Bologna Process: Credit System

Education in Europe: The Bologna Credit System

The Bologna Process aims to achieve a more harmonised higher education system in Europe, resulting in the European Higher Education Area. The aim of the process is to promote student and academic mobility, to make higher education more accessible and inclusive, and to increase its attractiveness and competitiveness. It aims to create a common educational space in Europe by harmonising standards for academic degrees and ensuring the quality of education for every faculty in all countries. The name of the process comes from its proposal by the University of Bologna and signed in 1999 by the Ministers of Education of 48 European countries in the city of Bologna, Italy.

Within the framework of the European Higher Education Area, all participating countries agreed to:

  • introduce a three-cycle system of higher education consisting of bachelor's, master's and doctoral studies;
  • ensure mutual recognition of qualifications and periods of study abroad completed at other universities;
  • implement a quality assurance system to improve the quality and relevance of learning and teaching.

Why is the Bologna Process important?

Through the Bologna Process, European governments are actively discussing policy reforms in higher education with the aim of overcoming obstacles to the formation of a European Higher Education Area.

The Bologna Initiative plays a key role in establishing trust for successful student mobility, the development of cross-border academic cooperation and the mutual recognition of educational periods and qualifications obtained abroad. The main objective of the Bologna Process is also to improve the quality and relevance of learning and teaching. However, the implementation of these reforms is heterogeneous among the 48 participating countries.

The Bologna Process also provides a forum for dialogue with neighbouring countries on higher education reforms and for discussing common academic principles such as university independence and student participation in civil society. It has become an important mechanism for 'soft diplomacy' with the neighbouring countries of the Western Balkans, the Eastern Partnership countries and Turkey, as well as many other countries.

What is Bologna process?

What is the Bologna Credit System?

The Bologna Credit System in education is a systematic approach to describing an educational programme by assigning credits to each of its components. The definition of credits in higher education can depend on various parameters such as the amount of study load, student achievement and the length of classroom time.

The Bologna Credit System facilitates the recognition of educational achievements and the exchange of courses between universities, which contributes to the harmonisation of higher education in Europe and increases its global competitiveness.

What is ECTS?

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is a credit system designed to meet the needs of students and based on the definition of the study load required to achieve the objectives of educational programmes. It is important to clearly define these objectives, including the desired learning outcomes and skills learnt.


ECTS facilitates the understanding and comparison of study programmes for all students, including both domestic and international students. The system also facilitates mobility and the recognition of academic achievements. It helps universities to organise and revise their curricula and can be applied across different study programmes and modes of study. ECTS makes higher education in Europe more attractive to students from different countries.

What are the main features of ECTS?

ECTS is based on the agreement that 60 credits represent a student's workload over the course of an academic year in full-time study. Typically, an academic year in Europe lasts 36/40 weeks and during this period a student spends on average between 24 and 30 hours studying. Load refers to the approximate amount of time the average student has to spend to achieve certain learning outcomes.

Credit is also a way of quantifying learning outcomes. Learning outcomes are a set of skills that a student should possess regardless of the length of study. ECTS credits are awarded only after the required work has been completed and the learning outcomes have been assessed accordingly.

The allocation of ECTS credits is based on the official duration of the educational programme. For example, a Bachelor's degree, which usually requires 3-4 years of study, requires 180 to 240 credits to be earned.

A student's ECTS load includes time spent listening to lectures, participating in seminars, independent work, preparing for exams, etc.

Credits are allocated to all educational components of the programme of study (modules, disciplines, internships, dissertation writing, etc.) and reflect the amount of work required to complete each component according to the total amount of work required to complete a full year of study on the programme. Student success is assessed using local/national assessments and additional ECTS assessments are recommended, especially in the case of transfer credits. The assessment of student success in the ECTS system is based on statistical data, and the distribution of grades among students with a grade above satisfactory is as follows:

  • A - top 10%;
  • B - next 25%;
  • C - next 30%;
  • D - next 25%;
  • E - next 10%.

For failing students, there are FX and F grades. There is a difference between the two, which is that FX means: "failed to do any part of the work required to receive a grade above unsatisfactory" and F: "failed to do all the work required". The inclusion of FX and F grades on the grade transcript is optional.

БUniversity of Bologna - alma mater studiorum

What documents are required for ECTS?

  • An up-to-date information pack/ catalogue of institutions in two languages (or English only for programmes taught in that language), posted on the Internet and/ or published in full text in one or more brochures. The Information Pack/ Discipline Catalogue must contain a document that enables the international student to obtain the information he/she is interested in.
  • The educational agreement contains a list of the disciplines to be studied by the student, agreed with the responsible department of the institution where the student will study. In the event that credits need to be transferred, the Learning Agreement must be agreed between the student, the old and the new institution before the student leaves for the new institution and updated as changes occur.
  • The transcript of grades (Academic transcript) reflects the student's academic progress, showing the list of courses studied, credits obtained and localised grades (possibly ECTS grades). In the case of credit transfer, the transcript of grades is issued before the student's departure, to his/her institution, and to another institution to the student coming to study at the end of the term.

In general, the Bologna Process can be called one of the most significant events in the history of European education. It has brought European countries closer to the creation of a unified educational space that meets modern challenges and tasks. And the Bologna Credit System standardises the assessment of students' educational achievements in higher education, ensuring their international recognition and comparability.


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