In actuality I’ve discovered there are a number of systems that don’t require reinforced hierarchy in the typical sense at all. For example there is the concept of Dunbar’s rule of 150 (The Magic of 150), which has profoundly altered the way I think about how complex societies can operate if they are correctly framed.
However, the idea of some method like the belt grading system attributed to Martial Arts or the board game Go still appeals to me. The continuum between a graduate and a professor is indistinct and doesn’t offer a clear view of where the two rely in relation to each other. Even more importantly if someone is to leave University or standard education institutions before graduating or passing the final exam they appear to have as little education as when they entered. It also clearly differentiates the difference between age and level of competence, which is usually quite disparate.
While I’m not sure a simple grading system could correctly be applied to multi-disciplinary skills it would be a step in the right direction. I suppose the other alternative is the adult equivalent of Scout activity badges, to take a more fantastic approach Game of thrones gives us Maesters who wear a chain of various substances to signify their personal expertise. Each link indicates a different field of study.
Although really at this point we are bandying words, for an adult studying electronic engineering a activity badge / link equivalent would simply be a written certification in a subject.