International Education: Understanding Academic Credits

international students

Statistics show that millions of students seek to study outside of their country of origin. More often than not, they enroll in Western universities. The difference in education among countries makes it hard for international students to adjust to the higher education system in their host country, thereby affecting them academically and socially. Due to this, educators came up with academic credit systems to help students to cope up with their new environments better and for institutions to evaluate their qualifications before their entry to a university.

In this article, we will tackle two types of academic credit systems: the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) and Semester Credit Hours (SCH) and quarter credits.

What is the European Credit Transfer System?

This is a points system adopted by 29 European countries to improve the international competitiveness of the European Higher Education system. The European Credit Transfer System or ECTS was created primarily to help students in higher education to obtain the credits required for studying abroad. With this credit system, students who want to get a Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, or PhD in other European countries can use the credits they gained from their home country to get into their chosen international universities and programs of choice.

In this type of credit system, students are evaluated or given credits based on the workload they gained when completing a course or unit. Basically, a student gets one ECTS point for 25-30 learning hours rendered. 60 ECTS points can be obtained by a year of full-time studies. The number of hours, though, may differ from country to country. ECTS are primarily used for transferring from one university to another, applying for a higher degree of study, and studying abroad.

Sometimes, ECTS is mistaken or used interchangeably with Recognition of Prior Learning or RPL. ECTS is primarily used to accumulate and transfer credits for the purpose of lifelong learning while RPL is an assessment used to recognize a person’s skills and knowledge that were acquired through previous studies, training, and work experiences.

For students to be granted RPL credits, they must be able to show evidence that their experiences and competences are authentic and up to date. They may have to undergo interviews, written examinations, voluntary work, practical demonstration, and a genuine portfolio of evidence that they indeed have gone through such experiences. Students with RPL may attend classes at a shortened period.

RPL is also used primarily to assess a person’s trade qualifications, standing in a profession, academic achievement, recruitment, performance management, and the person’s career and succession plans. It allows people to show that they are qualified to undertake a task or to work in their chosen industries based on the pieces of evidence they present and on the level of learning and amount of knowledge they gained.

What is Semester Credit and Quarter Credits?

This is a credit system used by American universities. In this type of credit system, the students must obtain the required number of credits to be able to graduate from a certain program. The credits are used as a basis to know whether the student has met the requirements for a Bachelor’s program or Master’s Degree or if he or she should take a preparation program first before being admitted to his or her program of choice. The credits gained from this system has a huge influence on the student’s GPA. They can also influence the amount of tuition that a student needs to pay to complete his or her degree.

Credits are easy to obtain under the semester credit hours and quarter credits system. The students only need to study and pass all their classes. Each class has an equivalent number of credits, and if the student is able to pass all classes, he or she will be awarded all the credits.

Semester and quarter credits are given in the same manner and for the same purpose, although they differ in certain areas. Semester credits are gained within two terms in a given academic year. Quarter credits, on the other hand, are given by quarter. Whether a student is given a semester credit or quarter unit depends on the school where he or she is currently enrolled.

Quarter units, though, may be converted to semester units if the student decides to attend another school that does not follow the same credit system as the previous one. Semester units may also be converted to quarter units.

The main purpose of educational credit systems is to ensure that all students are given easy access to international schools should they wish to study outside of their home countries. The credit systems are primarily put in place to help students achieve the academic objectives they wish to attain no matter which country they wish to study in.


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