The study credits concept is one of the most important elements of the Flemish higher education system.
The number of study credits you use and earn is used to measure your success, study progress and social status as a student. The learning account, which determines your right to higher education, is expressed in study credits. Your tuition fees, scholarship and family allowance are also determined on the basis of your study credits.
What are study credits?
As a new student, you will no doubt see the term 'study credits' everywhere. Some will say that you have to "take a programme worth 60 study credits", while others will say that study credits are the same as the "learning account". But who's right? Actually, they are both right. Study credits are used as an accounting unit in higher education.
The number of study credits a programme component or module has is an indication of its weight in your overall programme. One study credit represents between 25 and 30 hours of study time. Study time means: attending educational activities (lectures, practicals, exercises, etc.), the time you spend on preparing, studying, sitting exams, doing exercises and writing papers or completing other assignments which are used to assess your progress.
Every programme component has at least three study credits. A full-time academic year is therefore worth 60 study credits, or between 1500 and 1800 hours of study. An academic year consists of 40 weeks (class and exam weeks, holidays and the first exam session), so this means that on average you need to spend 45 hours a week on your studies. If you're taking a programme which involves a lot of practicals, this may even amount to 50 or 60 hours of study a week.
Study credits, then, are primarily a means of measuring your programme's workload. A Bachelor programme is worth 180 study credits and most Master programmes are worth either 60 or 120 study credits. Study credits also count towards your results: the marks you receive (between 0 and 20) are weighted on the basis of each programme component's study credits. This means that the results you get for a programme component worth a lot of study credits will have a bigger influence on your overall results.
Study credits are also used as a means of calculating your tuition fees. You are free to choose how many credits you want to use (you might choose to study part-time, for example, and use fewer credits while spreading the workload of your programme over time) and tuition fees are therefore calculated according to the number of study credits you use when you enrol. For this reason, study credits are also used to determine your social status (family allowance, scholarship, and so on).
Finally, the Government of Flanders own study progress and learning account principles also make use of study credits as a unit of measurement. The 140 study credits you receive from the Government of Flanders as a learning account are not to be confused with the 180 study credits which make up your Bachelor programme, for example. In both cases, the unit of measurement is the study credit. The former, however, is credit which you should use and spend very carefully, while the latter is a measurement of your Bachelor programme's workload.
What does using study credits mean?
First, you enrol as a student at the university with the central student administration. Once you have enrolled, you need to request the faculty's approval for your chosen study programme, which will consist of a number of programme components, each worth a certain number of study credits.
If your study programme is approved, the corresponding number of study credits will be deducted from your learning account. This also determines the tuition fees you will have to pay. In some cases, the faculty may make changes to or even reject your programme, for study progress control reasons, for example, or because of course sequence prerequisites.
When enrolling, you can choose either a model programme or a personalised programme. You can also choose to take a reduced programme, if you wish. If you encounter problems during your studies, for example, it may be worth reducing the number of study credits you are working towards. This can be useful if you have to refresh or add to your prior knowledge, or if you wish to combine part-time studies with other activities.
Contact your faculty's student administration for information, advice and assistance when putting together your study programme. If you have more specific or complicated questions, contact a study programme counsellor.
What does earning study credits mean? Obtaining credits!
During the first and the second semesters, you sit exams for the programme components you're enrolled in. You can also be assessed in different ways, by means of exercises, assignments, papers and so on. This can also take place during the semester, in the form of continuous assessment.
Your goal is to pass the programme components included in your approved study programme. The University of Antwerp uses the study credit system. You can pass a programme component if you achieve a score of at least 10 out of 20. Passing means you have earned that component's study credits, which entitles you to a credit certificate (valid for at least five years).
In order to get your degree, you need to obtain credit certificates for all of the programme components included in your study programme. If your marks were not sufficient for a given course, you will need to take it again the following year in order to obtain the credit certificate. You can only be 'deliberated' - i.e. given a pass for a module you actually failed - at the end of the programme, which is not ideal. Any gaps will be indicated in your diploma supplements and you will not earn study credits for these courses.
For the time being, these 'deliberations' only take place at the end of the Bachelor programme and it looks likely that the practice will soon be abolished altogether. In order to receive a Master degree, you need to obtain all of the credit certificates in the Master programmes.
Remember to take programme components' course sequence prerequisites into account. They require you to have passed certain programme components before moving on to the next one in your study programme. You can find more information about this subject online and in the electronic learning environment.
You can also find more information about the credit system in the study and examination rules.
Which problems might you encounter?
Study progress control
If you earn less than half of the study credits you need for your approved programme, you will be entered into the study progress control process. In such cases, you need to make immediate adjustments to your programme and study method or you may lose your right to an automatic enrolment at the University of Antwerp. You can read more about this on the page about "Study progress control".
Used all your study credits?
Every student starting higher education receives a learning account of 140 study credits. When you enrol, the number of study credits your programme is worth is automatically deducted from this learning account. The number of study credits which you earn by passing programme components successfully is subsequently returned to your account. For the first 60 study credits you earn in higher education, you actually get double back.
You lose the credits for any programme components which you don't take exams for, or which you fail. Once you have used all your study credits, you lose the right to automatic enrolment at the University of Antwerp and all other institutions.
It could be that your programme does not meet your expectations. You may even decide that that the programme is too difficult for you after the first semester exams. In these cases, you can still switch programmes or even transfer to another institution. It is important that you do this on time in order to recover some or even all of your study credits. Read more about this on the "Changing or stopping your studies" and "The learning account" pages.
Losing your right to family allowance
Your study programme should consist of at least 27 study credits (excluding exemptions) to ensure that you or your parents continue to receive family allowance. If you are forced to reduce your programme because of bad results (e.g. because you are subjected to study progress control) you may also lose your family allowance. Read more about this on this page.
Losing your scholarship
The scholarship system is also based on a credit concept: the scholarship credit, which is also expressed in study credits but is not the same as the learning account. This scholarship credit can be used up, after which you may lose (part or all of) your scholarship. Read more about this on the ‘X’ page (van sociale dienst=> welke?).
How can you avoid these problems?
- Be 100% motivated and take responsibility for putting together your study programme, for this academic year, for your university career and for your future!
- If you are having any doubts about your course choices, take action as soon as you can.
- Carefully read the information available on this website. Under 'Further reading' you can find several useful links.
- Get advice and ask for help where necessary! Contact the Study Advice and Student Counselling Service with any questions and doubts. If necessary, they can refer you to the right people either in or outside of the faculty.
- One piece of advice: don't keep your worries to yourself.