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Recognition of programme performance and completed studies is a requirement for the creation of a European educational area in which students and instructors may move freely. In this context, the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) was developed as a pilot project of the ERASMUS programme.

ECTS is intended to create increased transparency, form a bridge between universities, and provide students with a larger and more interesting range of studies. With the help of the ECTS system's commonly agreed evaluation process (credits and grades), studies spent abroad can be recognised significantly easier. Furthermore, the ECTS system enables improved understanding of national evaluation methods.

Information about programmes of study and courses, mutual agreements between partner universities and the student, and the application of the ECTS credit transfer for the corresponding course load are the three main principles of the ECTS system. These principles are realised via the following ECTS key documents:

the information package, the student application form, the learning agreement, and the transcript of records.

Above all, it is the students, teachers, and universities who desire to make international experience a fixed component of the educational process who contribute to the success of ECTS. The content, structure, and equivalency of the programmes is not determined by ECTS in any way. In this case, aspects of quality must be clarified independently by the universities with regard to bilateral or multilateral cooperation agreements. 

Full academic recognition means that studies abroad are equivalent to a comparable programme of study at the home university, even in case the structure of the agreed study programme features different aspects.

Use of ECTS is voluntary and involves mutual trust with regard to academic services at the partner universities. Each university selects its own partners.


ECTS produces increased transparency via the following means:

  • ECTS credits: Every course is assigned a certain amounts of credits (1 to 60) to describe the student's course load.
  • These credits reflect the quantitative value of the work involved, which must also be applied in relation to the required course load for successful application to the complete academic year at the university (i.e. lectures, practical work, seminars, tutorials, excursions, independent study at the library and at home, tests, and other forms of performance). ECTS therefore recognises the entire course load and not only lectures associated with instructors.
  • ECTS includes 60 credits for a course load for a full academic year, one semester includes 30 credits, and a trimester includes 20 credits.
  • The information package provides students and university instructors with details about universities, faculties/subjects, organisation, and the structure of programmes and lectures.
  • The learning agreement, which is binding for both, the home and host universities as well as the students, features details about the programme to be completed abroad and the credits required for successful completion.
  • This learning agreement concerning the suggested programme of studies must be signed by the student prior to departure.
  • The study programme enables full academic recognition. All parties (the student, the home and host universities) should receive a copy of the learning agreement.
  • The transcript of records makes programme performance easy to understand in a clearly laid-out manner so that transfer to another university may take place without any problems.

Communication and flexibility are two additional aspects that are absolutely necessary for successful recognition of studies completed abroad. ECTS coordinators, who are responsible for all administrative aspects of ECTS, play an important role in this context.

Last changed: 24.01.2019  |  Author: International Office HTW Dresden