The ECTS System

The ECTS, European Credit Transfer System, is a credit system first introduced in Europe in 1989 within the educational exchange program Erasmus. The ECTS is now widely used throughout higher education institutions as it facilitates student mobility within Europe and the comparison of study programs and courses.

How does the ECTS benefit students?

The ECTS is a learner-centered system based on the student workload required to achieve a certain course outcomes. The workload refers to the amount of time a student needs to complete the learning activities, such as self-study, seminars, projects or exams, to achieve the course outcomes.

The credits can be attached to study programs, courses or even modules within a course. Furthermore, students can accumulate credits and pass them over to other institutions to continue with their studies. Therefore, the ECTS is also referred to as European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System.

The use of the ECTS by institutions is not compulsory. However, if you plan to study in Europe, you will notice the majority of institutions provide students with the number of ECTS each course and module is worth.

How many ECTS is an academic year worth?

A full-time student would need to complete 60 ECTS per academic year, which represents about 1,500 to 1,800 hours of study. According to the ECTS, study programs in Europe are worth the following number of credits:

  • Bachelor's degrees (first cycle) are worth 180 - 240 ECTS (3 to 4 years).
  • Master's programs (second cycle) are worth 60 - 120 ECTS (1 to 2 years).
  • PhD studies (third cycle) have no ECTS range.

You may read further information about the ECTS on the European Commission website about the ECTS System or by downloading the ECTS User's Guide.