The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System, abbreviated as the brand name ECTS, is a credit point system which can be used for any type of learning in a life long learning perspective.
The System was initially set up in 1989 as a pilot scheme within the framework of the Erasmus programme. Its aim at that time was to facilitate the recognition of study periods undertaken abroad by mobile students through the transfer of credits. As a transfer system ECTS has expanded to over 30 countries and has been introduced in more than one thousand higher education institutions.
More than 40 Signatory States in the Bologna Process have identified ECTS as one of the cornerstones of the European Higher Education Area. A large number of countries have adopted ECTS by law as an accumulation system for their own higher education systems and others are in the process of doing so. In some countries ECTS has become a requirement for accreditation. The Zurich Conference on Credit Transfer and Accumulation, held in October 2002 by the European University Association, endorsed the central role of ECTS in higher education. ECTS has been identified as one of the key features of the Framework for Qualifications of The European Higher Education Area, adopted by the Minister of Higher Education at their Bologna-follow-up Conference in Bergen in May 2005. It is expected that ECTS will also play a crucial role in the design and development of national Qualification Frameworks. Schemes based on ECTS principles are also being introduced in other continents.
ECTS makes study programmes easy to read and compare. It can be used for all types of programmes, whatever their mode of delivery, and for lifelong learning purposes. It serves both mobile and non-mobile students: it can be used for accumulation within an institution and for transfer between institutions. ECTS helps learners moving between countries, within a country, town or region, as well as between different types of institutions; it also covers self-study and work experience.
The Diploma Supplement is another important transparency tool, closely linked to ECTS.