The Diploma certifies that a student has achieved a minimum standard for 2nd Year courses in science, liberal arts, and in the case of nursing, 3rd Year courses as well.
If a student is undertaking a full Bachelor of Arts, a Diploma of Higher Education marks two-thirds of his or her undergraduate degree.
Thus allowing the British Diploma to rank ahead of the American Associate of Arts (which in American parlance is a two-year undergraduate, or half of a BA/BS).
That being said, American universities generally consider UK Diplomas equivalent to a college level Associate of Arts even though a British student typically holds more credit hours (and therefore more study time) in the arts, humanities and/or sciences.
In the United Kingdom, the Diploma is also the academic equivalent of the more vocational Higher National Diploma, awarded following further education and training courses.
In Scotland, a DipHE is worth 240 credit points (at least 120 at Level 7 and at least 80 at Level 8) on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework.
(As a guide an Honours degree is worth 360 credit points.)
They are accredited by the universities, except in the case of nurse and community and youth work education where the curriculum is prescribed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, students are permitted to use the postnominals DipHE after their name, sometimes followed by the course name in brackets and the University from which they earned their qualification.
Sometimes, having a DipHE can exempt the holder from some of the requirements of a Bachelor’s degree; for example, it might reduce the length of study or number of courses necessary to complete the qualification.
This typically allows a Diploma holder to obtain a BA/BSc in one-third of the time.
Diplomas are generally awarded on a pass/fail basis, and occasionally are awarded with honours when a student has distinguished his or herself.
The two highest honours are Merit and Distinction.