Most universities throughout the world keep track of student progress using a credit system. Credits calculate a student’s workload, including contact hours, practical assignments, lab work, and self-study time at home. In Europe and The Netherlands a standard system is used to compare the performance of students in higher education institutions.
This system is called the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System, also known as ECTS.
The key features of ECTS
ECTS credits correspond with certain workload criteria attributed to a higher educational programme. Students gain credits when they successfully complete parts of the workload, achieving certain objectives and learning outcomes or competencies specific to their programme. In European Union countries and other collaborating European countries an academic year is made up of 60 ECTS credits. One credit point in The Netherlands is generally made up of about 28 hours of work, making the total workload for one year of study 1680 hours.
The workload includes time spent attending lectures or seminars, independent study time, and preparation for and completion of exams. Credits are also attributed to all educational components of a study programme, including modules, courses, work or study placements, time spent researching and writing a thesis, and more. Some components are allocated more credits than others based on how much time each component requires in relation to the workload of the entire programme.
Once a student has achieved certain learning outcomes specific to their programme of choice, credits will be awarded to the student. Students prove their competencies of these learning outcomes by taking exams, presenting dissertations, or completing other assessments successfully. These assessments are designed to show what the student knows, understands, or is able to do after finishing a component of a programme.
Credits are given based on the official length of a study programme. For example, a Bachelor’s programme of research university that generally lasts three years in The Netherlands requires a total number of 180 credits in order for a student to be awarded this degree.
Practical use of ECTS
Since ECTS is used across Europe, students can easily compare paths of study by looking at how many credits are attributed to each part of a programme. Both local and foreign students can use the system to gauge what their workloads would be like in specific studies. This system is useful for both students and institutions as it makes for a quick and simple comparison of objectives and achievements at the higher educational level.
Dutch Modern Migration Policy also requires full-time students to complete at least 30 credits per year to maintain their residence permit.