special diploma
In the past, Ferdinand Marcos Jr — or Bongbong Marcos — has been criticised for misrepresenting his special diploma from Oxford as a degree. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

If you’ve been following the Philippines’ political highlights, you’re probably aware of the incoming Phillippine president’s education controversy. Ferdinand Marcos Jr — or Bongbong Marcos — has become the first candidate in recent history to win an outright majority in the Philippines presidential election. He has been criticised for misrepresenting his special diploma from Oxford as a degree. 

Marcos Jr is the son of the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was infamous for corruption and human rights violations when he was president of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. He has previously claimed in interviews that he was issued a bachelor’s degree by Oxford. 

However, his current profile notes: “He completed his undergraduate studies at Oxford University and graduated with a Special Diploma in Social Studies. He also earned units in Business Administration at the Wharton School of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.”

Marcos Jr’s spokesperson was quoted saying last year: “We stand by the degree confirmation which was issued by the University of Oxford. It is up to anyone to question or challenge this with the said university.

“Presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos has always been forthright on his conferment of a special diploma in social studies by the distinguish(ed) university and has never misrepresented his Oxford education.”

The Guardian reported that UK-based Filipina supporter of Marcos Jr’s rival Leni Robredo, who lodged the freedom of information (FoI) request, said of Marcos Jr: “He should stop misrepresenting his special diploma, which is clearly not a degree. It’s clear he did not complete undergraduate studies.”

Oxford was quoted saying by the news website Rappler that the special diploma given by the Oxford in 1978 “was not a full graduate diploma”.

“There is no recorded link between the BA [Bachelor of Arts] and the Special Diploma, and the Special Diploma was not a full graduate Diploma,” Cathy King, private secretary to the registrar at Oxford University, was quoted saying. 

“The Special Diploma, which the university no longer offers, was open to both undergraduates and graduates. Non-university members could also read for it under certain circumstances,” said King.

special diploma

Ferdinand Marcos Jr attended a private Catholic school in the Philippines and finished his secondary education at Worth School in Sussex, England. Source: Ted Aljibe/AFP

Can you get a special diploma for an incomplete degree?

So, while it’s clear that students can no longer obtain a special diploma from Oxford, can you leave college or university without completing a degree but still get a credential? 

Within the UK context, UCAS notes that a Diploma in Higher Education is a higher education qualification offered in the UK. It is typically awarded after two years of full-time study at a university or higher education provider.

Uni Compare notes that a Diploma of Higher Education is typically worth 240 UCAS Tariff Points, with 120 of those points earned at Level 7, and at least 80 from Level 8. An undergraduate degree is worth 360 credit points; a Diploma of Higher Education is essentially the first two years of an undergraduate degree, it said.

Separately, Inquirer.net notes that a special diploma is comparable to any online course available on the internet.

“If you finish a certain online course offering, it does not mean you are not automatically a graduate, for example, of MIT. It was just like a workshop. Non-credit units,” Ruston Banal, an image analysis expert working with International Photography Awards (IPA), a New York-based organisation, was quoted saying by the news site.