Main features of the ECTS
The ECTS system mainly aims to promote transparency, to create the necessary conditions for cooperation between institutions and to enlarge the range of options offered to students. Its implementation by the institutions facilitates the recognition of students’ academic results through the use of measurement units understood by everyone in the same way: “credits” and grades.
The ECTS system is based on three keys elements:
- information about the course programmes gathered in an information package ;
- a mutual agreement between the partner institutions and the student: the Erasmus bilateral agreement ;
- a learning agreement in which the ECTS credits clearly appear.
As such, the ECTS does not determine at all the content, the structure or the equivalence of course programmes. These are matters of quality that have to be settled by the higher education institutions themselves when laying the foundations of an adequate cooperation through bilateral or multilateral agreements.
Let’s thus analyse more into details the necessary documents for the implementation of such a process within a Haute Ecole (university college).
- The information package
It provides students and staff with useful information about the institutions, the faculties/departments, the curriculum organization and structure as well as the course units.
- The transcript of records
It presents the student’s academic results in a clear, complete way which can be understood by each party. It has to be easy to transfer from an institution to another.
- The learning agreement
It describes the programme of study a student will have to follow as well as the ECTS credits which will be obtained after meeting the requirements (examination, assessment, etc.). With this agreement the students commit themselves to follow this programme of study abroad while considering it as an integral part of their studies ; the institution of origin commits itself to ensure a full recognition of the credits obtained abroad ; and finally the host institution commits itself to provide the course modules as agreed, subject to timetable adjusting.
- ECTS credits
These credits represent the workload supposedly needed in the form of a numerical value allocated to each course unit.
They express the workload needed for each course unit compared to the global workload necessary to successfully complete an academic year in the institution, i.e. lectures, practical work, seminars, work placements, research or field survey, self-study – in the library or at home – as well as examinations or any other assessment method. The ECTS is thus based on the global student workload and is not exclusively limited to attendance hours.
In the ECTS system 60 credits represent the workload for a year of study. Generally 30 credits are equivalent to half a year of study and 20 credits to a quarter.