What is ECTS?
The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) was initially set up in 1989 as a pilot scheme within the framework of the Erasmus programme. Its aim at that time was to facilitate the recognition of study periods undertaken abroad by mobile students through the transfer of credits. As a transfer system ECTS has expanded to over 30 countries and has been introduced in more than one thousand higher education institutions.
The Signatory States in the Bologna Process have identified ECTS as one of the cornerstones of the European Higher Education Area. A large number of countries have adopted ECTS by law as an accumulation system for their own higher education systems and others are in the process of doing so. In some countries ECTS has become a requirement for accreditation. The Zurich Conference on Credit Transfer and Accumulation, held in October 2002 by the European University Association, endorsed the central role of ECTS in higher education.
ECTS will have a fundamental place in the design of a national and European Qualifications Framework. Schemes based on ECTS are being introduced in other continents.
What are ECTS Credits?
The concept of the ECTS Credit is based on a mutually agreed assumption that the annual workload of a student represents 60 credits. Student workload is estimated at being a value between 1500 and 1680 hours work per year. The value is based on a presumption that the average student works for 40 weeks per year with an average weekly workload of 40 hours. The workload includes, apart from class time, individual study time, preparation of reports, bibliographical research, preparation of examinations, etc. Dozens of countries throughout the European continent have adopted ECTS Credits for credit accumulation purposes in a concerted effort to improve the transparency and legibility of the many and varied degree structures, types and traditions that have evolved over hundreds of years of higher education in Europe.
How does ECTS work in the context of student mobility?
The ECTS User Guide states that ECTS is a system is based on three core elements: information (on study programmes and student achievement), mutual agreement (between the partner institutions and the student) and the use of the ECTS credits. Once signed by the student, the sending institution and the receiving institution, the Learning Agreement commits all three to fully recognise that the study period abroad (including examinations or other forms of assessment) replaces a comparable period of study at the sending institution (including examinations or other forms of assessment), though the content of the agreed study programme may differ.
How many ECTS Credits should a student complete?
Since the annual workload of a student is calculated at 60 ECTS, students should seek to earn 60 ECTS credits for a full year mobility period, or 30 ECTS for one semester or 20 ECTS for one trimester. The ECTS credits taken at the receiving institution must have been previously calculated by the receiving institution and must be clearly identified in the institution’s course catalogue (on-line or paper version) so that the student can make his/her course unit choices before the mobility period begins. At the AWF, the ECTS Information Package.
More information about ECTS is available from the website of the European Commission at the following address: