It is common for students, as they begin their academic adventure, to be confronted with many
unknown issues. One of them is the ECTS credits system. At first glance it seems quite complicated
and unclear. However, being familiar with it may bring many advantages, especially to those who
plan to complete a part of their studies or continue them abroad.
The ECTS credit system has already a quite long history – it was instituted by the European Commission
as one of the elements of the Erasmus programme. Since 2007 it is widely used among Polish higher
education institutions. ECTS stands for the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation, and its main
tasks are to unify the ways of studying at European universities and to make it easier for students to
receive credits for periods of study outside their home institution. This system is student-centered and
describes the student workload required to gain specific learning outcomes, namely knowledge, skills and
How ECTS credits are awarded?
The ECTS credit system is based on student workload needed to complete a given course or module. Its
main purpose is to reflect the workload of the specific learning activity in comparison to the workload of
a full-time academic year.
It is estimated that one ECTS credit corresponds to 25 to 30 study hours. Study hours are always
estimated on the basis of the workload of a typical student and are not directly linked to the number of
class hours (the so-called contact hours). Several components must be considered when determining study
– number of class hours (so-called contact hours) at a given stage of study (semester, year),
– time spent on individual studying or working in groups (preparing for class, collecting materials,
– working in the lab or preparing projects and home assignments),
– time spent on preparation for the final exams (oral and written),
– time required for mandatory students trainings.
ECTS credits are awarded for every learning activity (i.e. lectures, workshops, laboratories, seminars,
fieldwork, training periods), with the exception of psychical education classes to which ECTS credits are
not assigned. Credits are awarded to an individual student when the required learning outcomes have been
achieved and the course has been passed. The number of ECTS credits is unconditional and does not
depend on the grade obtained for the given learning activity.
How many ECTS credits should be accumulate during the academic year?
To complete the academic year, a student has to collect 60 ECTS credits (and to compete a semester – 30
ECTS credits). Asymmetrical distribution of credits between semesters is possible i.e., more credits
required to be gained in one semester than in another, though such difference should not be significant.
The number of ECTS credits required to obtain a degree is closely related to the cycle of studies and
amounts to for:
1st cycle studies of at least 180,
2nd cycle studies of at least 90,
long-cycle studies (5 year-long) of at least 300,
long-cycle studies (6 year-long) of at least 360.
If the student does not have enough of ECTS credits, he or she must gain them before the end of the last
semester in order to receive the diploma on time. All issues related to the shortage of ECTS credits are
regulated in the rules of study of the respective higher education institution.
ECTS credits and mobility period
The ECTS credits system makes the transfer of learning experience achieved at institution other than
home university much easier. Thanks to the transparent rules each student can easily estimate how many
subjects he or she should complete during the academic exchange to have it considered as a year
(semester) of studies at his/her Alma Mater. The satisfactory completion of a specific period of study at
another higher education institution does not, however, release from the obligation to take courses in the
major field of study, i.e. courses that provide adequate learning outcomes for specific branch of
Students who plan to do part of their studies or training periods as part of the Erasmus+ programme are
required to complete 30 ECTS credits in one semester or 60 ECTS credits over the entire academic year
during the mobility period. All details concerning the mobility are specified in a Learning Agreement.
Learning Agreement is to be entered into by three parties: the student, the sending institution and the
receiving institution and regulates issues such as: the list of courses that the student will take during the
mobility period and the number of ECTS credits allocated to the given learning activities. More
information and all guidelines are available at the mobility coordinators or at the units responsible for
Benefits of the ECTS credit system:
• provides transparent and comparable study program;
• improves recognition and transfer of learning experience (especially during the mobility period
abroad or within the country),
• validates and accepts further stages of education – makes it possible to take into account the
• achievements made in different periods of life, in different countries, in different universities and
beyond the traditional education system,
• assists the international cooperation of the academic community (especially in the European
Higher Education Area),
• enables comparison of study programs between Polish and foreign higher educational institutions
and thus contributes to building trust between higher educational institutions and employers,
• allows to create individual educational path.