When did universities start to segregate their certifications into undergraduate degrees (bachelors) graduate programs (master's and doctorates)? More importantly, why did this separation occur? What prompted the need for separate levels of certification in academic settings?

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    I found this article the other day; it provides at least some history, but is specific to the UK.
    – waiwai933
    Feb 28, 2014 at 1:32
  • @waiwai933 That's a great link. It may be specific to the UK, but in a way which indicates the larger (and heterogeneous) international context. If you can summarise it in any way at all, you should re-post it as an answer. Jun 18, 2014 at 10:16

1 Answer 1


Bachelor, master, doctor degrees are medieval European in origin. Wiki has a reasonable page on medieval universities. The primary need for these levels was the certification of who was allowed to teach and what they were allowed to teach in the university. The Catholic Church in the Middle Ages being what it was was concerned with proper teaching to avoid passing along heresies (which universities got accused of from almost the beginning of their existence) which meant you needed a license to teach and to preach in those days.

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    This is misleading at best. The MA did not exist in the UK (I can't speak for other countries) as a distinct qualification between the late 17th century and the mid 19th century (it was granted as a matter of course to all BAs), and the research PhD originates in the 19th century. While their names certainly date from medieval times, the degrees and qualifications thereof are very different, when compared to the BA which has changed much less.
    – waiwai933
    Feb 28, 2014 at 1:29
  • In the medieval period the doctorates granted were in law, medicine, and theology. So your comment that the doctor of philosophy is more recent is fair enough. Feb 28, 2014 at 2:25

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