What is ECTS?

ECTS, the European Credit Transfer System, was developed by the Commission of the European Communities in order to provide common procedures to guarantee academic recognition of studies abroad. It provides a way of measuring and comparing learning achievements, and transferring them from one institution to another.

The ECTS system is based on the principle of mutual trust and confidence between the participating higher education institutions. The few rules of ECTS, concerning Information (on courses available), Agreement (between the home and host institutions) and the Use of Credit Points (to indicate student workload) are set out to reinforce this mutual trust and confidence. Each ECTS department will describe the courses it offers not only in terms of content but also adding credits to each course.

The Pilot Scheme

ECTS was tested as a pilot project involving a limited number of institutions across the European Union and formed part of the Erasmus Programme. The pilot scheme operated in five subject areas (Business Administration. Chemistry, History, Mechanical Engineering and Medicine) and involved 145 higher education institutions in all EC Member States and EFTA countries, each of them with one faculty or department.

It has now been adopted as part of the Erasmus Programme and we, Robert Gordon University, received funding to develop it within The University.

The ECTS Credits

ECTS credits are a value allocated to course units to describe the student workload required to complete them. They reflect the quantity of work each course requires in relation to the total quantity of work required to complete a full year of academic study at the institution, that is, lectures, practical work, seminars, private work in the library or at home and examinations or other assessment activities. ECTS credits express a relative value.

In ECTS, 60 credits represent the workload of a year of study; normally 30 credits are given for a semester. It is important that no special courses are set up for ECTS purposes, but that all ECTS courses are mainstream courses of the participating institutions, as followed by home students under normal regulations.

It is up to the participating institutions to subdivide the credits for the different courses. Practical placements and optional courses which form an integral part of the course of study also receive academic credit. Practical placements and optional courses which do not form an integral part of the course of study do not receive academic credit. Non-credit courses may, however, be mentioned in the transcript of records.

Credits are awarded only when the course has been completed and all required examinations have been successfully taken.

ECTS Students

The students participating in ECTS will receive full credit for all academic work successfully carried out at any of the ECTS partner institutions and they will be able to transfer these academic credits from one participating institution to another on the basis of prior agreement on the content of study programmes abroad between students and the institutions involved. This agreement will take the form of a Learning Agreement signed by the student, the sending institution and a member of staff at the receiving institution.

When the student returns and has successfully completed the study programme previously agreed between the home and the host institutions and returns to the home institution, credit transfer will then take place, and the student will continue to study the course at the home institution without any loss of time or credit. If, on the other hand, the student decides to stay at the host institution and to take a degree there, he or she may have to adapt the study course due to the legal, institutional and departmental rules in the host country, institution and department.

Students selected by each institution to participate in ECTS may only be awarded a student mobility grant if they fulfil the general conditions of eligibility for the ERASMUS grant. These are:

  • students shall not be required to pay tuition fees at the host institution: the student may, however, be required to continue to pay his/her normal tuition fees to the home institution during the study period abroad
  • the national grant/loan to which a student may be entitled for study at his/her institution may not be discontinued, interrupted or reduced while that student is studying in another country and is receiving an Erasmus grant
  • one study period abroad should not last less than three months or more than one year
  • students in the first year of their studies are not eligible to receive Erasmus grants