Student Advice

What is the ECTS?

Ben Maples  · Mar 26th 2024  · 5 min

Looking to study abroad? Get an idea of what your grades will look like! It’s time to look at the grading systems used in European nations.


The ECTS system was invented to help students who are looking to study abroad transfer their grades from their home country to the education system they’re looking to join.

ECTS Credits UK

What is ECTS?

The ECTS is the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System. The ECTS is a way of comparing academic credits across the EU.

ECTS credits are allocated when a student successfully completes their studies in certain subjects. Most students will need ECTS points to progress through the EU, and it also has a grading scale. Though there are other grading systems prevalent across Europe, the ECTS is the most commonly recognised and is at the discretion of the learning provider in how they apply the ECTS grading scale to their own system.

What are ECTS credits actually good for?

The ECTS are mainly used to make student performance more transparent across Europe. Effectively, if you want to study in Europe, you now have something that tells foreign institutes how you’ve been performing.

This also makes it easier to find work. Most employers will have heard of the ECTS and the various equivalencies. Therefore, it is easier to find gainful employment when abroad now.

The ECTS are even helpful when you drop out of university too! If you do decide to leave your course early, then the ECTS will show your existing academic achievements, so you won't need to re-take any qualifications again if you don't want to.

ECTS to UK Credits

What is the ECTS grading scale?

The ECTS grading scale is defined by the ECTS itself and the European Commission. The ECTS scale was developed to ensure that every grade from every country has value elsewhere in Europe and the supporting countries.

The ECTS grades are worked out like this:

Degree Class Percentage Score ECTS Grade
First-Class Degree 70%-100% A
Upper Second-Class Degree 60%-69% B
Lower Second-Class Degree 50%-59% C
Third Class Degree 40%-49% D
Fail 0-39% E or F

As you can see, the ECTS grade system works out in a letter grade assignment depending on the percentage you receive.

What are 60 ECTS credits?

The way an ECTS credit is awarded is in stages. One academic year is the equivalent of 60 ECTS credits.

You can use an ECTS credit calculator and see how many credits you have, but it’s easy to work out that one year of academic study is the equivalent of 60 credits.

ECTS meaning

How many ECTS Credits in a Masters Degree?

A Master's degree is equivalent to 60 ECTS credits. As it is a postgraduate degree, it will likely carry a bit more weight than an undergraduate degree; there may also be a few more points that you can earn depending on the grade you received, but more often than most, it will be equivalent to 60 ECTS points.

How do ECTS points work in relation to study hours?

Study hours vary from country to country and are dependent on what formula the country uses to work out points. You will need to put the time in. For instance, in some countries, 1 ECTS point is equivalent to twenty hours of study, while others may consider it as twenty-seven hours of study.

The table below should explain in more detail.

Country 1 ECTS Point Equivalent 60 ECTS Points Equivalent
United Kingdom 20 hours 1,200 hours
Austria, Ireland,
Italy & Malta
25 hours 1,500 hours
Finland, Lithuania
& Sweden
27 hours 1,600 hours
Holland & Portugal 28 hours 1,680 hours
Germany 30 hours 1,800 hours

As you can see by the table above, all countries (except the UK) consider 1 ECTS point to be between 25 and 30 hours.

These points do not include “contact hours”, which is time spent in the classroom or in lectures, so your overall learning hours may be very different in the grand scheme of things. These can also change if you are studying a part-time course and will likely be lower.

Do I need to have ECTS Credits to apply for a PhD?

ECTS credits are not essential when applying for a PhD, however, as the application process for PhDs or Doctorates is a little different than other postgraduate qualifications.

It will make your application process easier if you have some ECTS credits, as these will show that you have tangible proof of working prior to application. If you have ECTS and a universal qualification such as an International Baccalaureate, then your application process will probably be even easier.

Do I need to have ECTS credits when applying for a Master’s Degree?

Again, there is no real hard and fast rule when it comes to applying for qualifications, even a PhD or a Master’s degree. However, as with a PhD, it will likely make your job even easier to have some ECTS credits to aid your application.

If you do have ECTS credits and are applying for a Master’s degree, then it is worth bearing in mind that almost all universities will have minimum ECTS requirements for each subject. For instance, some universities may require you to have 45 ECTS points to study an English Literature degree.

ECTS Credits Conversion

Which countries use the ECTS credit system?

The following countries use the ECTS credit system.

EU Members:

EFTA Members:


  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • England
  • Georgia
  • Montenegro
  • Northern Ireland
  • North Macedonia
  • Scotland
  • Serbia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • Wales

Can I convert ECTS points into American credits?

Yes, you can. The conversion rate for ECTS to American credits is 2:1, meaning that if you earned 60 ECTS credits, they would convert into 30 American credits.

This may not always be the case, though. Not all American universities use the same credit system, so you will need to check with the university beforehand.

undergraduate Uni's

Get your questions answered by sending them an enquiry now.