Credits measure workload. They quantitatively describe learning achievements and are awarded to the learner upon successful completion of a given unit of a study programme and/or a complete programme. Credits do not normally take the level of performance into consideration unless otherwise specified. Credits are used to quantify learning in terms of learning outcomes, relating to the workload of learning involved to reach a particular learning outcome.

Different credit systems exists across various sectors and levels of education worldwide. A credit system may be limited to a single institution, to a specific national context or may be applied across different national education systems, such as the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS).

Credit Accumulation

Credit accumulation is the term used to describe the process of collecting credits allocated to the learning achievements of units within a programme. Upon the successful accumulation of a specified amount of credits in required subjects, a learner may be entitled to be awarded the final qualification or to gain access to the final examinations leading to a qualification. The process of credit accumulation is determined by the credit system in which it operates and often allows for a flexible learning path. The process of credit accumulation may differ across different credit systems.

Credit Transfer

While credit accumulation refers to the collection of credits within one credit system, credit transfer refers to the process of transferring credits gained in one credit system or institution to another credit system or institution with the same goal of achieving a given amount of credits in order to receive a specific qualification. Thus, credit transfer may facilitate the recognition of prior learning and can be a fundamental tool when it comes to lifelong learning and mobility. Successful credit transfer across educational systems can be achieved through agreements between different awarding bodies and/or education providers. Credit frameworks can help facilitate mutual recognition of measurable learning. This can encourage further learning, allowing students to transfer between or within institutions without interruption of their studies and to maintain a clear record of achievements and credit transcripts.

A number of credit systems are available designed to facilitate and incorporate credit transfer across different education systems, such as ECTS for higher education and the European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) for vocational education in Europe. One of the key benefits of using a common or similar credit framework is that they can ease a student’s entry into the international education arena and enhance mobility.

Progressive qualification frameworks focus on credits being assigned to a specific qualification level and allow for flexible learning paths by facilitating both credit accumulation and transfer at a national level.


Grades describe the quality of learning achievements and rate the student’s performance at a particular level. A grading system usually includes a range of numbers, letters or descriptors indicating a level of achievement such as fail, pass or merit. Grading systems and marking criteria vary among different education systems and often between different levels of education. Grades can be awarded based on internal (institutional) assessment or external examination, or both. The very nature of grading systems and grading cultures makes it difficult if not impossible to accurately convert grades from one system to another.