VUSSC/Defining course structure

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Defining student learning hours and qualification structure

To facilitate international collaboration among participants, it is necessary to agree on a course structure measured in terms of student learning hours. Student learning hours include all activities required for successful completion of the course, module or unit, for example:

  • Time to work through study guides
  • Reading of prescribed materials
  • Completion of learning activities
  • Completion of assessment tasks
  • Participation in online discussion forums
  • Attendance of face-to-face tutorials and lectures (if required)
  • Examination preparation

The qualification structure refers to the minimum number of study hours required for completion of a certificate, diploma or degree at a particular level of study.

A few international comparisons will be used as a starting point. Members of VUSSC will provide data on national requirements in their respective countries before reaching agreement on a generally accepted course structure.

International comparisons

Open University Malaysia

(ODL example)

Credit-based system where 1 credit is the equivalent of 40 study hours. A typical undergraduate course carries a credit weighting of 3 credits or 120 study hours.

Qualification Credits Total study hours
Diploma 90 3 600
Bachelor with honours 110 4 400


Commonwealth Executive Master of Business Administration (CEMBA)

(ODL example)

Credit based system where 1 credit equates to 20 student study hours. A degree course is typically 6 credits (120 study hours). The qualification provides two exit points at diploma and graduate diploma level. An undergraduate degree is required for admission.

Qualification Credits Total study hours
Diploma 48 (8 Courses) 960
Graduate diploma 60 (10 Courses) 1 200
Masters degree 90 (15 Courses) 1 800

University of Auckland

Campus-based example

The New Zealand Ministry of Education's Guide to Tertiary Education Funding, January 2003, (Section 1.4.12, p.17), sets the standard measurement of total student learning hours in one academic year at 1200. Therefore, the full-time equivalent of one year's study at a campus-based institution is 1 200 hours. The NZVCC's Committee on University Academic Programmes (CUAP) is the body that approves New Zealand qualifications under the Education Act. Student learning hours and course structure are determined by CUAP.

The University of Auckland uses a credit system where 1 credit is the equivalent of 10 study hours. Specifications are based on student learning hours as well as the number of courses required at different year-levels.

Qualification Credits Total study hours
Certificate (Usually includes courses at Stages I and II) 60 - 120 600 - 1 200
Graduate certificate (More than half the courses must be above Stage I) Minimum of 60 Minimum of 600
Graduate diploma 120 (Minimum of 75 credits above Stage II) 1 200
Postgraduate certificate Minimum of 60 (All credits must be above Stage III) 600
Postgraduate diploma 120 (All credits must be above Stage III) 1 200
3-year Bachelors degree 270 2 700
4-year Bachelors degree 360 - 405 3 600- 4 050
Masters Degree (Admission requires 4-year degree, Honours or Postgraduate Diploma) 120 1 200

Selected VUSSC examples

Number of learning hours for certificate course in VUSSC countries

  • List country: Specify number of learning hours for a certificate programme.

Conclusion and recommendation