When choosing to study at a higher education institution away from your home, it’s important to understand how your progress will be assessed during your studies. The majority of degree programmes consist of an accumulation of academic credits, which are a standard used to measure and evaluate the work of students. Many different credit systems can be used, depending on where you choose to study. We’re going to take a look at how the main 3 credit systems within international studies compare to each other. However, it’s important to remember that there are can be variations of how credits are awarded within individual institutions, this should become clear once you start researching into organisations. 

Europe (excluding the UK)

The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) has been the most frequently used credit system for European higher education institutions since 1989. This system awards 60 ECTS for one academic year of full-time study. One ECTS works out to be 25 – 30 hours of work. A year of studying (60 ECTS) equates to 1500 – 1800 hours of academic activity which can vary from classroom participation, study groups, self-study, internships, workshops and conferences. This allows flexibility to make a degree programme more practical based.  

Swiss School of Business Research uses the ECTS system.

United States

The majority of programmes based in the United States use the Semester Credit Hours (SCH) system, which calculates a full-time study at 30 US credits per year. 

One US Credit is a calculation of weeks worth of work, which should consist of one-third of classroom participation and two-thirds of self-study or activities outside of the class. The total amount of work required to gain one US credit is between 45 to 50 hours of which 15 hours should be in contact with tutors, study groups or attending class. 

 United Kingdom

Most UK organisations offering undergraduate and postgraduate programmes adopt the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) or sometimes referred to as units. There are 2 academic semesters per year and an academic semester awards 60 CATS. One year of study is worth 120 CATS. One unit is awarded for 10 study hours in order to achieve a learning outcome. 

How do they compare?

Europe (ECTS)



1 year of full time study 




If a university is required to convert credits in order to accept a student onto a porgramme, in most cases they would use the following conversion:

  • 1 US Credit
  • 2 ECTS
  • 4 CATS 

Although some universities may use their own internal conversion, this should be discussed with the admissions team when making enquiries.

Other Credit Systems

Although these are the 3 most internationally recognised credit systems, not all institutions within that region will use the associated system. Additionally, some organisations may choose to use their own internal credit systems, often referred to as ‘local credits’ 

Universities handle credit conversions and transfers on a regular basis. If in doubt, pose the question to them directly. 

The team at SSBR are always happy to discuss the practicalities of ECTS credits and what that will mean for future studies. We also accept the transfer of credits from many organisations across the globe, if you wish to continue your studies with us. 

Get in touch with one of our admissions team to find out more:

Email: info@ssbr-edu.ch

Insta: @swissschoolofbusinessresearh

Facebook: @swissschoolofbusinessresearh

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