The ECTS framework assists students and universities in defining and understanding the workload associated with lectures and curricula. It may seem intimidating at first, but it’s actually quite simple to understand. Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about ECTS and the ECTS calculator.
What is ECTS?
The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) is a scoring system used by universities and agreed with governments that makes it easier to compare cross-border international education. The European Credit Transfer System, or more precisely the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System, makes learning in the European Higher Education Area more comparable. The credit system means that one course or module costs the same at any university.
It also makes studying abroad much easier because universities can compare courses and classes they offer, allowing you to earn credit for a semester or a year abroad. Lecture credits from different institutions can be collected (or combined) for a single degree or qualification, allowing much more flexibility. The countries of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) have adopted the ECTS system. The EHEA has been signed by 48 countries, from Portugal in the west to Russia and Kazakhstan in the east. Some websites offer a free online ECTS calculator that students can use to calculate their ECTS credits.
What are ECTS points?
ECTS points, also known as ECTS credits, represent the amount of work required to complete a program of study or a module within a program of study. ECTS scores represent workload only; they do not represent a class. Typically, one year of full-time study (or work, if applicable) is worth 60 ECTS credits. Typically, this is divided into modules. So, for example, in a year you could have four modules with a similar workload, each costing 15 ECTS credits, for a total of 60 ECTS per year.
The ECTS calculator is used to calculate the total course load:
- Bachelor’s degrees typically range from 180 ECTS (3 years full-time) to 240 ECTS (four years full-time) (4 years full-time).
- Master’s degrees typically range from 60 to 120 ECTS (1 year full-time) (2 years full-time).
- Due to flexible workload length, it is difficult to predict how many credits a PhD program will consist of.
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How are ECTS credits converted into study hours?
A full-time university year usually costs 60 ECTS credits and is defined as 1500-1800 hours of study. This means that 1 ECTS is equivalent to 25 to 30 hours (excluding the UK). The exact number of hours varies from country to country. Here are some examples:
- United Kingdom: 1 ECTS corresponds to 20 hours of study.
- Austria, Ireland, Italy, Malta: 1 ECTS is 25 study hours.
- Finland, Lithuania, Sweden: 1 ECTS is 27 study hours.
- Netherlands, Portugal: 1 ECTS is 28 hours of study.
- Germany: 1 ECTS is 30 study hours.
In the end, of course, these values are only guidelines. This includes not only “contact hours” (hours spent in classes), but also time spent preparing, doing homework, etc., so your individual class times may vary. Due to the lower workload, the number of ECTS per semester or year will be less if you are studying part-time. If you sign up for only 20 ECTS lectures in a given semester, you will likely have a lot of free time, while over 30 ECTS may mean you won’t see many of your friends.
What is the purpose of the ECTS credit calculator?
Students receive credit points upon completion of each course/workshop/module. Students can use the ECTS online credit calculator to calculate their scores. Each score represents the amount of work they completed during that time period. Here are some examples of ECTS credits for each type of degree:
- 60 ECTS credits – enough for a full academic year.
- The two-year master’s program requires 120 ECTS credits.
- 180 ECTS credits – based on a three-year undergraduate program.
- 240 ECTS credits – dedicated to the four-year undergraduate program.
In addition, the ECTS system is used by several well-known international educational institutions, including the UK, Germany, Sweden, France, Spain, Ireland and the Netherlands.
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