Ask Anna – What is ECTS?

By StudyLink

This month I will be covering an interesting topic for those of you who are comparing courses across European institutes, ECTS. So what is ECTS?
ECTS stands for the European Credit Transfer System and is used to allow grades to be converted by higher education institutions across the European Union. This system is needed because the way grades are interpreted varies between countries, and institutions. It allows for students wishing to study abroad to determine what grades they can expect to achieve through comparison and how many modules need to be studied.
ECTS credits
ECTS credits are the first main element of ECTS. On completion of any module, course or seminar (dependent on the institution) you are rewarded with a certain number of ECTS credit points. Typically, completing one year of studies provides in 60 ECTS credit points. This means that a 3-year Bachelor programme at undergraduate level is worth 180 credits, and a 2-year masters programme is worth 120 credits.  2 UK credits are worth 1 ECTS credit.
To ensure you reach 60 ECTS credit points it is important to ensure you complete the correct number of modules. For example, if each module is worth 10 ECTS credit points you must take 6 modules. Some modules may be worth more credits than others and will involve a larger workload and therefore you’ll need to spend more time on them.
ECTS credits can be transferred if you change programme or institution, as long as this is agreed with the degree-awarding institution in advance.
ECTS grading scale
The second component of ECTS is the grading scale. The grades are sorted through the use of A-F grades, mixed with short descriptions of their success.
The ECTS grading scale compares one student’s performance with others to assess which grades they receive. It separates students into either the pass or fail group. The pass group is then divided into five categories. Below shows how the group is divided to achieve their grades:

  • The best 10% receive an A grade
  • The next 25% receive a B grade
  • The next 30% receive a C grade
  • The next 25% receive a D grade
  • The final 10% receive an E grade

Those in the fail group are split into two categories. This allows for a distinction to be made between those who almost pass and those who were further away from passing due to lack of knowledge and skills. The group is divided as follows:
FX is given when some more work is required from the student in order to pass
F is given when a considerable amount of work is needed in order to pass
These grades, which have been calculated using the ECTS grading system can be converted in relation to the system found in other countries.
Although there are differences in these systems it is relatively straightforward to make comparisons, and therefore easy to translate grades if changing place of study or studying abroad for a year. Below shows an example of an ECTS grade compared to those of other countries:
ECTS A = U.S. Grade A to A+ = UK grade 70 or over (First)
The European Credit Transfer System may be difficult to get your head around at first, but if you are going to study abroad it is important to ensure you complete the number of ECTS credit points required.
To get more information on studying in Europe, you can take a look at our study in Europe directory and be sure to check out our advice on student visas too. Good luck in your studies and bye for now!

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