers", in practice the Board of the Faculty with guest professors from other faculties and/ or universities added. More and more common practice nowadays (and in some disciplines even mandatory) is that during the PhD study the student writes and submits scientific publications to peer-reviewed journals, that eventually need to be accepted for publication. Although the number of publications is often debated and varies considerably, a minimum of four (one per year of PhD study) is quite accepted in the field of the exact sciences, physics, chemistry, technology, and medicine.

After successful conclusion of a PhD study, the student is allowed the title of "doctor", abbreviated as "dr". This is similar for all Dutch PhD graduates. The discipline in which the PhD is obtained is not specifically noted. Hence for example a PhD in law, medicine, or mathematics all put the same abbreviation in front of their name, (e.g. dr. Jansen). As with the "doctorandus" degree, nothing is noted behind the name of the PhD to specify the discipline. Stacking of titles as seen in other countries like for example Germany (Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. Musterfrau) is highly uncommon in the Netherlands and not well received.

PhD graduates or "doctor"s can proceed to teach at universities as "Universitair Docent" (UD – assistant professor). With time, experience, and/ or achievement, this can evolve to a position as "Universitair Hoofd Docent" (UHD – associate professor). Officially an UHD still works under the supervision of a "hoog leraar", the head of the department and commonly a professor. The position of "hoog leraar" is the highest possible scientific position at a university, and equal to the US "full" professor.

In the Netherlands, the title of professor (noted as prof. Jansen or professor Jansen) is connected to ones function. In practice, professors are head of a scientific department of a university faculty. However, this is not a given; it is also possible that a department is headed by a "plain" PhD, based on knowledge, achievement, and expertise. Officially it is not possible to use the title professor if not connected to an university. Should a professor decide to leave the university, thus he or she also looses the privilege to use the title of professor. In practice however, different customs are observed. Rule of thumb however is that retired professors often still note the title in front of their name, where as people still active switch to a non-university job must switch from the professor title to the PhD or "dr" abbreviation.

Contrary to some other European countries, in the Netherlands academic titles are rarely used outside of academia and are for instance not listed on passports or drivers licences as for example in Germany.


Prior to 2003, there were around 50 different degrees and corresponding education programs within the Norwegian higher education system. In 2003, a reform was instituted to replace this older system with an "international system."

For example, many degrees had titles that included the Latin term candidatus/candidata. The second part of the title usually consisted of a Latin word corresponding to the profession or training. These degrees were all retired in 2003.

The reform of higher education in Norway, Kvalitetsreformen ("The Quality Reform"), was passed in the Norwegian Parliament, the Stortinget, in 2001 and carried out during the 2003/2004 academic year. It introduced standard periods of study and the titles master and bachelor (baccalaureus).

The system differentiates between a free master's degree and a master's degree in technology. The latter corresponds to the former sivilingeniør degree (not to be confused with a degree in civil engineering, which is but one of many degrees linked to the title sivilingeniør, which is still in use for new graduates who can chose to also use the old title). All pre-2001 doctoral degree titles were replaced with the title "Philosophical Doctor degree", written philosophiæ doctor (instead of the traditional doctor philosophiæ). The title dr. philos. is a substantially higher degree than the PhD, and is reserved for those who qualify for such a degree without participating in an organized doctoral degree program.


In Poland the system is similar to the German one. For instance, Warsaw University confers the following university degrees and titles:

  • licencjat title (the equivalent of a Bachelor's degree, granted after at least 3 years of study),
  • inzynier title (the equivalent of engineer's degree, granted after at least 4 years of study
  • magister title (the equivalent of a Master's degree, granted after 5 years of study, or 2 years of additional study by holders of a previous degree),
  • doktor degree (Doctor's degree, Ph.D.),
  • doktor habilitowany degree (Polish Habilitation degree, requires approval by an external ministerial body),

The professor (Professor's) title is officially conferred by the President of Poland.

Russia, Ukraine and some other former USSR republics

In Russia, Ukraine and some other former USSR republics they strongly distinguish educational kinds of academic degrees and "real" academic degrees connected with scientific researches.

The educational degrees are awarded after finishing college education. There are several level of education one mush choose between 2nd and 3rd usually on the 3rd year of study.

  1. Bachelor degree - usually takes 4 years of college. (minimum level to be recognized as having Higher Education)
  2. Specialist degree is awarded after 5 years of college. (4 + 1)
  3. Magister degree is awarded after 6 years of college. (4 + 2)

Usually Specialist or Magister degrees incorporates Bachelor degree in them, but only high level degree is stated in final diploma. Specialist and Bachelor degree require taking final state exams and written work on practical application of studied skills or research thesis (usually 50-70 pages) and is roughly equivalent to Master's degree.

First level academic degree is called "candidate of ... sciences" (say, candidate of physical-mathematical sciences, or candidate of engineering sciences, candidate of historical sciences, etc). This degree requires extensive research efforts, taking some classes, publications in peer-reviewed academic journals (usually 5 publications suffice), and writing in-depth thesis (80-200 pages). Special scientific council of notable specialists in the field then reviews the thesis, the written opinions of several outside referees, and upon approval recommends the thesis for defense. Upon open defense in front of the same council the members of the council vote (it takes dominant majority - 2/3 - to pass) and then a chair writes a statement on recommending to award the degree "candidate of ... sciences" to the defendant. All paperwork including thesis is then sent to so called Highest Attestation Commission which upon review makes final approval and then issues the diploma of "candidate of science". The "candidate of sciences" degree is roughly equivalent to US Ph.D. degree, although it requires longer research efforts, more publications (actually in US publications are not required for Ph.D. degree), wider exposure, and larger peer pool to pass.

Finally, there is a "doctor of ... sciences" (Doktor nauk) degree in Russia and some former USSR academic environment. This degree is sought after by established scientists who made discovery-level contributions into certain field (formally - who established new direction or new field in science). It requires discovery of new phenomenon, or development of new theory, or essential development of new direction, etc. This usually takes a decade or two of hard work after receiving "candidate of sciences" degree, an extensive list of publications in peer-reviewed academic journals (usually ~50-300+ papers), publishing a few monographs, extensive participation in various panels and peers (journals, conferences, grant/award panels, etc), and establishing a school of "candidates of sciences" under own supervision (so at least a few of your students have received "candidacy" degrees working with you on your discovery or in your new field/direction). It requires writing a deep and advanced thesis (usually 300-800 pages) and defending it in front of special council of prominent scientists in the field (or in adjacent fields if the field/discovery is completely new) in a similar to "candidate of sciences" defense manner. Upon voting all paperwork is again sent to the Highest Attestation Commission which upon approval awards the diploma of "doctor of ... sciences".

There is no equivalent of this "doctor of sciences" degree in US academic system. It is roughly equivalent to Habilitation in Germany, France, Austria, and some other European countries.


Before the Bologna Process, the are Diplom (Bachelor Degree for 3 year) and Licenciado (for 5 year) but after it has changed to Grado for all universitaries (Except for Medical and Architecture that will be directly master "still under discussion" if they can certify min 5 years professional experience ) and Master to the ones who make later the postgrade master courses (60 to 120 ECTS credits in one or two years) and Doctor if you continue studies.

Very Important: must look to make official Master with ETCS credit because some university are making their own Masters without this ETCS credits out of the Bologna Process but this lastones are only like the Diploma (Sept 08). Also see differences between diplom and diploma.


Before the Bologna Process, because there are three official languages in Switzerland (German, French and Italian), the Universities' degrees were different, depending on the language. In French-speaking universities, the first academic degree was the Licence: 4 to 5 years of study, equivalent to the Master's degree [10] in the UK or the USA. The postgraduate degree was the diplôme d'études approfondies DEA or DESS: 1-2 years of study, equivalent to the Master of Advanced Studies degree. In the Swiss-German Universities, the first degree was called Lizentiat, a 4-year degree, and the second was the Diplom nach dem ersten akademischen Grad. In the Italian-speaking University, the first degree was called licenza, a 4-year degree; the second was the post laurea, which took 1-2 years. The Doctoral's degree is the last stage at all the universities; it requires 3-5 years, depending on the field.

United Kingdom

England and Wales

The standard first degree in England and Wales is the Bachelors degree with honours (e.g. BA (hons) for arts subjects, BEng (hons) for Engineering and BSc (hons) for science). This usually takes three years' full-time study.

Honours degrees are usually categorised by one of four grades:

  • First class honours (1st)
  • Second class honours, divided into:
    • Upper division, or upper second (2:1)
    • Lower division, or lower second (2:2)
  • Third class honours (3rd)

Students who do not achieve the standard for the award of honours may be given an ordinary or pass degree which is without honours.

The Graduateship (post-nominal GCGI) awarded by the City & Guilds of London Institute is mapped to a British Honours degree

Some students study an integrated Master's, which is still a first degree. This takes four years of study and is usually designated by the subject, such as MEng for engineering, MPhys for physics, MMath for mathematics, and so on. Grades are as above. The 4-year MEng degree in particular has now become the standard first degree in engineering in the top UK universities, replacing the older 3-year BEng.

Unlike the case in the United States, due to earlier specialisation in education, Master's Degrees may take only one year of full-time study, and the usual amount of time spent working for a Ph.D. is three years full-time. Therefore, whilst the usual amount of time spent studying from Bachelors level through to doctorate in the United States is nine years, it is in most cases only seven in the United Kingdom, and may be just six, since a Master's degree is not always a precondition for embarking on a PhD.

Recently, there has been a significant rise in the number of courses offering "Postgraduate Diplomas", often in very specific, vocationally-related subjects. Many institutions (eg The Open University) offer these courses over one year, with an additional year required for the award of a Master's. The popularity of these courses is in part due to legislative requirements to demonstrate managerial competence in public-sector related functions.

A Foundation degree can be awarded for having completed two years of study in what is usually a vocational discipline. The Foundation degree is comparable to an associate's degree in the United States, and can be awarded by a University, or College of Higher Education.


The standard first degree in Scotland is either a Master of Arts, for arts and humanities subjects, or a Bachelor of Science, for natural and social science subjects. These can either be studied at general or honours levels. A general degree (MA or BSc) takes three years to complete; an honours degree (MA Hons or BSc Hons) takes four years to complete. The general degree is not in a specific subject, but involves study across a range of subjects within the relevant faculty. The honours degree involves two years of study at a sub-honours level in which a range of subjects within the relevant faculty are studied, and then two years of study at honours level which is specialised in a single field (for example classics, history, chemistry, biology, etc).

This also reflects the broader scope of the final years of Scottish secondary education, where traditionally five Highers are studied, compared to (typically) three English or Welsh A-Levels. The Higher is a one year qualification, as opposed to the two years of A-Levels, which accounts for Scottish honours degrees being a year longer than those in England. Advanced Highers add an optional final year of secondary education, bringing students up to the level of their A-Level counterparts - students with strong A-Levels or Advanced Highers may be offered entry directly into the second year at Scottish universities.

Honours for MA or BSc are classified into three classes:

  • First class honours
  • Second class honours, divided into
    • Division one (2:1)
    • Division two (2:2)
  • Third class honours

Students who complete all the requirements for an honours degree, but do not receive sufficient merit to be awarded third-class honours may be awarded a Special Degree

Postgraduate Master's Degrees may be offered in some subjects; however, unlike England and Wales, these are not designated Master of Arts, as this is an undergraduate degree. Postgraduate degrees in arts and humanities subjects are usually designated Master of Letters (MLitt); in natural and social sciences, as Master of Science (MSc). Non-doctoral postgraduate research degrees are usually designated Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or Master of Research (MRes). First doctoral research degrees in arts, science and humanities subjects are usually designated Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).


Doctoral Degrees in Europe

In June 1999, twenty-nine European Ministers in charge of higher education signed the Bologna Declaration, which aims at establishing the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) as of the year 2010. In January 2000, upon the proposal of the European Commission, a decision was taken to establish a European Research and Innovation Area (ERIA) the principal objective of which is the creation of a better overall framework and conditions for research in view of making Europe the leading knowledge-based economy – the Europe of Knowledge.

The two "Areas" are mostly viewed as converging in specific domains of concern. In this respect, the issues related to education, training, and development of "human resources" – doctoral and post-doctoral programmes - are viewed as bridges between the European Higher Education Area and the European Research and Innovation Area, and are increasingly being included in the debates on the future development of higher education and research in Europe.

While the present focus of the Bologna Process, [with regard to issues to be dealt within this project] is to pursue the adaptation of a system with two main cycles (Bachelors' Degree and Masters' Degree) for "undergraduate" course programmes, it is quite clear that the issue of Doctoral Degrees and qualifications is going to be on the agenda of the Bologna Process. In anticipation of this development, UNESCO-CEPES and in collaboration with its partners, has launched a project: Doctoral Degrees and Qualifications in the Contexts of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and the European Research and Innovation Area (ERIA).

A doctorate is an academic degree of, in many countries, the highest level, second only to the habilitation in those (primarily Central and Eastern European) countries that grant the latter. The term doctorate comes from the Latin doctor, meaning "teacher." It originated in Medieval Europe as a license to teach at a university. In this sense doctoral training was a form of apprenticeship to a guild. The traditional term of study before new teachers were admitted to the guild of "Masters of Arts", seven years, was the same as the term of apprenticeship for other occupations. Originally the terms "master" and "doctor" were synonymous, but over time the doctorate came to be regarded as a higher qualification than the master's degree.

The usage and meaning of the doctorate has changed over time, and it has also been subject to regional variations. For instance, until the early 20th century few faculty members in English-speaking universities held doctorates, except for very senior scholars and those in holy orders. After that time the German practice of requiring prospective lecturers to have completed a "research doctorate" became widespread. Additionally, universities' shifts to "research oriented" education increased the importance of the doctorate. Today such a doctorate is generally a prerequisite for pursuing an academic career, although not everyone who receives a research doctorate becomes a member of a university. Many universities also award "honorary doctorates" to individuals who have been deemed worthy of special recognition, either for scholarly work or for other contributions to the university or to society.

Although the research doctorate is almost universally accepted as the standard qualification for an academic career, it is a relatively new invention. The older-style doctorates (now usually called "Higher Doctorates" in the United Kingdom) take much longer to complete, since candidates must show themselves to be leading experts in their subjects. These doctorates are now becoming rare, and are often primarily awarded honoris causa. The habilitation is still used for academic recruitment purposes in many countries within the EU and involves either a new long thesis (a second book) or a portfolio of research publications. The habilitation demonstrates independent and thorough research, experience in teaching and lecturing and, more recently, the ability to generate funding within the area of research. The "habilitation" is regarded as a senior post-doctoral qualification, many years after the research doctorate, and can be necessary for a Privatdozent (in Germany) or professor position.

A similar system traditionally holds in Russia. Already in the Russian Empire the academic degree doctor of science (doktor nauk) marked the highest academic degree which can be achieved by an examination. This system was generally adopted by the USSR/Russia and many post-Soviet countries.

Types of doctorate

Since the Middle Ages, there has been considerable evolution and proliferation in the number and types of doctorates awarded by universities throughout the world, and practices vary from one country to another. Broadly speaking, though, doctorates may be loosely classified into the following categories.

Research doctorates

Research doctorates are awarded in recognition of academic research that is in principle publishable in a peer-refereed context (such as a research journal or monograph) and represents at least a modest contribution to human knowledge. The research is usually assessed by submission and defense of a thesis or dissertation, or of a suitable body of published work.

The most common example of this type is the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), which has become particularly widespread over the past century. Other examples include the Doctor of Engineering (EngD) in the United States and United Kingdom, the Doctor of Education (EdD), the Doctor of Applied Linguistics (DAppLing) and the Doctor rerum naturalium (Dr.rer.nat.) in Germany.

Minimum periods for research doctorates vary considerably: In the UK and USA the minimum time for completing the course work or research for a Ph.D. is usually three years. Originally, the student would first complete a master's degree. Although this is still true in some disciplines and countries (for instance arts and humanities in the UK), the norm these days is to progress straight from a first degree into a Ph.D. programme. Although completions within this period are possible, many candidates take considerably longer: anywhere from five to ten years (including both course work and completion of the dissertation). During the late 1990s, the UK research councils introduced penalties (in the form of a reduction of future funding) for departments whose students regularly failed to submit their thesis within four years (full time) from initial registration. Students in the physical sciences typically have shorter completion times than students in the arts due to their better access to funding sources. In the UK and USA, the research doctorate normally requires three to four years of original research submitted as a thesis. Coursework is increasingly becoming a required component in research doctorates around the world.

Under European law, holders of research doctorates from any EU country are recognized in others.

Higher doctorates

In some countries, especially the United Kingdom, Ireland and some Scandinavian and Commonwealth nations, there is a higher tier of research doctorates, awarded on the basis of a formally submitted portfolio of published research of a very high standard. Examples include the Doctor of Science and Doctor of Letters degrees found in the UK and some Commonwealth countries, and the Danish doctorate (doktorgrad; e.g. dr.theol., doctor theologiæ, Latin for Doctor of Theology).

The German habilitation postdoctoral qualification is sometimes regarded as belonging to this category, even though, strictly speaking, the habilitation is not an academic degree, but rather a professional license to teach at a German university.

Higher doctorates are often also awarded honoris causa when a university wishes to formally recognize an individual's achievements and contributions to a particular field.

Professional doctorates

Professional doctorates are awarded in certain fields where most holders of the degree are not engaged primarily in scholarly research and academic activities, but rather in a profession, such as law, medicine, music, or ministry. Examples include the US degrees of Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD), and the degrees of Doctor of Dental Medicine (MDDr.) and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (MVDr.) in the Czech Republic.

In the UK and Australia, the term Professional Doctorate is used to refer to research doctorates with a focus on applied research. These are equivalent to a PhD and include the Doctor of Education (EdD), Doctor of Applied Linguistics (DAppLing) and Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). The thesis for such degrees should be of the same standard as a PhD thesis but the findings should have implications for professional practice. Such degrees usually include coursework and research training and are similar in structure to US PhD programs.

Honorary doctorates

When a university wishes to formally recognize an individual's achievements and contributions to a particular field, it may choose to award him or her a degree (usually a doctorate) honoris causa ('for the sake of the honour'). In these circumstances, the university waives the usual formal requirements for the award of that degree. Often the recipient's achievements will be academic in nature, and of the requisite standard for award of a substantive doctorate; in other cases the achievements may not be academic in character.

League of European Research Universities (LERU)

Representing twenty of the strongest research-intensive universities in Europe, LERU seeks to provide a model for excellence in pan-European doctoral training for European and non-European candidates. Doctoral education, the third cycle of the Bologna process, is very different from the first two cycles in that it is intimately tied to the research process. In relations with higher education studies LERU emphasizes amongst others the following points:

• Links to business and industry should be encouraged through dialogue, collaboration and exchange to foster attention to the needs of society and promote a wider view of career opportunities for doctoral graduates. Universities should take more action in promoting the value of doctoral training for careers beyond academia.

• Doctoral training must remain clearly distinct from the first and second cycles of higher education in the Bologna Process. It should not be overregulated and there should not be any European credit or accreditation system at the doctoral level. Quality assurance of doctoral training should be embedded in the regular research assessment of research degree awarding institutions.

• LERU member universities are committed to deliver the highest standards of excellence in doctoral education, to enhance their mutual cooperation in this field and to promote a strong European model of research training. LERU thus intends to make a substantive contribution to the advancement of research in Europe and to the accomplishment of the objectives laid down in the Lisbon Agenda.

Links to "Doctoral degrees"

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Professionally Oriented Postgraduate Degrees

MBA diploma is becoming a standard of education for all managers that want to improve their knowledge and experience, and moreover, an MBA is recognized and appreciated by most companies as a valid qualification for the workplace. The efficiency of this diploma can be measured by the boost it gives to a career. The benefit will be increased if the student has a professional project, and can then use this year of study to develop and improve the subject.

Famous International Programmes

To be able to offer an MBA Programme is very important for any institution. It is an opportunity to develop international recognition and today, all the most important business schools in France offer such diplomas in both French or English, in an attempt to compete with the most famous American universities. The INSEAD in Fontainbleu for example is the European MBA college equivalent, and a 1996 survey in the 'Times' placed this institution first in the world, beating institutions such as Warton and Harvard. This accreditation has helped to promote the quality of all other European institutions offering similar programmes.

However, MBA programmes in France are not always taught in French, and if an institution wants to recruit the best students and teachers, it is becoming compulsory for programmes to be conducted in English. Most of these institutions require students to have a good TOEFL or GMAT score to apply.

The length of a European MBA is usually about 10-15 months, although as stated by ESC Rennes, "This does not mean that because our programme is shorter, quality is lower. We simply ask more of our students." The strength of such a system is that the investment in time and money is reduced. Nowadays, US managers do not hesitate to cross the Atlantic to complete an MBA in Europe, as they can earn money and learn new management cultures simultaneously.

Teaching in Relation to the Industry

Management teaching in France is pragmatic, and the solutions proposed to solve problems are usually practical. Compared to the US system, where teaching is academic, French courses are closer to the industry because of the structure of their institutions; schools are usually sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce, therefore many meetings with company managers or company visits are organized on a regular basis. Moreover, the alumni network is very efficient.

French MBAs also have many other strengths. Intakes are usually smaller than in US universities, and programmes mainly focus on quality and not quantity. They also focus on the international and multicultural aspects, as many institutions have developed exchange programmes with partner universities (mainly from Europe). Due to their integration with companies, they propose efficient courses adapted to the market.

If we compare Europe to the US MBA system (that is more fixed), Europe and particularly France have developed different kinds of programmes. Full time in English (at INSEAD, HEC, ESC Paris, ESC Rennes, ESC Marseilles), part time (at ESC Paris, ESC Rennes, ESSEC), distance learning (at ESC Nantes with Bilbao University and Bradford University, ESC Rennes and ESC Poitier with Southbank University) or in the States (ESC Rennes has 20 MBA exchange agreements all around the world). Some institutions have also developed specialised programmes, such as luxury products at ESSEC, food marketing at L'Idrac, or Information Technology at the Thesus Institute.

Samples of MBA Programs in Europe

Austria/Germany : Berlin School of Economics, GISMA, HHL, International University Vienna, University of Mannheim
Nyenrode Business Universiteit, TianNimbas
Finland: LSE
France: Audencia, Bordeaux Business School, CNAM IIM’, EIPM, EM LyonENPC, ESC Lille ESC RouenManagement School, ESCP-EAP, Grenoble GSB, International University of Monaco, PGSM, Reims Management School, Schiller International University, Science Po, Theseus Edhec
SDA Bocconi
Spain: EADA, IESE, Instituto de Empresa, Pompeu Fabra
Switzerland: BSL, GSBA Zurich, IMD, St. Gallen, Strathclyde Business School-Swiss Center
UK: Ashridge, Granfield, London Business School

The Association of MBAs

The Association of MBAs is the international impartial authority on postgraduate business education and was established in 1967. Our accreditation service is the global standard for all MBA, DBA and MBM programmes. We are the only professional membership association for over 9,000 MBA students and graduates, accredited business schools, and MBA employers. The Association of MBAs was established in 1967 and is the advocate for the MBA.  

Our accreditation service is internationally recognized as the global standard for all Masters of Business Administration (MBA), Doctorates in Business Administration (DBA) and Masters in Business and Management (MBM) programmes. We currently accredit MBA, DBA and MBM programmes at 155 business schools in 69 countries.

Find out more about the Association of MBAs by clicking here


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