FH Upper AustriaUniversity of Applied Sciences

European Credit Transfer System ECTS

is a voluntary, decentralized system based upon the principle of mutual trust and confidence between the participating higher education institutions. It is a student-centered system based on the student workload required to achieve the objectives of a programme, objectives preferably specified in terms of the learning outcomes and competences to be acquired.
ECTS was introduced in 1989, within the framework of Erasmus, now part of the Socrates programme. ECTS is the only credit system which has been successfully tested and used across Europe. ECTS was set up initially for credit transfer. The system facilitated the recognition of periods of study abroad and thus enhanced the quality and volume of student mobility in Europe. Recently ECTS is developing into an accumulation system to be implemented at institutional, regional, national and European level. 
ECTS makes study programmes easy to read and compare for all students, local and foreign. It ensures transparency in the academic courses offered. It divides the academic courses available at partner universities into small units so that the participating universities taking the students receive direct, objective information about the previous studies of these students and can categorize them accordingly. Though - ECTS facilitates mobility and academic recognition. Moreover, ECTS helps universities to organize and revise their study programmes.

The key documents of ECTS

  • The regular Information Package/Course Catalogue of the institution to be published in the local/national language and in English (or only in English for programmes taught in English) on the Web and/or in hard copy in one or more booklets.
  • The Learning Agreement contains the list of courses to be taken with the ECTS credits which will be awarded for each course. This list must be agreed by the student and the responsible academic body of the institution concerned. In the case of credit transfer, the Learning Agreement has to be agreed by the student and the two institutions concerned before the student’s departure and updated immediately when changes occur.
  • The Transcript of Records documents the performance of a student by showing the list of courses taken, the ECTS credits gained, local or national credits, if any, local grades and possibly ECTS grades awarded. In the case of credit transfer, the Transcript of Records has to be issued by the home institution for outgoing students before departure and by the host institution for incoming students at the end of their period of study.

The key features of ECTS

  • ECTS is based on the principle that 60 credits measure the workload of a full-time student during one academic year. The student workload of a full-time study programme in Europe amounts in most cases to around 1500-1800 hours per year and in those cases one credit stands for around 25 to 30 working hours. The basic allocation of academic credits in ECTS is 60 credits for a full year of study, 30 credits for a semester, or 20 credits per term.
  • Student workload in ECTS consists of the time required to complete all planned learning activities such as attending lectures, seminars, independent and private study, preparation of projects and examinations.
  • Credits in ECTS can only be obtained after successful completion of the work required and appropriate assessment of the learning outcomes achieved. Learning outcomes are sets of competences, expressing what the student will know, understand or be able to do after completion of a process of learning, long or short. In other words, students do not get ECTS credits simply for attending classes or spending time abroad, but must fulfill the assessment requirements of the host institution to demonstrate that they satisfy the specified learning objectives for the course unit. Students will be able to transfer these academic credits from one participating institution to another as long as there is prior agreement between the institutions involved.
  • Credits are allocated to all educational components of a study programme (such as modules, all kind of courses - lectures, practical work, seminars, tutorials, fieldwork and private study as well as assessment activities-, placements, dissertation work, etc.) and reflect the quantity of work each component requires to achieve its specific objectives or learning outcomes in relation to the total quantity of work necessary to complete a full year of study successfully.
  • Most students participating in ECTS will go to a single host institution in one EU Member State, study there for a limited period and then return to their home institution. Students will be required to comply with the legal and institutional requirements of the country and institution where they take their degree.
  • The performance of the student is documented by a local/national grade. It is good practice to add an ECTS grade, in particular in case of credit transfer.