On Engineering Diplomas

Most Polytechnic schools in Greece recently decided to provide an equivalent to M.Sc. (link in Greek) certificate to all its graduates and owners of a Diploma of Engineering degree. This decisions has sparked some strong reaction from the Hellenic Informatics Union. In their letter (in Greek), the HIU uses some strong wording, essentially asking the Minister to ignore the manipulative schemes of the Technical Chamber of Greece (also known as TEE), a guild that is only acting to protect its own interests rather than promote the use of Informatics.

Dimitris made the aforementioned pledge public in twitter, which sparked an interesting discussion between me, DimitrisVangelis, Elias, and Apostolos. Reiterating the fine points (aka flaming remarks ;)) of this discussion is more or less pointless, I just wanted to gather my thoughts in a nice blog post that I can link to instead of having this discussion over and over again.

At the center of the discussion seems to be that the proclamation of equality between a Diploma of Engineering and an M.Sc. is a manipulative scheme by TEE to protect the professional interests of its own members. While I will admit ignorance about the fine motives and policy of TEE and the Polytechnic schools this is not the case. The Diploma in Engineering has not been a Greek invention, it’s a common practice across numerous countries in Europe who have adopted a single 5-year studies cycle for advanced fields. Quoting wikipedia:

Diplom (from Greek Δίπλωμα diploma) is an academic degree in some European countries including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Estonia, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus, Greece, Hungary and Finland (however, only for engineers). It can be compared to Master’s degrees in other countries.
The Diplom is a prerequisite for preparing a doctorate (Doktorarbeit). It is usually accepted as admission into doctorate programs in other countries having an educational agreement with Germany, and in the European Union, it is generally accepted as the equivalent of a Master’s Degree.
In Greece, a Diploma is a 5-year (10-semester) (Diplom Uni) (300E.C.T.S – I.S.C.E.D. 5A) degree, formatted similarly to the German Diplom, awarded to students of the Greek Polytechnic schools, such as the National Technical University of Athens.
Diplomas are considered equivalent to Masters and allow the holder to sit in the Technical Chamber of Greece exams without any prerequisite. It also allows the engineer to be considered for Doctorate studies, without any additional classes being taken.
The traditional Austrian equivalent to the Master’s degree is the Diplomstudium, leading to the title Diplom-Ingenieur (female title: Diplom-Ingenieurin) in engineering or Magister (female: Magistra) in almost every other discipline. This is a first degree after 4–6 years of study.
In Belgium, possessing a Master’s degree means that you have completed a higher education (usually university or college) programme of 4 or 5 years. Before the Bologna process most some programmes required 5 years of study. An example in business/management was the 5-year programme of “Ingénieur de Gestion” (French) (English: “Commercial Engineer”) with an important amount of mathematics and sciences, and which corresponds to a M.Sc. in Management.
In Denmark, a Master’s degree is awarded. This is just “Master” in Danish; however, MA/M.Sc and Master Courses are distinguished, where MA and M.Sc are known as Candidate degrees (“kandidatgrad”), and are obtained by completing a longer advanced education (“længere videregående uddannelse”), with a typical duration of five years.
Putting aside a discussion on the merits of whether an M.Sc. should constitute a separate 2-year cycle of studies following a 3-year one that leads to a Bachelor, it’s quite clear that 5-year studies are considered equivalent to an M.Sc. in numerous places around Europe. In fact, a number of old friends had no problem continuing straight for a Ph.D. in England, US, Holland and other places without any concerns being raised over their typical qualifications. This clearly indicates that the recent move is not an ugly manipulative scheme of a guild but -if nothing else- a recognition of the de facto situation and the higher quality and duration of the studies performed in such institutes.

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4 Responses to “On Engineering Diplomas”

  1. adamo Says:

    Just a correction for historical purposes: NTUA was granting the MSc certificate at least since 2002.

  2. mperedim Says:

    Correct. I was aware of this fine detail but chose not to mention it, mainly because it was a “solo” decision (no other Polytechnic school followed) and it didn’t generate any strong reactions back at the time.

  3. mave Says:

    the basic problem in this case however is not I believe the recognition of the title but the silly connection that exists in Greece between the university title and the right one has to exercise a profession. What should happen is to have proper exams for everybody, If they want to be licensed as engineers. (or Informatics people, or IT or street cleaning or whatever.) Be careful, the operative word here is ‘licensed’, and boils down to taking responsibility for your work. You could still work as an engineer, etc but without taking any responsibilities in what you do, so yo would need to partner with a licensed engineer. The difficulty in this would be how to structure the exams, etc against the joke that they are today.

    As for the univ. Titles, the greek technical faculties just recognized inside Greece, something that was recognized abroad as M.sc for a veeeerrrrryyy long time. All polytechnic graduates from Greece had and have the typical requirement for continuing in a Phd, almost anywhere. Again this is the typical, not the essential requirement.

  4. mperedim Says:

    the basic problem in this case however is not I believe the recognition of the title but the silly connection that exists in Greece between the university title and the right one has to exercise a profession.

    +1. That said this silly connection has existed for decades and is mostly irrelevant to the naming of the title of any University school and dept.

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