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ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) is the credit system of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) for the transfer and accumulation (recognition of study periods) of studies.
ECTS is a key component of the Bologna Process, used throughout Europe and beyond, which leads to more transparency with regard to studies and courses and thus, contributes to the enhancement of the quality of higher education. The credit system was explicitly set up in 1989 within the Erasmus programme to easier transfer credits earned during a stay abroad into credits recognized by the students’ home institution.
ECTS credits measure the workload of students by calculating the time students typically require for a positive learning outcome. It comprises learning activities such as lectures, seminars, projects, practical work, self-study and examinations. The workload for one academic year ranges from 1,500 to 1,800 hours. In Austria one credit equals the workload of 25 real-time hours. In the Higher Education Area each academic semester corresponds to 30 ECTS credits. Hence, Erasmus students usually have to complete 30 ECTS credits for a semester abroad.
There are certain criteria, also known as ECTS key features, which further the credit transfer and accumulation and which go along with supporting documents that facilitate the use ECTS credits and enhance quality: a Course Catalogue in line with ECTS, Learning Agreement, Transcript of Records as well as Work Placement Certificate are a prerequisite for an exchange abroad and for mobility in general. Further, the use of ECTS credits in documents like the Diploma Supplement leads to further transparency of teaching and learning processes.