The European Community promotes interuniversity co-operation as a means of improving the quality of education for the benefit of students and higher education institutions and considers student mobility is an important element of this interuniversity co-operation. The recognition of studies and diplomas is a prerequisite for the creation of an Open European area of education and training where students and teachers can travel freely within the European Community. For this purpose the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) was developed as a pilot scheme established within the Erasmus programme in order to improve academic recognition of studies completed abroad.
Main characteristics of ECTS
This system ensures transparency and is designed to strengthen the ties among the various institutions and to widen the course offerings made available to students. Additionally, it makes it easier for institutions to recognise the learning achievements of students through the use of commonly understood measurements- credits and grades- and it also provides the means to interpret national systems of higher education.
The ECTS system is based on three core elements:
These three core elements are made operational through the use of three key documents:
1) the information package
2) the application form/learning agreement
3) the transcript of records
Full academic recognition is a conditio sine qua non for student mobility in the framework of the Erasmus and Socrates programmes. Full academic recognition means that the study period abroad (including examinations or other forms of assessment ) replaces a comparable period of study at the home university (including examinations or other forms of assessment), though the content of the agreed study programme may differ.
ECTS provides transparency through the following means: ECTS credits, which are numerical values allocated to course units to describe the workload required to complete them. They reflect the amount of work each course unit requires in relation to the total amount of work necessary to complete a full year of study at the institution. This includes lectures, seminars, tutorials, fieldwork, private study and examinations or other assessment activities. ECTS is thus based on a full student workload and not limited to contact hours only.
In ECTS, 60 credits represent the workload for an entire year, 30 credits generally for a semester and 20 credits for a term.
The ECTS information package supplies written information to students and staff on institutions, departments/faculties, the organisation and structure of studies and course units.
The ECTS transfer of records presents students’ learning achievements in a comprehensive way and is commonly understood and easily transferable from one institution to another. Good communication and flexibility are also needed to facilitate the academic recognition of studies completed or taken abroad. In this respect the ECTS co-ordinators have an important role to play, as they are responsible for the academic and administrative aspects of ECTS.
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