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PhD Qualification equivalencies

by Dr Nathalie Mather-L’Huillier

Because of the wide variety of qualifications awarded across different higher education systems it can be difficult to find out if your existing degree is considered suitable for entry onto a PhD programme in a new country. Within the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) most countries operate a three-tiered structure as a result of quality standardisation through the Bologna Process. This is sometimes referred to as a License – Master – Doctorate or ‘LMD’ system. The LMD system is based on a French model in which students take an undergraduate License degree, followed by a postgraduate Masters and culminating in a research Doctorate. Systems in other countries (such as the UK) follow a similar sequence.

This means that qualifications at corresponding levels of this system are usually equivalent for the purposes of application to further programmes of study, such as a PhD. However, the number of previous qualifications and the exact results required may differ between countries. For example, in the UK entry to a PhD usually requires at least a 2(i) (‘upper second class’) undergraduate degree (level one of the LMD system) and most applicants will also have studied (or be studying) a Masters degree (level two of the LMD system). In France the requirements are similar, but the Masters degree (or equivalent, such as a Diplôme d’Ingénieur) is almost always obligatory for progression to PhD level.

Where the US/Canadian marking scheme is used, a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 is usually required for entry on to a PhD programme and a Masters degree is usually expected.

For a PhD in other countries, consult our country-specific pages.

A good source of equivalency information is The National Academic Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom. They will give informal advice free of charge, but can also provide an official 'letter of comparability', which will be accepted by employers. This costs around £40, but it should not be necessary for most universities, who will assess you themselves.

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