The European Credit Transfer System was initially launched in 1989 as a pilot project under the Erasmus program. The goal at the time was to facilitate the recognition of study periods abroad made by mobile students through the transfer of credits. While a transfer system, ECTS has expanded to over to thirty countries and has been adopted by more than a thousand institutions of higher education.
Forty adhering States to the Bologna Process have identified ECTS as one of the cornerstones of the European Higher Education Area. Many countries have adopted ECTS by law as an accumulation system within their own higher education systems, and others are in the process of doing so.
The University officially applied the ECTS to all its courses with the entry into the Bologna process.
ECTS makes study programs easy to read and compare. It can be used for all types of courses and learning contexts throughout life. It fits the students in general and student’s mobility: working in terms of accumulation of credits within an institution and transfer credits between institutions. For all these reasons the well-known acronym "ECTS" now stands for "European System of Credit Accumulation and Transfer."
The European System of Credit Transfer and Accumulation System is a student-centered system and based on the volume of work required of the student in order to achieve the objectives of a study program. These objectives are preferably defined in terms of learning outcomes and competencies.
The ECTS is based on the principle that 60 credits measure the workload of a full-time student. In Europe, this workload is between the 1500 and 1800 hours per year and in those cases one credit corresponds to 25-30 hours of work. Normally, 30 credits for a semester and 20 credits for a trimester of studies.
In ECTS, credits can only be obtained in cases where there is the approval of the student in the required work and a correct assessment of achieved learning outcomes. Learning outcomes are sets of competences that express what the student should know, understand and do after completing the learning process.
The workload in ECTS consists of the time required to complete all planned learning activities such as attending lectures, seminars, independent study, preparation of projects, examinations, etc. Credits are allocated to all educational components of a study program (courses, modules, internships, projects, dissertations, etc.) and reflect the amount of required work.
The ECTS is based on three core elements: information (on study programs and student achievement), mutual agreement (between the partner institutions and the student) and the use of ECTS credits (to indicate student’s workload). These three core elements are translated into three key documents, namely: information file, learning agreement and transcript of academic record.
For more information about the ECTS, consult the website of the European Commission and the Directorate General of Higher Education of Portugal or read the ECTS User's Guide.