The characteristics of the bachelor’s and master’s degree programs include the modular structure of the courses and the exams taken during a student’s studies along with the fact that credits are awarded under the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).
Modules are the primary structural components of the modular bachelor’s and master’s degree programs offered at Freie Universität. A module typically consists of two courses in different forms (such as a lecture and seminar) whose content is designed to go together.
Most modules are offered on either a one-semester or two-semester basis. One-semester modules should be completed within a single semester. In the case of two-semester modules, the first course is typically taken during the winter semester and the second in the summer semester. If modules build directly on the content of other modules, students are often required to have completed the first module before being admitted to the subsequent one.
In terms of their content, modules are designed with certain goals related to development of specific skills; successful completion of a module is intended to meet these goals, which in turn further the overall goals of the program in terms of student qualifications. Admission requirements, qualification-related goals, content, and examination requirements for each module are described in detail in the study and examination regulations (in German) for the specific bachelor’s or master’s degree program.
One important characteristic of all bachelor’s degree programs at the university is that students take examinations, called studienbegleitende Prüfungen, during their studies.
Modules are completed by taking either a single module examination or several partial examinations or examination sections.
The type of examination or other submission required for a specific module (written exam, oral exam, term paper, oral presentation, portfolio of several assignments, etc.) is shown in the examination regulations for the specific study program.
All module exams are graded, and these grades are, as a general principle, counted toward the student’s overall grade for the program. Each module is assigned a certain number of credits that apply to the weighting of grades earned in the module exam or individual exam sections. At the end of the program, the student’s overall grade is calculated based on these weighted module grades and the grade earned on the bachelor’s or master’s thesis.
The bachelor’s degree exam consists of a bachelor’s thesis, which is typically preceded by an advanced course module. It is somewhat more extensive than a typical term paper, and an oral examination lasting about 30 minutes is often required in addition to the paper itself.
Another important part of the academic reform taking place as part of the Bologna process is the awarding of credits (which have many names in German, including Leistungspunkte, used at Freie Universität, and found elsewhere as Studienpunkte or Kreditpunkte) under the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).
ECTS credits do not merely measure the time a student spends attending courses (like credit hours, or Semesterwochenstunden), but instead reflect all of the work a student has to perform in order to pass an exam. ECTS credits are therefore not awarded for the workload as such, but, in principle, only if the student has participated regularly and actively in the courses and course types specified in the study and exam regulations and has passed the appropriate module exam with an overall grade of at least 4.0 (on the German scale from 1 to 6).
One point for 30 hours of work
According to the ECTS, the work required to complete one semester is fundamentally equivalent to 30 credits. In this context, it is assumed that the student is enrolled full-time, at a total estimated annual workload of 1800 hours (45 weeks at 40 hours per week, or 30 hours per credit), even though the actual number of weeks spent in class may vary.
This means that each semester, students are required to invest about 900 hours in their studies. The period when classes are not in session, called the vorlesungsfreie Zeit, is definitely not considered time off from working or studying, even if it is often called “semester break” (Semesterferien).
A diploma supplement is issued to graduates in German and English when they complete their degrees. A sample supplement is appended to each set of examination regulations, containing detailed information on the content of the program.
Like the ECTS, the aim of the diploma supplement is to simplify the process of transferring or earning credit for prior studies and examinations undertaken at other higher education institutions in Germany and abroad. The diploma supplement also provides potential employers with important further information on the content of the academic program the student has completed.
When a student transfers between higher education institutions, both within Germany and abroad, the number of ECTS credits is not the only basis of comparison used to determine the credit for which the student’s prior studies are eligible. Before credit is given for a student’s prior studies and examinations, an “equivalency review” is performed. The goal of this step is to determine whether the studies completed at another university are in accordance with the profile of the academic program in which the student wishes to earn credit for these prior studies. The detailed module descriptions included in the study regulations facilitate this type of equivalency review.
In the case of exchange agreements with foreign partner higher education institutions, a detailed learning agreement is drawn up before the student departs, specifying which modules must be taken so that the student is guaranteed to earn credit for all of the courses taken abroad after he or she returns to the home institution and no time is lost during the student’s academic career.
Students who wish to study abroad during a bachelor’s degree program should obtain information on credits and learning agreements as soon as possible. To do so, you can contact your department, the university abroad where you wish to study, or the International Students Office at Freie Universität.
Since the same number of credits is always awarded for each module exam passed, and this number is specified by the examination regulations, the number itself does not say anything about the quality of the student’s performance on the exam. As a result, every exam is graded. The following terms are used for module and overall grades falling within the average ranges below:
1.0 through 1.5 = Very Good
over 1.5 through 2.5 = Good
over 2.5 through 3.5 = Satisfactory
over 3.5 through 4.0 = Sufficient
over 4.0 = Not Passed
The following grades are awarded for individual exams:
1.0, 1.3, 1.7, 2.0, 2.3, 2.7, 3.0, 3.3, 3.7, 4.0, and 5.0.
If the overall examination has been passed, the diploma supplement shows not only the overall grade, but also a relative grade in accordance with the following ECTS grading scale:
A The top 10%
B The next 25%
C The next 30%
D The next 25%
E The next 10%
ECTS grades are not meant as a substitute for the German grading system, but as a kind of “translation aid.” To calculate the grade for a module in which a student was required to take partial module exams or specific sections of an exam, for example, the individual grades received are multiplied by the number of credits in question, then added together and divided by the sum of the credits included. Only the first decimal place of the result is taken into account.
• Module A: 10 points x grade of 1.7 = 17
• Module B: 10 points x grade of 2.7 = 27.
The overall grade is the result when the two figures shown above are added together (17 + 27 = 44) and then divided by the total number of credits included (20): (44 : 20 = 2.2).