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ECTS - Overview

What is ECTS?
ECTS, the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System, was developed by the European Commission as a Europe-wide academic points system to be used as a formal instrument for the guidance, calculation and certification of academic workload. The goal is to provide a simplified, unified method for recognition, transfer and accumulation of academic performance records among different (European) universities. In the ECTS, academic performance can be assessed, compared and transferred from one university to another in the form of grades and calculated points (also called credits or performance points).

ECTS is a decentralized system based on mutual trust among the participating postsecondary schools. This includes:

  • Information (about the programme of courses)
  • Understanding (reinforced through academic exchanges/Learning Agreements between the home and host universities) and
  • Transfer of credits (as a measure of work done).

The point system is prerequisite for the accreditation of new programmes of study and is always bound to the modulisation of the curriculum.


How does ECTS work?
The ECTS performance point system is based on the amount and quality of work done by the student. This includes the entire academic effort and workload necessary to pass a course examination, i.e., ECTS credits will only be awarded for successful performance. The workload for an academic year totals to 60 ECTS credits. Thus students should generally earn 30 credits per semester. The entire workload calculated in to earned credits includes:

  • Regular presence and participation in courses
  • Self-directed study (preparation and revision)
  • Active participation in courses
  • Fulfilment of course requirements (e.g. written notes, typed protocol)
  • Some form of evaluation (e.g. oral presentation, written test, essay)

It is important that no special courses be developed for the ECTS program. All ECTS courses should be normal courses regularly offered by the university in which full-time degree students also participate. ECTS credits will be granted for internships and electives which are a normal part of a programme of study, but not those which are not part of a study programme. Participation in courses which are not assigned any ECTS credits may nevertheless be recorded in the official documentation of students' academic performance.


Key documents
Within the ECTS a multitude of tools has been developed to help ensure that exchange students receive recognition of their cumulative academic performance. The practical conversion of ECTS is regulated through three key documents:

  • An informational packet (general Study Guide, ECTS information, course catalogue, module catalogue),
  • A Learning Agreement (Studienvertrag) among students, their home university and their host university,
  • A Transcript of Records (Datenabschrift) to certify passed courses.

Informational packet
The Study Guide provides an initial orientation to the FSU Jena: it contains general information about the university and possible programmes of study, and offers practical information about life in Jena and in Germany. The Study Guide can be downloaded from the internet site of the International Office both in German and in English.

Information about study programmes and courses at the FSU Jena is available online in the electronic course catalogue "Friedolin" and in the module catalogues of the individual institutes and departments. Here, students can find a description of the goals, prerequisites, academic evaluation, and - as far as possible - information about the ECTS credits awarded for each course. The ECTS pages on the website of the International Office also contain information about the granting of credits.

Studienvertrag/Learning Agreement
The Learning Agreement is arranged among the home and host universities and the student. It documents the study programme which the student is to complete during his or her exchange and ensures the recognition by the home university of the student's academic performance in each course successfully completed at the host university. Therefore a clear understanding of the Learning Agreement is the most important prerequisite for the acknowledgment of the student's performance.

Students choose the courses they wish to take from the electronic course catalogue "Friedolin" and confirm their choices with the coordinators of their exchange at their home and host universities. This agreement is then signed by the student, the coordinators at the host and home universities, and the international offices at both universities. If necessary, the courses agreed upon in the Learning Agreement can be altered or corrected in a new Agreement or in an appendix to the Agreement.

Datenabschrift/ Transcript of Records
The recognition of students' academic performance is facilitated through Transcripts of Records. After the end of the semester, all successfully completed courses and modules, grades earned in the local system, ECTS credits granted and ECTS grades are entered into a student's Transcript.

The Transcript of Records is not created automatically, or via Friedolin. At the FSU Jena, registration of courses through Onleila and the submission of a certified record of the student's performance in all courses (Course Card) to the International Office are prerequisite to the creation of the student's Transcript of Records. The Transcript of Records is then created by the International Office. Upon returning to his or her home university, the student presents the Transcript of Records to the relevant academic department or examination office to permit the acknowledgment of his or her academic achievements while at the FSU.

Please note: all visiting students who study at the FSU Jena for one or two semesters and who are not working towards a degree from the FSU must register their courses via Onleila. Following registration in Onleila, all documents will be created which are necessary for the recognition students' academic performance at the FSU by their home universities. These are the Learning Agreement and the Transcript of Records. Additionally, students receive Course Cards following registration, where their academic performance, grades and credits earned in each course will be entered and certified; these are the basis for Transcripts of Records.


Evaluation of academic performance in the ECTS system and awarding of credits
Each faculty offering courses must assign a certain number of ECTS credits to each course. The number of credits that each course is worth must be clearly listed in the module catalogue and course catalogue, as must the prerequisites, requirements, and evaluation method for each course. Prerequisites and ECTS credit number must be listed for entire modules as well as for each module component, as visiting students may participate in parts of modules as well as in entire modules. The number of ECTS credits for each course should be standardized, transparent, and publicly available. Internal rules must be comprehensible and traceable for everyone involved and must be shared with the International Office.

Credits will be awarded for the successful completion of each course. The average student workload of a course is used to decide how many credits it is worth. The average student workload is measured in hours and comprises the following:

  • Presence in the course (weekly hours per semester)
  • Self-directed study (e.g. preparation, revision, studying for examinations, literature study)
  • Refresher courses
  • Examination preparation and examination time

The average student workload per year is ca. 1800 hours, for which 60 ECTS credits are granted - or 30 ECTS credits per semester. Thus one ECTS credit corresponds to an average student workload of ca. 30 hours. The number of ECTS credits awarded for each course is calculated from the average student hours spent on that course per semester.

2 SWS = 30 contact hours = 30 work hours = 1 ECTS credit

Thus if a seminar is worth 5 ECTS credits, this corresponds to an average student workload of 150 working hours.

This basic calculation also shows students how much work they should expect to do in order to earn credit for a course. Credits are only granted for successful completion of courses. Alongside the factors listed above, the following prerequisites for earning credits must also be fulfilled:

  • Active participation in courses
  • Fulfilment of requirements in courses (e.g. written notes, typed protocols)
  • Some form of evaluation (e.g. oral presentation, written test, essay)
  • The evaluation of student performance in the ECTS system takes into account:
  • Grade (according to the local grading scale)
  • ECTS credits (or "points")
  • ECTS grade

Grade (according to the local grading scale)
Students' performance is documented according to local standards using the German grading scale. Grades are issued for evaluations such as written examinations, essays, etc. The methods of evaluation for each course are settled by the institute or department offering that course. The grades awarded are not directly associated with earned credits. The grades awarded at the FSU Jena are based on the following scale:

 German Grade  Verbal Definition
 1.0 to 1.5  excellent
 1.6 to 2.5  good
 2.6 to 3.5  satisfactory
 3.6 to 4.0  sufficiant
 4.1 to 5.0  failed

ECTS Credits
ECTS credits are not grades, but rather a type of conversion system which translates working time to credits. The number of credits awarded for each course is decided by the institute or department offering the course and can be found in module catalogues, on the ECTS pages of the International Office website or - as far as possible - in the online course catalogue "Friedolin".

Only in exceptional cases may individualized agreements regarding the awarding of credits be made. This is only possible in the case of an unusually large or small workload, which must be evidenced and justified.

No credits will be granted for presence or participation in a course without fulfilling the evaluation requirements, or for courses which are not successfully completed.

ECTS Grade
The grades in 1) are supplemented by ECTS grades. ECTS grades do not replace the local grading scale, but rather serve as "translation assistance". The ECTS grading scale was developed to simplify the conversion of grades earned in international academic exchanges to the grading scale of the home university.

The supplementation of the local grade with the ECTS grade is essential for the transfer of credits because ECTS grades contain important information about students' average relative performance. ECTS grades are intended to compare a student's performance with the performance of his or her peers. Thus statistical data about student performance in a course are required for the use of the ECTS grading system. The grading scale orders students according to statistical factors and works as follows:

Assuming a total of 100%, a student receives the grade "A" if his or her performance was within the top 10% of the group, the grade "B" is given for a performance within the next 25%, and so forth. The full ECTS grading scale is:

 ECTS Grade

of students who have successfully completed course requirements
percentage which may generally receive this grade


 10 %


 25 %


 30 %


 25 %


 10 %


 Improvements required before credit may be granted


 substential improvements required

It is not required to record failing grades (FX or F) in the Transcript of Records.

Ideally, the comparison group should not consist of the direct cohort of students, i.e., the other students in the current semester, but rather statistical data from total participants in a course over multiple semesters. Standardized courses should be offered, and statistical data on students' performance in these courses should be maintained by the course instructors.

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