Credit is used to express learning in terms of volume and, in the UK generally, is linked to intellectual demand by designating the level at which credit is gained. Credit is awarded after a student has successfully completed a block of learning, which may be a module, a unit, or a qualification.
In the UK and increasingly in Europe, credit systems are based on what the successful student is expected to be able to do at the end of their studies ('learning outcomes') rather than the time taken to complete them. Most universities and colleges in England have used credit for many years. Many belong to credit consortia, such as SEEC and the Northern Universities Consortium for Credit Accumulation and Transfer (NUCCAT).
Many institutions operate credit accumulation and transfer schemes (CATS). These allow students to build up a qualification from smaller modules or units, to break off and return to their studies, or to have their learning recognised on transfer to a different institution. But the decision to recognise and accept credit has always been a matter for individual HEIs.
Credit plays an important role in recording student achievement and providing support for progression both into and within HE. It is a key tool for promoting flexible and lifelong learning. It plays an important part in Lifelong Learning Networks and supports student mobility within the UK and the rest of Europe.
There is an explanation of how credit is used in HE on the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) web-site, including a downloadable guide.
In August 2008, the QAA published the Credit framework for higher education in England. This is the first national credit framework, and was developed following the recommendations of the Measuring and Recording Student Achievement ('Burgess') Group, chaired by Professor Bob Burgess, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester.
The framework is broad, overarching and advisory, and is based on existing practice in HEIs in England. Its purpose is to provide a reference point for institutions wishing to introduce or consolidate their use of credit. It also aims to achieve a more consistent use of credit across the sector.
The Burgess Group encouraged institutions to credit-rate all their main HE provision by the start of the academic year 2009-10, and to include credit values in published descriptions of HE programmes.
The QAA, Universities UK and GuildHE carried out a survey of the implementation of the Higher education credit framework for England in summer 2009. This shows that a large majority of English HEIs are using credit, and that most have aligned their credit arrangements with the framework.
The English HE credit framework is aligned with The Framework for HE Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ). A statement published by the QAA explains the relationship between the two frameworks, and how they relate to academic standards. The QAA has issued a verification of compatibility between the FHEQ and the overarching Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area (FQ-EHEA). This will encourage Bologna Process signatory countries to recognise UK qualifications, and increase the mobility and employability of UK students.
The Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) is a framework for recognising and accrediting vocational qualifications across all education sectors. The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency has produced an introduction to the QCF for HEIs (Adobe PDF), and a more detailed publication on how the QCF relates to higher education (Adobe PDF). The Joint Forum for Higher Levels (JFHL) aims to promote better understanding of the relationship between the QCF and the English HE credit framework. It has developed 'Overarching principles and operational criteria for a common approach to credit' across the two sectors to support progression from further to higher education. The autonomy of HEIs means that credit transfer between further and higher education is not automatic, but the work of the JFHL will help to make the transfer process easier.
The English credit HE framework recognises the European credit transfer and accumulation system (ECTS). ECTS uses a different system of credits from long-standing UK practice, but the equivalent ECTS values for each credit level are included in the English framework. The UK HE Europe Unit has published guidance on the relationship between the national arrangements for credit in HE in England and ECTS (MS Word).
Page last updated 21 July 2011