Does anyone know of a glossary of degree abbreviations and titles?
September 8, 2004 1:57 AM   Subscribe

In dealing with academia, I often meet people with a bewildering array of letters after their name. Does anyone know of a glossary extant of what these all mean? At the moment I'm trying to puzzle out what FBA means - any clues?
posted by Mossy to Education (4 answers total)
According to this page, FBA can stand for 'Fellow of The British Academy'.
posted by chrismear at 2:26 AM on September 8, 2004

Here's a bunch of suggestions.
posted by wackybrit at 6:02 AM on September 8, 2004

As chrismear says, FBA = Fellow of the British Academy. The British Academy is to the arts what the Royal Society is to the sciences, and being elected a Fellow of the British Academy is generally regarded as the highest academic distinction that a British scholar in the arts, humanities or social sciences can receive; basically it means that your fellow-academics regard you as one of the leaders of your field. The membership has tended to be skewed towards the old-established academic subjects such as classics and archaeology, but this is gradually changing. The annual volumes of the Proceedings of the British Academy contain long obituaries of deceased Fellows, which are often very entertaining to read and provide a excellent portrait of British academic life.

There is a delightful comic novel called The Surleighwick Effect, by a British university lecturer writing under the pseudonym 'Charles H. Cutting', which gives an insight into the high status of FBAs within the academic profession. One of the characters in the novel, the senile and gullible Professor Bodgering, is tricked into believing that he is about to be elected to the Fellowship. "At last, after years of neglect, the outstanding merits of his short but superlatively brilliant monograph on Tamburlaine had been recognised, and he, Professor Bodgering, would be Bodgering of the Academy!"
posted by verstegan at 6:54 AM on September 8, 2004

To complicate your question, when you're puzzling out such things, you have to remember that there are not just earned degrees to consider, which vary all over the world (Phd, BA, MD? Now discern what DipN/RVM or GradDipClinDent means). Many academic and professional titles are granted by associations or societies for very little work aside from a membership fee, so citing them is meaningless, especially since most people outside those organizations don't know what they signify. You join the Unified Pipe Fitters of Piscatawy for 50 bucks, take a few 5-question multiple choice quizzes included in each issue of UPF Monthly, attend a few sessions for credit at the UFP annual meeting, and they knight you Grand Poobah of Pipe Fitting. Thereafter, you sign all your formal documents Ima Tool, GPPF.

Then there's the small matter of duplicate acronyms. You will never find a fully comprehensive list, but as wackybrit noted, Acronym Finder is your best bet. However, even if you find a likely degree, you still need to know context. You have to know Tool's background, so you don't confuse him with a Great Personage of Pectoral Flexing, so-authorized by the Pectoral Flexers of Foreign Wars. The British Academy, as verstegan entertainingly notes, is a worthy and venerable organization, but for each one of these, there are dozens of lesser ones vying to splash their letters on anyone with the spare cash. For every profession and discipline, there dozens of honorariums and certifications and distinctions and fellows and honorables and exalteds, and it calls to mind the Wizard of Oz, handing out brains and hearts and courage out of a bottomless bag to all comers. I say it's spinach, and I say to hell with it.
posted by melissa may at 5:57 PM on September 8, 2004 [1 favorite]

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