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ECTS System

ECTS is short for European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System – the Europe-wide scheme for recording students’ past and future achievements. It is aimed at making these more transparent and comparable internationally, and therefore making recognition easier. This will not only make it easier for students themselves to go abroad, it will also promote student mobility throughout Europe. The ECTS is a key tool with which to achieve the objectives set out in the 1999 Bologna Declaration.

The concept and design

The ECTS was developed as part of a pilot project run by the European Union between 1989 and 1997. This project was in turn part of the ERASMUS EU mobility programme.
Initially, the primary aim of the credit system was to make it much easier to transfer learning experiences once they were achieved. Over time, ECTS increasingly became a tool for ensuring quality and transparency. Not only does it demonstrate the workload students will need to take on in order to achieve a particular learning outcome, it also tells them which skills they should have acquired at the end of the learning process.
ECTS Credits are a key aspect of this overall package. These are calculated on the basis of the estimated time and effort (the workload) which students will need on average to complete individual courses, modules, etc.
This workload comprises all the learning activities which form part of the course and for which performance is monitored.

These include:

  • Participating in lectures and seminars
  • Work placements
  • Self-study (in the library or at home)
  • Exam preparation Final examinations and dissertations
  • ECTS credits do not provide any information about the content, learning outcomes or skills acquired by students. Instead they are calculated on the basis of set learning outcomes.

One ECTS credit represents around 25 actual hours of student workload. The workload for one student year is deemed to be 60 ECTS credits. That represents an actual workload of around 1,500 hours.

Key aspects

The application of ECTS is underpinned by some specific tools:

  • The course catalogue
  • Learning agreements
  • Transcripts of records.

These aspects and the explanation of learning outcomes are described in the ECTS Users’ Guide 2015 from the European Commission.

The aims of ECTS

Applying ECTS is intended to achieve:

  • Shorter real study times
  • More transparent requirements for courses and examinations, established on the basis of credits associated with the educational institutions
  • Performance monitoring to run alongside the learning process as a guide for students
  • Transparency about students’ workload
  • Greater certainty for students in terms of the ability to plan, with exact details of the modules to be completed and evidence to be provided
  • Greater flexibility while studying, both in combining modules and in shaping/completing part-time courses
  • More national and international mobility for students
  • Easier mutual recognition of studies and examinations, and
  • Greater scope for higher education institutions to react quickly to changes and labour market requirements



Hans Peter Hoffmann 
Department IV/9
T +43 1 53120-5832

Stephan De Pasqualin
Department IV/11 
Minoritenplatz 5, 1010 Vienna
T +43 53120 6798