Bongbong Marcos’ Special Diploma and UK System of Education As Explained

By: Ben Cinco

I’ve been reading the previous thread with regards to this certification issued by Oxford University to affirm the qualification of Senator Bong Bong Marcos (BBM). It seems that the Rappler report created lots of questions and confusion amongst its readers.

In my own personal opinion Rappler’s report, whether a demolition job or not, is done in good faith. However, as an investigative journalist, the reporter should dig further, by explaining to the public the educational system in the UK, the different qualifications awarded by different institution and its equivalent qualification in other part of the world.

I am a Filipino born UK citizen and I study here in UK and gained both diploma and undergraduate qualifications. Last Thursday, I personally went to Oxford University to investigate for my own personal enlightenment. I felt that I am in a better position now to clarify some of your questions.

To start with, UK system of education is different from Philippine system of education in many ways. If readers is using the Philippine education system as reference to BBM’s qualification issue, then you will find it difficult to understand the UK system of Education. I encourage you to be open minded about this issue.


The UK System of Education

In UK, children start to attend school as early as 3 1/2 yrs old. Primary education in UK (equivalent to elementary in the Philippines) is 8 years. Children start from nursery, then reception, key stage 1 (year 1 to 3) and key stage 2. (Year 4 to 6).

Before they finish key stage 1, students where given a national exam (all students in UK at this stage will take this exam which is based on certain level of knowledge). Those students who achieved high level results will be given higher set of target (grades to be achieved) when they enter year 4. Their academic programme is much advance as compare to other students. They need to maintain this level until they reach year six.

There is no graduation here in UK for primary school and high school nor honor rolls unlike in Philippines. The reasons is in Philippine education is homogenous, meaning intelligent students are mixed with average students and therefore intelligent students has better chance to be awarded with honour unlike in UK where students are clustered by group based on the level of their intelligence.

High School Education in UK

Students with high level results from primary schools will be given a higher target when they started high school. They are given more academic works as compare to other. The reason is intelligent students are set to be an A level students (I will discuss what is an A level later) and average students will find it hard to cope with high level academic requirements.

High School in UK is 5 years. Year 7 to Year 11. When they reach year 10 students should decide what course or pragramme they want to enter at University level. Students at this stage will be further subdivided based on their course preference. Example students who wish to enter medical school will be given subjects with pure sciences (called triple science: chemistry, physics and biology.)

At the end of year 11 students will be given an exam called GCSC. Marks in UK is A*, A, B, C, D. A* is the highest. Students who achieved most A and B marks can proceed to A level courses while others who had achieved low marks (B and below) can opt to take apprenticeship and other sources with lower entry requirements (like vocational in Philippines)

A level Education in UK

Students who achieved enough A and B marks can proceed to study the two year preparatory course. This is before University level. This level is called A level because students at this level are being trained to get high marks when they take the A level entry examinations. This level is also called pre-university course because all minor subjects like religion, PE etc are already taken at this level. This is equivalent to 2nd year in college in the Philippines. At the end of this two year course all students all over UK will be given an exam at the same time. This is the last exam they will take because the result of thus exam will dictate which university or course they can take.

University Level

Every University in UK has different entry requirement. At Oxford University, Their entry requirement in most of their courses are A*,A*,A* in two science subject, math and or A,A,A,A,A.

I explained the system of education in UK to give you an idea how to difficult to achieve an A* or A marks here in UK. Students are being prepared as early as year 4 to be able to get this mark because this what the best universities in UK is asking as an entry requirements. However only very few can achieve this marks.

Entry Requirements at Oxford

Students who achieved enough A level marks can apply to any Oxford colleges. Just to give you and idea Oxford University is not a single university as many of you may know. Oxford University is a conglomeration of 38 colleges and 6 halls. Each of these colleges and halls have their own administration. They are independent to each other and they offer the same courses. Students can not gain automatic entry at Oxford University because they still have to pass series of exams and interviews. Example in a single college there are as many as 3,200 applicants and only 120 will be accepted.

Why am I explaining all of these and what is its relation to the qualification of BBM. This just to give you an idea how difficult to access entry to any of Oxford colleges. Only the best students in UK can enter Oxford University. BBM gained entry to Oxford and therefore he is not “bobo” as many called him. In fact, he must be very intelligent because he gained qualification in UK. I knew it because I study here in UK.

LEFT: Special Diploma of Bongbong Marcos; RIGHT: Confirmation

LEFT: Special Diploma of Bongbong Marcos; RIGHT: Degree Confirmation

Is Diploma a vocational course?

It made me laugh to see some comments about what Special Diploma is all about. People seem to know very well what special diploma is all about.

Diploma is, as many people understand is just a piece of paper or a vocational course as many people claimed. As far as UK education system is concerned, a diploma is a level of education attainment or level of qualification awarded to an individual. There are different types of diploma awarded in UK. There three awarding bodies in UK who regulate the qualification awarded by different schools in UK. For example there is a body that regulates qualification with non degree qualification and there are body that regulates degree qualification. Diploma can be awarded in both non degree and degree level. Degree level is taken at colleges and universities. Therefore, if a diploma is awarded by a University like Oxford University, it is not a vocational course.

Special Diploma awarded with Graduate degree vs Bachelor of Arts Degree

Many people is only aware of Bachelor Degree because thats common in the Philippine. Special diploma is an alien word for them. For the purpose of understanding, I will compare Special Diploma to BA qualification.

Bachelor of Arts is an in the context of UK education is an undergraduate course normally offered at Universities. This is a fix three year course. This means that you have to finish it before a qualification will be awarded. This course is structured meaning it follows a module of learning. Student should satisfactory pass one module to progress to the next module. Student can not bypass one module.

Special Diploma is a programme of study not a course like BA. It is normally given in one or two year duration. A programme of study is different from a normal three year course because it caters to an individual needs of the student. Student can hand pick subjects or majors they want to pursue. Example in BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economic the module is designed for all students who enter this course while a programme of study is designed based on the individual requirement: example student can hand pick any majors under Social Studies department, Politics, Economics, Statistics, Economy etc.

Most foreign student like BBM, during his time at Oxford opt to take Special Diploma leading to graduate degree for simple reason, it is more economical. The programme is shorter as compare to bachelor degree. However, graduate degree programme requires more academic works. At bachelor degree academic requirement is spread with in three years while in diploma degree, academic targets is compress with in two years.

Is Special Diploma the same as BA?

The answer is yes and no. We should remember that BBM studied at Oxford during the 70’s. During that time, Special Diploma is equivalent to Bachelor degree as far as academic requirement is concerned. Well in fact, Special Diploma is taught in a graduate level nowadays. During those days Bachelor Degree is equivalent to Special Diploma award at least as far as Oxford University is concerned. But now they are two different degrees but with the same qualification.

Did BBM misrepresent his educational attainment? NO!

Sa totoo lang po pinababa pa ni BBM ang qualification nya.


Did Rappler lie about Bongbong Marcos’ Oxford, Wharton?

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