Students can obtain the following diplomas at Philippine higher education institutions:

  • Associate;
  • Bachelor;
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine/Dental Medicine;
  • Bachelor from a Centre of Excellence;
  • Doctor of Medicine;
  • Juris Doctor;
  • Master;
  • Doctor of Philosophy.


There are relatively few study programmes that lead to an Associate. Associate programmes are focused on professional practice. Students with an Associate can immediately start working on the labour market.

We compare the Associate to an MBO diploma level 3 or 4. This depends on the content of the study programme.

Please note: higher education study programmes are usually governed by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), see Permission from the CHED. But this is not always the case for associate programmes. Some associate programmes are approved by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).


  • Duration: usually 4 years, sometimes 5 years (technical study programmes).
  • Study hours: approximately 150 to 210 units.
  • Content: general subjects (general education curriculum, GED), physical education and the national service training programme together make up about half of the curriculum. Students usually do not write a thesis, but they do take practical training and/or do an internship.
  • Admission requirements: from 2018 onwards, the Grade 12/Senior High School Diploma and sometimes an entrance exam. Until 2018, a High School Diploma (katibayan/katunayan) and sometimes an entrance exam.
  • Diploma: Bachelor.

We compare a Bachelor to 2 years of higher professional education (HBO) or an associate degree.

K to 12 reforms

The K to 12 reforms also have an effect on higher education. Students now take fewer general subjects (general education curriculum – GED) during the bachelor's programme. The GED study hours in the bachelor's programme have been reduced to 36 units. The other general subjects are now taken by students in upper secondary education (for the Grade 12/Senior High School Diploma).

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine/Dental Science

The bachelor's programmes for veterinary medicine (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) and dentistry (Doctor of Dental Science) are structured differently than most bachelor's programmes.

We compare the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine to 2 years of research-oriented higher education (WO).

We compare the Doctor of Dental Science to 2 years of research-oriented higher education (WO).

Bachelor from a Centre of Excellence

The study programmes of some educational institutions have been awarded the status Center of Excellence (CoE) by the CHED. This status shows that these study programmes have a higher level than average.

The CHED does not automatically grant the CoE status to other study programmes of the same higher education institution. And the status is only valid for a certain period of time. When it expires, the CHED determines whether the status is extended or terminated.

We compare a Bachelor from a Centre of Excellence to a HBO bachelor’s degree.

There are some undergraduate study programmes with a Bachelor as an admission requirement, such as:

  • medicine (Doctor of Medicine, MD);
  • law (Juris Doctor, JD).

Doctor of Medicine

After completing the medicine study programme, students receive a Doctor of Medicine (MD).

  • Duration: 4 years.
  • Content: theoretical education and, in the final year, clinical education.
  • Admission requirements: a Bachelor and extra requirements: students need to pass the National Medical Admission Test (NMAT) and must apply for a Certificate of Eligibility for Admission to a Medical Course (CEMed) from the CHED.
  • Diploma: Doctor of Medicine.

We compare the Doctor of Medicine to a WO bachelor’s degree.

Juris Doctor

After completing the law study programme, students receive a Juris Doctor (JD).

  • Duration: 4 years.
  • Study hours: at least 132 units.
  • Content: theory about law. Students also take practical training, such as the practice court course. Writing a thesis is not compulsory.
  • Admission requirements: a Bachelor and a law entrance exam.
  • Diploma: Juris Doctor.

We compare the Juris Doctor to a WO bachelor’s degree.


  • Duration: 2 years.
  • Study hours: at least 30 units.
  • Content: students attend lectures and write a thesis by the end of their studies. Or they only attend lectures and do not write a thesis (non-thesis). In that case, the curriculum consists of more subjects.
  • Admission requirements: a Bachelor.
  • Diploma: Master.

The level of a Master varies. Please contact us for an evaluation of this diploma.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

  • Duration: at least 2 years.
  • Study hours: varies. The CHED determines how many units are required.
  • Content: a varied doctorate programme with or without a dissertation.
  • Admission requirements: a Master.
  • Diploma: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

Types of higher education institutions

There are different types of higher education institutions in the Philippines:

  • universities;
  • colleges;
  • academies;
  • institutes; and
  • schools.

These institutions can offer both higher professional education and research-oriented higher education. And they can be either public or private.

Public and private institutions

There are more than 2,000 higher education institutions in the Philippines. Approximately 30% of these institutions are public. Universities and colleges are either:

  • established by the state (State Universities and Colleges, SUCs); or
  • established by local authorities (Local Universities and Colleges, LUCs).

About 70% of the Philippine higher education institutions are private. Some are religious (private sectarian), while others are non-religious (private non-sectarian).

The Commission of Higher Education (CHED) checks both the public and the private higher education institutions. Also, the CHED sometimes determines the content of study programmes, the study hours and the subjects students need to take. Private institutions need to apply for a Special Order number (SO number) from the CHED.

SO number: Special Order number

Private higher education institutions must ask permission from the CHED to allow students to graduate. They receive a Special Order number (SO number) for this. This number is mentioned on the transcript, together with the date the diploma was issued. The SO number only applies to the students for which the institution asked permission.

No SO number

The CHED does not require every private higher education institution to apply for permission. Institutions that have received the autonomous or deregulated (‘free of rules’) status from the CHED do not need to apply for an SO number. They get an exemption. This exemption is mentioned on the transcript and/or diploma. The exemption is valid for 1 to 5 years.

Please note: public higher education institutions do not have to apply for an SO number. Their exemption is always mentioned on the transcript or the diploma.