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ECTS credit allocation

European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS)

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is a student-centred system based on the student workload required to achieve the objectives of a programme, objectives preferably specified in terms of learning outcomes and competences to be acquired. ECTS makes teaching and learning in higher education more transparent across Europe and facilitates the recognition of all studies. The system allows for the transfer of learning experiences between different institutions, greater student mobility and more flexible routes to gain degrees. It also aids curriculum design and quality assurance.
ECTS was introduced in 1989, within the framework of Erasmus, part of the Socrates programme. ECTS is the only credit system which has been successfully tested and used across Europe. ECTS was set up initially for credit transfer. The system facilitated the recognition of periods of study abroad and thus enhanced the quality and volume of student mobility in Europe. Recently ECTS is developing into an accumulation system to be implemented at institutional, regional, national and European level. This is one of the key objectives of the Bologna Declaration of June 1999.

The university reform has introduced a system of university credits (CFU) for the first time in Italy in 1999. In Italy, CFU corresponds with ECTS. The principal objective has been to make studies more oriented towards the students, reducing the gap between the official and real length of courses as well as lowering the drop-out rate.

The main characteristics of the system are as follows:
  • the credits represent the student's total workload (class time, individual study, exam preparation, practical work etc.) and one credit is equivalent to 25 hours. 
The average full-time workload for one academic year is 60 credits which is equivalent to 1500 hours. Universities may opt for an increase or decrease in this total workload of a maximum 20% (1200-1800 hours), but they must justify this change.
  • The amount of time reserved for individual learning or other individual educational and training activities must not be lower than 50%, except for the courses that include practical or laboratory work.
  • Credits are earned once the student has passed the assessment for each course or activity.
  • The total or partial recognition of credits obtained by students wishing to continue their studies in a different degree programme or different institution is at the discretion of the educational authority, in accordance with the criteria and procedures of the university teaching regulations.
  • The teaching regulations of each university can provide for regular reassessment of credit allocation and indicate the minimum number of credits that must be achieved within a fixed period of time (in the case of full or part-time studies).
  • Universities can recognise credits for professional skills and experience, according to the regulations, as well as other skills and knowledge acquired in post-secondary level courses that have been set up and taught in collaboration with the university.

Examinations are graded according to a scale ranging from 0 to 30, with 18 as a pass mark. A cum laude may be added to the highest grade (30 e lode), as a mention of special distinction.

The final pass mark is 66, whereas the maximum final university degree grade is 110/110. For outstanding students degrees may be awarded cum laude.