This article explains an important system encountered at university, the Credit System. ‘Credits’ are essentially ‘points’, which one must earn in order to obtain a degree/diploma/certificate.
Different degrees require different numbers of credits, and each major requires those credits in different fields. Let’s take the Commerce faculty for instance: A Bachelor of Commerce may require, say, 180 credits in order for the degree to be awarded. A BCom (Economics) would then require a large portion of those credits in Economics, perhaps 80, and 25 each in Accounting, Mathematics, Statistics and Finance. Whereas a BCom (Accounting) would require, perhaps 90 in Accounting, and 30 each in Economics, Finance and Statistics.
The credit system explained
In order to earn these credits, one must complete courses in each of the required fields. Each course holds a certain number of credits, which are garnered upon completion of the course. These courses are structured in such a way that one would start with an ‘introductory’ level course which must be passed in order to progress to a more advanced course worth more credits. For example, Accounts 1a, worth 5 credits, must be completed in order to progress to Accounts 2a, worth 15 credits. Upon completion of the entire degree, one may have completed three or four courses in each field, each with credits awarded sequentially with difficulty level. All the credits combined will give the required for the degree/diploma/certificate, and the institution awards the degree, etc.
All universities and many other higher education institutions work on this system, making it relatively simple to change one’s place of registry. Thus, once having completed a course in any degree, the credits associated with that course are yours forever. Should you decide to change institutions of study, or perhaps take a break from studying and return at some later date, those credits will be credited toward your degree/diploma/certificate, so you will not have to redo that course. There are always exceptions however, and the credits garnered at some institution may not be recognised at all other institutions. Some may only recognize certain courses’ credits, some merely a fraction of those previously awarded, and still others will not recognise any at all. This depends entirely on the institution in question.
The common denominator in all university systems is that they are all flexible, subjective and situation-specific, and the Credit System is no exception. So take note that if you plan on doing a bachelors degree at a local university and a masters somewhere else, or something similar, that not all your credits may be recognised, though you might be able to negotiate or find loopholes in order to get what you want. Also note that credits awarded at Harvard or Yale will most likely be recognised anywhere, just as top African universities’ courses would be recognised by lesser institutions.
Generally when you enroll for a degree at a university they will ensure that you obtain the right amount of credits before your last semester before graduation. That way you can take an extra module if necessary. With universities like Unisa, you will need to keep track of that yourself.