The basic framework is three cycles of higher-education qualifications. The framework adopted by the ministers at their meeting in Bergen in 2005 defines the qualifications in terms of learning outcomes.
A learning outcome is: a statement of what students know and can do on completing their degrees.
In describing the cycles, the framework uses the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS):
In most cases, it would take three to four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and another one or two years for a master’s degree. Doctoral degrees usually require another two to four years of specialization, primarily individual research under a mentor. Degree names may vary by country.
European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits are a standard means for comparing the “volume of learning based on the defined learning outcomes and their associated workload” for higher education across the European Union and other collaborating European countries.
For successfully completed studies, ECTS credits are awarded. One academic year corresponds to 60 ECTS credits that are normally equivalent to 1500–1800 hours of total workload, irrespective of standard or qualification type. ECTS credits are used to facilitate transfer and progression throughout the Union. ECTS also includes a standard grading scale, intended to be shown in addition to local (i.e. national) standard grades.