ECTS Information Guide

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) and the European Higher Education Area (Bologna Process)


  • The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is the credit system for higher education used in the European Higher Education Area, involving all countries engaged in the Bologna Process[1].
  • ECTS is one of the cornerstones of the Bologna process. Most Bologna countries have adopted ECTS by law for their higher education systems.
  • Bologna Process defined three cycles of higher education; bachelor, master and doctoral, with typical ECTS credit ranges:
    • 180–240 credit points for the first cycle (the bachelor degree)
    • 90–120 credit points for the second cycle (the master degree) with a minimum of 60 credit points.
    • There is no credit range for the third cycle.

ECTS is based on a number of principles[2]:

  • ECTS is a student- centered system based on the student workload[3] required to achieve the learning outcomes[4] and competences to be acquired.
  • Learning outcomes are attributed to individual educational components and to programs.
  •  Credits are allocated to all educational components of a study program (such as modules, courses, placements, dissertation work, etc.)
  • 60 credit points measure the workload of a full-time student during one academic year.
  • The student workload of a full-time study program ranges from 1500 to1800 hours per year.
  • Thus one credit point stands for around 25 to 30 working hours.

•     Credit points in ECTS can only be obtained after successful completion of the work required

      and appropriate assessment of the learning outcomes achieved.

  • The achievement of learning outcomes has to be assessed through procedures based on clear and transparent criteria.


Example of 2 institutions achieving comparable courses’ learning outcomes with the same total workload, and allocate the same number of ECTS credit points although the contact hours are very different.


University A

University B

3 credits

(3 credits X 30 hours = 90 hours)

24 lecture hours

24 lecture hours

6 tutorial hours

36 tutorial hours

60 hours of private study

30 hours of private study.


90 hours

90 hours


[1] The Bologna Process is a European initiative to bring about transparency and compatibility across higher education in Europe.

[2] For further information refer to the ECTS Users’ Guide

[3] Student workload in ECTS consists of the estimated time a learner typically need to complete all learning activities such as lectures, seminars, projects, practical work, work placements, individual study required to achieve the defined learning outcomes in formal learning environments.

[4] Learning outcomes are statements of what a learner knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process.