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European Credit Transfer System (ECTS)
A common language for academic recognition

To help students make the most from their study abroad, the European Commission has developed a European Credit Transfer System, which provides a way of measuring and comparing learning achievements, and transferring them from one institution to another.

This system facilitates the recognition of periods of study abroad (but not of the final degrees) e.g. for Erasmus students. It is now widely adopted across Europe.

ECTS helps higher education institutions to enhance their cooperation with other institutions by:

  • improving access to information on foreign curricula,
  • providing common procedures for academic recognition.

ECTS can also be used within one institution or between institutions within one country.

History of the ECTS

ECTS was initially established under the Erasmus programme and it has been tested over a period of six years (1988 - 1995) in a pilot scheme with 145 European higher education institutions in all EU Member states and EEA countries in the fields of Business Administration, Chemistry, History, Mechanical Engineering and Medicine. These institutions are the so-called "inner circle" institutions.

In the second phase, the ECTS was broadened so that the participating institutions could introduce the system to more subject areas, partner institutions and networks in the 1.5-year period from January 1995 to May 1996. In a further step in autumn 1995, the Commission invited the co-operation partners of the "inner circle" institutions to present their plans concerning the introduction of ECTS in one or more disciplines. Special emphasis was given to the spreading the ECTS system within the non-university higher education. In 1996 - 1997 a total of 38 new universities with 348 departments and 36 non-university institutions including 206 departments implemented the ECTS.

ECTS proved to be an effective instrument for creating curricular transparency and facilitating academic recognition. Therefore the system has been included within the higher education part of the Socrates programme (Erasmus).

In the academic year 1997 - 1998 as many as 772 new institutions applied for the introduction of ECTS. In 1998 - 1999 the number of institutions implementing the ECTS still continued to rise when 290 new institutions requested an ECTS introduction grant. Nowadays the ECTS is already almost a commonplace in most of the higher education institutions taking part in the Erasmus programme.

ECTS for Students

  • Guarantees academic recognition of studies abroad
  • Enables access to regular courses alongside local students
  • Enables further studies abroad with easier transfer of credits from one institution to another.

ECTS for Higher Education Institutions

  • Creates curriculum transparency
  • Helps academics to make academic recognition decisions with prior agreements on the content of the study programmes abroad
  • A catalyst for reflection on course curriculum structures, student workload and learning outcomes
  • With ECTS, higher education institutions preserve their autonomy and responsibility for all decisions concerning students' achievements, without amending existing course structures and assessment methods.

ECTS Credits

ECTS credits are a value allocated to course units to describe the student workload required to complete them. They reflect the quantity of work each course requires in relation to the total quantity of work required to complete a full academic year, including lectures, practical training, seminars, private/independent work, examinations and other assessment activities wherever the actual work takes place; in the lecture theatre, class room, laboratory, library, placement or at home. ECTS credits are also allocated to thesis preparation.

In ECTS 60 credits represent on year of study in the terms of workload. Normally 30 credits are given for a semester and 20 credits for a trimester.

ECTS credits are allocated to courses and are awarded to students who successfully complete those courses.

The Finnish credit system has been updated to comply with the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) so that the Finnish credits are equivalent to the ECTS credits. The reform came into force on the 1st of January, 2005. Higher education studies are measured in credits (cr). Courses and study modules are credited according to the amount of work they require to attain the required objectives. A student's average study effort of 1,600 hours required for the completion of studies during one academic year corresponds to 60 credits.

ECTS Grading Scale

There are many different grading systems in Europe. The ECTS grading scale has been developed to help institutions to "translate" the grades awarded by the host institutions into their own grading scales. ECTS grade does not replace the local grade and higher education institutions make their own decisions on how to apply the ECTS grading scale to their own system.

This table shows how ECTS grades are applied to the grading system of Oulu University of Applied Sciences.

Oulu UAS grade
ECTS grade
5 excellent
4 very good
3 good
2 satisfactory
1 sufficient
0 fail
F or FX

Some study attainments can also be assessed on the grading scale pass/fail.

ECTS Information Package

Institutions who want to use ECTS produce an information package that is updated on regular basis. There they describe the courses available at the institution. It includes general information about the institution, its location, student accommodation, administrative procedures necessary to register and academic calendar. Good course information is essential to prepare serious study abroad and descriptions covering the content, prerequisites, mode of assessment, time unit, type of course, teaching and learning methods employed and ECTS credits allocated are all included in the information package, along with a description of the department offering the course. Details of examination and assessment procedures, the institution's grading scale and the structure of the curriculum of the degree are also included.

ECTS Information Packages of Oulu University of Applied Sciences

ECTS Forms

A student wishing to study in another institution abroad fills in a Student Application which is sent to the possible receiving institutions.

A Learning Agreement is made between the student and his/her home and host institution and it states the studies the student is going to complete during the study abroad period. It should be done prior to the commencement of studies abroad.

The Transcript of Records shows the learning achievements of the student prior to and after the study abroad period. It includes every course taken by the student and also the ECTS credits allocated and the grade awarded according to the local grading scale and ECTS grading scale. The combination of these (the ECTS credits, local grad and ECTS grade) represents qualitatively and quantitatively the performance of the student on the courses at the host institution.

ECTS forms of Oulu University of Applied Sciences

ECTS Co-ordinators

There are institutional and departmental ECTS co-ordinators in the institutions applying ECTS system. They are appointed by the institutions to deal with the administrative and academic aspects of the ECTS. Also their role is to advise and counsel the students who wish to participate in student exchange to which ECTS is applied.

Departmental ECTS co-ordinators of Oulu University of Applied Sciences are the international co-ordinators of the respective educational units.

The institutional ECTS co-ordinator of Oulu University of Applied Sciences is the Head of International Relations and Development, Mr. Allan Perttunen.