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.