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What is a Learning Agreement?

Learning Agreement (Explanation, structure and help with completion)

When it comes to a semester abroad, most students think of foreign places, new cultures and exciting trips. Of course, they should do some studying as well – but the focus is usually on experiencing a foreign country.

When organising semesters abroad, it is usually necessary to make sure beforehand of the lectures and courses that can be taken and recognised abroad. This almost always requires an official agreement between the home university and the host university – the so-called Learning Agreement.

However, many students find it difficult to complete this document correctly and to make changes to it if necessary. Granted it is a bureaucratic document several pages long that is neither self-explanatory nor intuitively designed. But with a bit of preparation and the tips contained in this article, a Learning Agreement should no longer be a problem for you.

Let’s go through it together.

What exactly is a Learning Agreement?

A Learning Agreement is a study agreement between the foreign student, the university in Austria or somewhere and the university abroad. In the Learning Agreement, these three parties agree on which modules can be completed at the host university and later recognised at the home university.

This preliminary choice of course gives everyone involved a degree of security when planning for the upcoming semester. Most importantly, however, it protects the travelling students.

The Learning Agreement is a mandatory part of many mobility and exchange programmes. For example, if you wish to complete a semester abroad on the Erasmus+ programme, you must present a Learning Agreement in advance in order to receive the funding. In Europe, there is a standard form now completed almost exclusively online – the Online Learning Agreement. Otherwise, the universities involved are free to design their own templates. However, the basic structure is usually very similar.

Structure of a Learning Agreement

The typical structure of a Learning Agreement consists of three parts, which relate to the respective phases of a semester abroad:

  • Before the semester abroad (Before the Mobility)
  • During the semester abroad (During the Mobility)
  • After the semester abroad (After the Mobility)

Let’s take a closer look at these stages.

Before the Mobility

Even before you start your semester abroad, you should sign the first part, “Learning Agreement: Before the Mobility” and have it approved by both universities. The document often has to be submitted to your host university abroad or to a potential funding organisation during the application process.

In addition to general information about the stay abroad, information about the universities and in particular, the intended courses (including their scope) must also be entered. More on that later. However, the most important tables are Table A and Table B.

Table A shows the courses that you want to take at the host university and Table B shows the equivalent modules or options at your home university so that you can see clearly how the examinations taken abroad will subsequently be recognised.

Junger Student

During the Mobility

If any changes are made to the courses after signing the first agreement or during your semester abroad, you must make the necessary adjustments in the second part “Learning Agreement: During the Mobility”.

There is always a chance that after arriving at the host university, some courses are not offered after all, or there may be timetable clashes or the course is not held in the language advertised.

If you change your study plan, you can adjust your course selection within the first few weeks after the start of the semester. This is where tables A2 and B2 come in. As with the first part, enter in Table A2 which courses you are actually taking and then complete Table B2 in conjunction with your home university.

You might have to make several adjustments (if this is necessary because of the situation at your host university). The only important thing is that you act quickly and work closely with the study abroad coordinators at your home university.

After the Mobility

The third part, “Learning Agreement: After the Mobility” can be used for the recognition of courses taken abroad. This part is often submitted together with the Transcript of Records – a summary of your exam marks during the semester abroad – and processed by your examination authority.

However, some universities prefer other recognition documents or have developed their own templates. In this article, I have written in more detail about the recognition of examinations during a semester abroad.

Essentially, you also need to be clear about which documents from your host university your home university and any potential funding organisation would like to receive from you. At best, a signed Learning Agreement is sufficient; at worst, you’ll need three (or more) separate documents.

So much for the structure. Now let’s take a closer look at the individual parts, because I’ve put together some tips for completing them.

Help with completing the Learning Agreement

If you have understood the purpose of a Learning Agreement (study agreement between you, your university and the host university) and have familiarised yourself with the bureaucratic terminology, you won’t have any problems completing it. Even so, I’ve written down some hints and best practices for you so that you can get to where you want to be more quickly and avoid unnecessary mistakes.

Learning Agreement (Erasmus+)

While details of the agreement may change over time, the basic structure should remain the same.

Administrative details

On the first page of the Learning Agreement, you have to enter some information about you, your studies and both of your universities. Some fields are not self-explanatory.

Seminar

Sending Institution

After completing your personal information, a contact person from your home university must be entered in the second section under administrative information. This is usually the study abroad coordinator of the faculty in which you start your semester abroad.

I would advise you not to enter the information yourself and to consult your university. Firstly, because the contact person information is sometimes unclear and secondly, because you won’t be party to important information (such as the “Erasmus Code”).

Receiving Institution

The same applies to the details of the contact person at your host university abroad. You can get the information for this section either from the International Office at your university or directly from your host university.

Before the Mobility—Table A

In Table A, enter the courses that you would like to take at the host university abroad. Enter one course per line, with the following four pieces of information:

  • Component Code
  • Component Title
  • Semester
  • Number of ECTS

You can usually find the “Component Code” in the course catalogues or on the website of your host university. The component title means the course name. It is important that you enter the exact name from the official study documents.

In the “Semester” field, enter the relevant cycle (e.g. “Autumn” or “Spring”). In the “Number of ECTS” field, enter the number of credit points that are awarded for the relevant course at your host university.

The total number of ECTS must then be calculated under “Total” at the bottom right of the page. Depending on the cooperation or funding programme, the minimum requirement is 15 to 30 ECTS credits. Finally, you must assess your language skills and tick the appropriate level.

Before the Mobility—Table B

In Table B, enter the modules or options from your home university for which recognition is required. Again, enter one course per line, with the following four pieces of information:

  • Corresponding Number
  • Component Title
  • Semester
  • Number of ECTS

Under “Corresponding Number”, you can clearly mark which course from abroad (Table A) you want to assign to which module. Under “Component Title”, enter the appropriate module from your university or an option for which the recognition is required.

Pay attention to the official spelling here as well. If you are unsure whether recognition is possible, contact your examination board or the relevant professors to ask them. Finally, enter the amount of credit points and calculate the total at the bottom of the page.

Studenten lernen

Before the Mobility—Commitment

All three parties (you, home university, host university) must sign the last page.

After the Mobility—Transcript of Records

Do not enter any information at all in the last part of your Learning Agreement. If your university is strict, any entry you make in this part may be interpreted as attempted deception or forgery. Just let your two universities do what they need to do.

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Conclusion

If you want to do a semester abroad, a Learning Agreement is an important part of your organization. With the help of such an agreement, you determine which courses you can take abroad and later have recognised at your home university. Completing and distributing a Learning Agreement involves some effort, but it gives you a lot of planning security.

Once you have decided which lectures you can attend at your host university, you can concentrate on the fun side of your semester abroad. You’ll no longer have to worry about planning your studies and can study without any concerns and enjoy your time abroad. All the bureaucracy is worth it for that alone.

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Bernhard Bauer

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