The acronym ECTS stands for 'European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System'. ECTS credits are a quantitative measure of the overall student workload of a course of study. This workload includes contact hours (i.e. classroom teaching: lectures, seminars, etc.) and the time students spend on background reading and preparing for courses (independent study), the examinations and time spent preparing for exams and other marked work, as well as internships (if applicable).
How are ECTS credits awarded?
ECTS credits are awarded for modules which end with an examination. Where the module examination consists of a number of part-examinations, students may be able to offset a poor mark with a good one (compensation). Whether, and how, this can be done is set out in the examination regulations.
As a general rule, 60 ECTS are awarded for one year of studies, or 30 for a full semester. A credit point is equivalent to a workload of 25 to 30 hours, including contact hours and independent study. The overall workload must not exceed 900 hours per semester (or 1,800 per academic year), including any work done during the semester breaks. Students who complete a three-year Bachelor’s degree course receive 180 ECTS credits; 60 ECTS credits for a one-year Master's degree; or 120 ECTS credits for a two-year Master's degree.
Courses forming part of more than one degree programme at a time (e.g. interdisciplinary degree courses or courses taken by students enrolled in related degree programmes of study) should carry the same number of ECTS credits to ensure transparency, even in cases where the actual workload differs between the various groups.
ECTS credits per module
The recommended minimum award per module is 5 or 6 ECTS credits, or a multiple thereof.
ECTS credits and marks (grades)
ECTS credits are awarded irrespective of the results achieved, and marking is not affected by the awarded ECTS credits. Marks are given in accordance with the German marking system and the corresponding ECTS grade should be indicated to facilitate credit transfers across institutions and countries.
The ECTS system uses a relative marking scheme
A = best 10%
B = next 25%
C = next 30%
D = next 25%
E = next 10%
How are the marks calculated?
Depending on class size, the relative grade is calculated from all results in the current year and at least the two preceding years taken together as a cohort. A minimum cohort size of 30 students is recommended.
ECTS is used as a credit transfer system both within Germany (when changing to another university) or for study undertaken abroad. Therefore, the following documents, which are also elements of the ECTS system, are indispensable:
The course catalogue
The course catalogue is a commented list of courses. It is subject to the following requirements:
- must be available online
- must be published on an annual basis
- it should list each course with the following information: time, place, duration, language of instruction, recommended reading list and form of assessment
The Learning Agreement
A Learning Agreement is a contract between the student, the sending university and the host university. It should include a list of courses which the student will attend as part of his or her studies at the host university. If the courses are to count towards the degree at the sending university, the student should discuss with their course advisers, prior to undertaking the studies abroad, whether the course contents are compatible with those at the sending institution. If the Learning Agreement is modified in any way, all involved parties must be informed.