The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System is a student-centered system based on the volume of work required of the student to meet the objectives of a particular program of study. These objectives are defined preferentially in terms of learning outcomes and skills.
ECTS is based on the principle that 60 credits correspond to the total study load of a full-time student. In Europe, this load represents between 1500 and 1800 hours per year, and in these cases, one credit corresponds to 25-30 hours of work. As a general rule, one semester of studies will correspond to 30 credits, and one academic term or trimester will be equivalent to 20 credits.
A full year of study or work is equivalent to 60 ECTS credits. In a standard academic year, these credits are generally broken down into several smaller modules. A typical “short-cycle qualification” includes 90-120 ECTS credits. A “first-cycle” (Licentiate) degree consists of 180 ECTS in Polytechnic higher education programs.
A “second-cycle” (or master’s) degree usually corresponds to 90 or 120 ECTS credits.
Institutions publish their course catalogs on the Internet, which include detailed descriptions of study programs, curricular units, university regulations, and services for students.
Course descriptions include learning outcomes (i.e., knowledge and skills that students should acquire) and study load (the amount of time needed to achieve those outcomes). Learning outcomes are expressed in credits, based on the above.
ECTS is used to support student mobility between higher education institutions. Course catalogs, learning agreements, and transcripts of records facilitate the recognition and transfer of credits earned by students during a mobility period abroad.