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I know of (at least) two sets of phrases used to indicate a degree awarded with honors:

  • English: With distinction / High distinction / Highest distinction

  • Latin: Cum laude / Magna cum laude / Summa cum laude

These phrases are almost literal translations of each other, but can they be treated as exactly equivalent for academic purposes? Or are there subtle distinctions (no pun intended)?

Suppose an academic received a degree with honors from a school that used one system, and is asked to fill in a form which uses the other system. Should they try to translate, or leave blank as inapplicable?

(I realize there are no universal standards dictating on what criteria such honors should be based, so there is not a lot of meaning conveyed by these phrases anyhow. But the academic does not want to be accused of misrepresenting their credentials.)

1 Answer 1

In general, it's always best to report things as they were received. If you received "highest distinction," right that, not summa cum laude. Let the institution receiving the application handle the translation, unless they explicitly tell you otherwise.