The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is a tool that helps to design, describe, and deliver study programmes and award higher education qualifications. The use of ECTS, in conjunction with outcomes-based qualifications frameworks, makes study programmes and qualifications more transparent and facilitates the recognition of qualifications.
ECTS makes teaching and learning in higher education more transparent across Europe and facilitates the recognition of all studies (formal and non-formal). The system allows for the transfer of learning experiences between different institutions, greater student mobility and more flexible routes to gain degrees. It also aids curriculum design and quality assurance.
How do European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) work?
Participating institutions publish their course catalogues on the web, including detailed descriptions of study programmes, modules, university regulations and student services.
Course descriptions contain ‘learning outcomes’ (i.e. what students are expected to know, understand and be able to do) and workload (i.e. the time students typically need to achieve these outcomes). Each learning outcome is expressed in terms of credits, with a student workload ranging from 1 500 to 1 800 hours for an academic year, and one credit generally corresponds to 25-30 hours of work.
A series of ECTS key documents help with credit transfer and accumulation:
• course catalogues
• learning agreements
• transcript of records and
• the Diploma Supplement (DS).
The Diploma Supplement
The Diploma Supplement (DS) is a document accompanying a higher education diploma, providing a standardised description of the nature, level, context, content and status of the studies completed by its holder. Higher education institutions produce the supplement according to a template jointly developed by the European Commission, the Council of Europe and UNESCO.
The supplement is designed as an aid to help (but not guarantee) recognition – it is not a CV or a substitute for the original qualification. It has the following eight sections of information:
• the holder of the qualification
• the qualification
• its level and function
• the contents and results gained
• certification of the supplement
• details of the national higher education system concerned
• any additional relevant information.
New qualifications proliferate worldwide and countries are constantly changing their qualification systems and educational structures. With an increasing number of mobile citizens seeking fair recognition of their qualifications outside their home countries, the non-recognition and poor evaluation of qualifications is now a global problem. Since original credentials alone do not provide sufficient information, it is very difficult to gauge the level and function of a qualification without detailed explanations.
The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) and the Diploma Supplement are a response to these challenges, aiding mobility and access to lifelong learning opportunities. They promote transparency in higher education and fair and informed judgements about qualifications. They also accommodates rapid changes in qualifications.
Although ECTS can help recognition of a student’s studies between different institutions and national education systems, higher education providers are autonomous institutions. The final decisions are the responsibility of the relevant authorities: professors involved in student exchanges, university admission officers, recognition advisory centres, ministry officials or employers.
The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) for lifelong learning, the ECTS and their vocational education equivalent, the European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET), are key tools to facilitate the validation of non formal education.
The aim of the European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) is to:
• make it easier for people to get validation and recognition of work-related skills and knowledge acquired in different systems and countries – so that they can count towards vocational qualifications;
• make it more attractive to move between different countries and learning environments;
• increase the compatibility between the different vocational education and training (VET) systems in place across Europe, and the qualifications they offer;
• increase the employability of VET graduates and the confidence of employers that each VET qualification requires specific skills and knowledge.
Since 2006, Bircham International University applies the ECTS guidelines to all BIU transcripts and includes the information required by the Diploma Supplement as directed by the European Union.
EU ECTS - European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System
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