If you spend a certain period of your university studies abroad you want to make sure that your achievements are adequately recognised. This can enable you to complete your period of studies abroad as an equivalent to the same period you would be studying at your home institution. You don’t want to spend more time studying towards your degree than you have to. The best thing to do is to speak to your international relations office about Erasmus+ opportunities that are compatible with your current programme of studies. It may also be wise to speak with your programme tutor about the requirements of your specific programme of study.
You may already be used to seeing the ECTS credit values listed behind your courses at your home institution. It might surprise you to know that this system was actually developed as a pilot scheme within the framework of the Erasmus programme in 1989, in order to aid the recognition of study periods abroad. The system uses ECTS credits which are based on the workload a student needs to complete in order to achieve a certain learning outcome. Usually, you should be awarded one credit point for every 25-30 hours of work. This is an equivalent of 60 ECTS credit points per full-time year of study.
This transparent system comes with many advantages, especially if you wish to have your learning outcomes recognised internationally. For Erasmus+ studies, the ECTS allow for your credits awarded from one programme to be transferred into another. However, you should be aware that this will only be possible if the degree-awarding institution recognises the associated leaning outcomes.
There are three parties involved in getting your credits from an Erasmus+ study abroad period recognised: your home institution, the host university and yourself.
It is recommended that you set up a Learning Agreement for mobility to ensure that your home institution will automatically recognise any credits obtained as long as these were previously stipulated within the agreement. In the event that you obtain any other credits that were not originally listed in the agreement, it will be up to your home institution to decide whether the credits will be recognised or not. It is advisable to seek to amend the learning agreement in the event of any changes to the agreed programme of study.
If you are planning to study through a joint programme the rules for the recognition of credits may already be listed in the programmes regulations. In this case you may not need an additional learning agreement.
You can usually find learning agreement templates for Erasmus+ study abroad periods on the international office website of your home institution or on the webpages designated to education and training on the official website of the European Commission.
This template is then to be filled out with the programme of studies you plan to follow, your language competency and especially the educational components and learning outcomes you wish to be recognised by your home institution after your return.
Make sure you discuss your options with your programme tutor first in order to ensure you have chosen the most appropriate modules for yourself, as it is very difficult to change the agreement at a later stage. After your selection has been approved, the Learning Agreement needs to be signed by your home institution, the host institution as well as yourself.
By signing it, your host university confirms that you will be able to participate in the planned course units or modules and that they will provide you with the necessary learning activities. Your home institution confirms to recognise your gained credits at the host university and you confirm that you will complete the listed activities in order for them to be recognised.
It is a good idea for you to keep a copy of the learning agreement somewhere safe. A good place that is always accessible is your email account, for example. Together with the Transcript of Records, the Learning Agreement is essential to guarantee full recognition of your studies abroad.
Your Transcript of Records is the document that records your up-to-date progress at the end of each semester or year. These are often stored in your student file in the exams office of your home institution. Before you leave for your studies abroad, your home institution will send a copy of your current Transcript of Records to the host university in order to provide the host institution with all necessary information about the previously completed components of your programme. After your time abroad the host university will then send a Transcript of Records back to your home institution to certify the work you have completed during your studies abroad.
Depending on the requirements of your initial programme of study, your grades will either be converted into the equivalent grading system of your home institution or will be recognised in the form of PASS or FAIL.
Unless your time abroad was part of a placement, it is more common for your credits to be recognised with grades.
The grading systems vary substantially throughout Europe. It is important that you understand how your grades will be converted. A basic google search of the equivalence of the particular national grading systems will give you a first idea, however, it is always advisable to check with your home institution, what conversion they use before you leave, in order to help you understand the value of your grades abroad.