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I recently came across the term "propaedeutic diploma" in the CV of a Dutch academic. According to Wikipedia, it's a diploma given for successfully completing the first year of university study, and used by many (how widespread is the practice?) institutions.

Does it also have a formal function, or is it just a tradition at this point?

For example, would progressing to second year courses be tied to earning this diploma? If it is, why is a diploma used rather than a simple cutoff in terms of credits earned?


Note: Yes, this is ostensibly a question specific to undergraduate education, but it's not about admissions or "undergraduate life". Rather, it's an attempt to understand a specific academic system, which I hope should be considered on-topic.

  • Sounds like cv padding - some of our profs only took us seriously as students once we got to the third, and final, year... However, might be useful for transfer possibilities or for an incomplete award ie never finished... – Solar Mike May 25 at 22:10
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    @SolarMike Could be. Yet, the particular CV that inspired this question only lists propaedutic diplomas (one in an unrelated field), a MSc degree (at the same university), and the PhD. I.e. no separate bachelors degree. That seems fair enough to me, assuming it actually counts as a degree in the Netherlands - especially for a comprehensive academic CV. After all, it's not too different from my own, which lists bachelors, masters and PhD... – Anyon May 25 at 22:31
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    Knowing nothing about the Netherlands education system, is this maybe because they were admitted directly to what would be a bachelor's+master's program? At the end the whole point is the masters, but some sort of preliminary degree is given on the way? – Bryan Krause May 26 at 0:59
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The propaedeutic diploma is awarded after completing all the requirements for the first year of studies. Not all universities in the Netherlands award it, and its importance seems to be less since Bologna has introduced the bachelor/master system in the Netherlands. Before it was the only diploma/certificate until completing the full four or five years for a university study. Obtaining it in reasonable time could be seen as a sign that normally one should be able to complete the full studies, and hence nowadays it is also used as a selective tool, as is mentioned in @cag51's answer.

It does not carry much value and is not seen as a terminal degree. The only exception is for students studying in professional education ("hoger beroepsonderwijs", in English these institutions normally call themselves "Universities of Applied Sciences"). In that case, the diploma can be used to be admitted to a university. To understand this, one should know that in the Netherlands, from 12 years old secondary education is split into four different levels, and only the highest level gives access to universities.

  • Thanks for the great answer. One more thing - would it be common to include these in a CV, or (as per Solar Mike's comment) could that be seen as padding? – Anyon May 27 at 15:25
  • @Anyon: It depends, perhaps early in the career it is more common. Or sometimes it is included if one has an additional propeduese in a field outside of the major. But it doesn't carry much weight I would say, so I suppose that it normally only is included when one is asked specifically for all higher education diplomas. – Pieter Naaijkens May 27 at 15:55
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I heard this term in the context of a year of non-degree courses required to reach sufficient preparation to enter an advanced degree in a cognate field.

For instance, if you have an undergraduate degree in - say - journalism but you like to get a graduate degree in sociology, the program chair may require you to do such a year "to beef up your background in sociology" -kinda thing.

I knew a priest with several PhDs, all in cognate fields: philosophy, theology and political sciences. After his theology degree he was asked to do a propaedeutic year before entry in the PhD. in philosophy program, and another to gain entry in political sciences.

I've never heard of a "propaedeutic diploma". I don't recall this guy's propaedeutic years counting towards his ultimate degrees, and I don't think he got a separate degree or diploma for the courses completed during those years, although possibly by cleverly combining credits he might have been able to do so.

  • I'll upvote for the interesting information. The usage you describe is similar in spirit to wikipedia's description "knowledge necessary before, or for the learning a discipline, but not which is not sufficient for proficiency". However, it is a little different from this diploma system. E.g. the diploma seems to be used for first year undergraduate studies, and - at least sometimes - for someone proceeding to study in the same field. – Anyon May 25 at 23:03
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    This is not how it is used in the Netherlands, although I suppose since the name comes from Greek, they have similar origins. – Pieter Naaijkens May 26 at 8:05
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This Wordpress Blog gives a good explanation. From this, I'll take a stab at your questions (Note, I'm not personally familiar with the Dutch system, just going from the blog post).

Does it also have a formal function, or is it just a tradition at this point? For example, would progressing to second year courses be tied to earning this diploma?

Yes, it's required for second-year courses. The author of the blog post describes that 60 credits are required for the propodeuse at their institution. There are some circumstances in which one may attempt to earn the propodeuse during the second year; in other cases, they are disqualified. At this institution, 50% of students are disqualified.

If it is, why is a diploma used rather than a simple cutoff in terms of credits earned?

It is tied to the number of credits earned. However, it is a big enough accomplishment (both numerically - quite a few don't make it - and culturally) that there is also a certificate.

I don't know what good the certificate is by itself (i.e., if the student doesn't subsequently attain a bachelor's degree); I suspect it's similar to an Associate's Degree in the US (i.e., little value, but perhaps better than nothing).

  • It should be noted that the credit requirements are fairly recent, maybe since the last two decades or so, with increasingly strong requirements. The propaedeutic diploma dates back much longer. – Pieter Naaijkens May 26 at 7:54
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    A propedeuse being required for second-year courses would depend on the institution, but it's not something I've ever heard of, it's also not the case in that blog you linked. At my university getting your propedeuse in the first year used to be a requirement for some excellence programs, but awarding propedeuses at my university been phased out entirely in recent years though as it has grown less and less important. – ElectronicToothpick May 26 at 21:36

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