The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) aims to increase the transparency of teaching and learning, and facilitate the recognition of formal, non-formal and informal studies.

The system applies across Europe to the transfer and recognition of academic performance (to promote student mobility) and the accumulation of qualifications (periods of study contributing to the attainment of a university degree). ECTS also provides guidance on curriculum design and quality assurance for degree programmes.

The system allocates credits based on the student’s workload, i.e. the amount of time required to achieve the desired learning outcomes, which in turn include all elements needed to obtain a positive grade (including contact time, homework and seminar papers, photocopying, research, examination preparation, and laboratory and practical work). Student workload typically amounts to between 1,500 and 1,800 hours per academic year (equivalent to 60 ECTS credits). One credit is equivalent to a workload of 25–30 hours, meaning that students completing one semester receive 30 ECTS credits. ECTS key documents – course catalogues and descriptions, learning agreements, transcripts of records and diploma supplements – are a key component in the credit transfer and accumulation system.

ECTS credits also indicate the level of performance required for vertical mobility and admission to higher-level degree courses. However, final responsibility for performance-related decisions rests with the universities themselves.