ECTS - A COMMON LANGUAGE FOR ACADEMIC RECOGNITION
ECTS makes teaching and learning more transparent and facilitates the recognition of studies (formal and non-formal). The system is used across Europe for credit transfer (student mobility) and credit accumulation (learning paths towards a degree). It also informs curriculum design and quality assurance.
Institutions which apply ECTS publish their course catalogues on the web, including detailed descriptions of study programes, units of learning, university regulations and student services. Course descriptions contain learning outcomes (what students are expected to know, understand and be able to do) and workload (the time students typically need to achieve the learning outcomes), expressed in terms of credits.
Credit transfer and accumulation are helped by the use of the ECTS key documents (course catalogue, learning agreement, and transcript of records) as well as the Diploma Supplement. ECTS can feed into recognition decisions. These decisions, however, remain the responsibility of the competent authorities: professors involved in student exchange, university admission officers, recognition advisory centers, ministry officials or employers.
The EQF - European Qualifications Framework will make the current official validation (homologation) procedures unnecessary in most cases when the education and training is provided according to the ECTS guidelines.
Countries around Europe are increasingly emphasising the need to take account of the full range of an individual's knowledge, skills and competences. Recognising all forms of learning is therefore a priority of EU action in education and training. Learning takes place in different settings and contexts, formal and non-formal. Learning that is taking place in the formal education and training system is traditionally the most visible and the one likely to be recognized in the labor market and by society in general. In recent years, however, there has been a growing appreciation that learning in non-formal settings is seen as crucial for the realization of lifelong learning, thus requiring new strategies for identification and validation of these learning outcomes.
ECTS credits are based on the workload students need in order to achieve expected learning outcomes. Learning outcomes describe what a learner is expected to know, understand and be able to do after successful completion of a process of learning. They relate to level descriptors in national and European qualifications frameworks. Workload indicates the time students typically need to complete all learning activities (such as lectures, seminars, projects, practical work, self-study and examinations) required to achieve the expected learning outcomes.
- 1 ECTS ACADEMIC CREDIT = 25 to 30 hours of study work
- 60 ECTS credits are attached to the workload of a full-time year of formal learning (academic year) and the associated learning outcomes. In most cases, student workload ranges from 1.500 to 1.800 hours for an academic year, whereby one credit corresponds to 25 to 30 hours of study work.
The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is a tool which enables students to collect credits for learning achieved through higher education. ECTS is a learner-centred system which aims to increase transparency of learning outcomes and learning processes. It aims to facilitate planning, delivery, evaluation, recognition and validation of qualifications and units of learning as well as student mobility. ECTS is widely used in formal higher education and can be applied to other lifelong learning activities.
ECTS credits are allocated to entire qualifications or study programes as well as to their educational components (such as modules, course units, dissertation work, work placements and laboratory work). The number of credits ascribed to each component is based on its weight in terms of the workload students need in order to achieve the learning outcomes.
Credits are awarded to individual students (full-time or part-time) after completion of the learning activities required by a programe of study or by a single educational component and the successful assessment of the achieved learning outcomes. Credits may be accumulated with a view to obtaining qualifications, as decided by the degree-awarding institution.
If students have achieved learning outcomes in other learning contexts or time frames (formal, non-formal or informal), the associated credits may be awarded after successful assessment, validation or recognition of these learning outcomes. Credits awarded in one programe may be transferred into another programme, offered by the same or another institution.
The European Union is taking the steps for the future recognition of non-formal and independent learning. The Education Quality Accrediting Commission is advancing this policy by providing formal recognition and ECTS certificates for non-formal independent learning and training like the one that may be acquired through the EQAC Free Education Courses Database. ECTS course certificates facilitate academic credit recognition.