The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) was introduced in 1989 as part of the Erasmus exchange scheme (within the Socrates learning programme). ECTS is the European system for accumulating and transferring students’ achievements. Its purpose is to ensure that all student attainments at higher educational institutions within Europe can be accredited and taken into account if the student switches to an institution abroad. This is enabled through earning credit points – that’s to say transferable higher-education units which are attained during course assessment.
ECTS facilitates the mobility of students and also further improves the quality of taught courses within Europe. For instance, those responsible for a course of study can quickly visualise whether the relationship between the compulsory units and free-choice units within a subject is one desired by potential students. Furthermore, the guidelines for ECTS are not just based on the number of hours spent at the institution, but also based on the amount of work and effort necessary to pass a subject. Students can even receive an approximate overview of the amount of time and work required for a particular subject.
The basis of ECTS is therefore agreement upon the amount of time of work students must dedicate to a subject/course of study in order to pass successfully. This overall amount of time includes not only attending the different subjects, but also the amount of practice, preparation time and completing exams, as well as participating in obligatory concerts and performances. ECTS is therefore reflective of a student’s acquired abilities, skills and knowledge.
ECTS is essentially based upon a student week of 40 hours, with 38 weeks of tuition per year. This totals around 1500 hours per year. 60 ECTS credit points are allocated to 1500 hours work (so 60 credit points per academic year, or 30 credit points per semester). 1 ECTS credit point is therefore allocated to 25 hours work from the student (this is legally fixed in Austria). ECTS should also serve as a guideline as to how much time and commitment is required for a subject. If 2 ECTS points are awarded to a subject, then around 50 hours in total should be spent working for this subject. The student should therefore have a good overview of how much time should be dedicated to the subject outside of teaching hours at the institution.
The individual units of the ECTS package at the Prayner Conservatory in Vienna provide important basic information for students and applicants, such as study plans and prospectuses for each course.