To enable students to study at several universities in Europe, the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) was developed in the context of a pilot project of the Erasmus programme. When the Bologna reforms were signed in 1999, the ECTS became a central element in the process of harmonising the European degree course structure. Thanks to the ECTS, work done by students at different universities can be compared.
In 2001, the Bachelor's and Master's courses started at the University of St.Gallen. With the implementation of the Bologna reforms and their two-level system, the HSG took on a pioneering role in Switzerland. The HSG has acknowledged all student work by means of credits ever since. These credits are also called ECTS points.
The introduction of the ECTS entailed that the workload imposed by a given course does not merely consist of the student's presence in the classroom but all the work to be done in connection with the course. Students' workload covers all the course-related activities required to obtain credits: participation in learning units, including preparation and follow-up work, independent studies, performance checks such as examinations, written work, etc.
An undergraduate course comprises 180 credits, a Master's programme 90 credits. The exception here is the Master's programme in Law and Economics (MLE), which involves 120 credits. In purely mathematical terms, a credit reflects 30 working hours. Students are expected to earn 60 credits a year, which is tantamount to a workload of 1,800 hours. If we factor in approx. six weeks' holidays a year, this means that students work a 40-hour week.
In the Assessment Year, students have to obtain 60 credits. In the subsequent semesters of the Bachelor's and Master's Levels, students can decide for themselves how many credits they want to earn each semester. Only the limitation imposed on the number of semesters puts a time limit on studies and thus on the acquisition of credits. Students are granted 120 credits for compulsory subjects and core electives in core studies, as well as for courses from contextual studies and for the Bachelor's thesis. Together with the Assessment Year, this results in the 180 credits required for a Bachelor's degree. Another 90 to 120 credits have to be earned at the Master's Level. To be admitted to Ph.D. studies, students have to be able to provide evidence of at least 270 credits, i.e. 180 from undergraduate studies and at least 90 credits from the Master's Level.
Students can also acquire credits in supplementary courses. In Book and Publishing Studies at the Bachelor's Level, up to 23 credits can be credited to the degree course. The number of credits that can be credited depends on the regulations governing individual majors. The supplementary course in Business Journalism involves 19 credits, which can be credited to the HSG Master's programme in full.
Besides the credits for courses and written work, students are also able to earn credits that are unrelated to specific courses. These include campus credits for student involvement, practice credits for attested practical activities related to the student's major, as well as military credits for NCO and officer training in the Swiss Army. However, a campus or practice credit is based on 90 working hours.