April 6, 2019

Credit Transfer System

Project: Building a Common Credit Transfer System for Great Mekong Subregion (GMS) and Beyond


SEAMEO RIHED supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is implementing the project Harmonization and Networking in Higher Education, Building a Common Credit Transfer System for Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) and beyond aiming at providing GMS (+ ASEAN + Japan + Korea) means for harmonizing existing credit transfer arrangements in higher education. The project is structured in four stages: Explore, Experiment, Experience and Expand seeking to create a regional and all inclusive academic credit transfer framework.


ASEAN Leaders set a vision to build an ASEAN Community from 2015 consisting of three pillars: the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC), and the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC). The primary goal of ASCC is contributing to realizing an ASEAN Community that is people-centred and socially responsible.

At the same time, countries in Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) are implementing the GMS Human Resource Development Strategic Framework and Action Plan under ADB’s R-PATA 7275, 2009 aiming to strengthen the engagement of countries and stakeholders in quality assurance (QA) and credit transfer systems (CTS) among universities in GMS countries with a linkage to the rest of ASEAN, Japan, and Korea.

Both schemes, the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community and the GMS Human Resource Development Strategic Framework and Action Plan, are meant to contribute towards the harmonization of high education systems in the region, mainly through two mechanisms: QA and CTS. In line with this, the goal of the project Harmonization and Networking in Higher Education, Building a Common Credit Transfer System for GMS and beyond is to develop a common platform that compiles best practices and lessons learned from previous experiences and to develop a framework valid for all universities and other higher education institutions in the region.

Role of Higher Education in Developing Capable Human Resources

Southeast Asia has been integrating rapidly mainly through trade and investment. The region is also witnessing increasing mobility of people in the region and between regions. This new context places higher education in a pivotal role in developing human resources capable of creating and sustaining globalized and knowledge-based societies.

In order to facilitate students’ mobility, the region’s diverse higher education systems need harmonized standards and mechanisms for permeable and transparent quality assurance and credit transfer among institutions. Encouraging and supporting students to study abroad is a major strategy to develop a well-trained international workforce, which can improve the quality and quantity of human resources.

Similar to the European ERASMUS programme, the region envisions a programme of its own to facilitate the mobility of university students within the region; taking advantage of its great diversity, which represents both potentials and challenges related to historical differences, cultural backgrounds, ideological gaps, development, languages, etc.

 Need for a Common Credit Transfer System

Transfer of academic credits is the process of evaluating the components of a qualification to determine the overall/equivalence with another qualification by establishing credits (as comparable unites) for individuals’ academic work and achievements. CTS is a mechanism through which higher education institutions share students’ workload and accomplishments with other institutions to facilitate their horizontal mobility and vertical progression. The systems seek to avoid duplication of studies and saving time and money for students who decide to embark on an exchange programme. An appropriate system of credit transfer is a key facilitator of student mobility and cooperation among higher education institutions.

Regional harmonization of higher education and increasing transnational student mobility require a functional credit transfer system. Given the increasing fluidity and interconnectivity of the region and the rapid integration process, a regional framework for credit transfers is envisioned as a key mechanism to create and consolidate an “education common space” for the region.

Problem Statement

Universities and higher education institutions are using different credit transfer systems to foster students’ mobility; however the number of students actually moving within the region remains relatively small. This may be due to, among other factors, the fact that existing CTS’s in the region are either too general and all too inclusive or too narrow and applicable to only limited number of universities.

In the last few years higher education in the region has grown in size, fluidity and complexity due to aspects like the expansion in the number of public and private institutions; the changing nature of study programmes, their goals and audiences; the growing demand and supply of educational services, as can be observed in the booming request from the students for additional and more varied programmes, notably in those that offer international articulation, a good example of this is that in 2004 more than 50% of overseas students to Thailand alone were from GMS[1]. The region also shows a growing supply in programmes run in foreign languages, particularly in English, while education as a whole is increasingly becoming a more for-profit area.

Aspects of this sort lead to a context where ensuring quality of education becomes more challenging, while at the same time the complexity of the system calls for more standardized and simpler ways to address the increasing demands from society and particularly from students regarding “easy and speedy ways” to facilitate mobility horizontally (higher education institutions and countries) and vertically (lifelong learning).

To address those demands, the project Harmonization and Networking in Higher Education, Building a Common Credit Transfer System for GMS and beyond is presented as an action research proposed in four stages: Explore, Experiment, Experience and Expand, seeking to create a regional credit transfer system framework based on lessons learnt from previous experiences; to improve articulation of existing systems, to enhance effectiveness, and to boost mobility and integration in the region.


The project is in its phase one “explore”, which aims at identifying current trends regarding CTS in the region and spotting potential areas for further cooperation in higher education. This exploratory phase includes the participation of ten Resource Persons, one for each country in the study (Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam) to conduct a focus research on CTS in his/her country. Findings from each research were presented as Country Reports.

[1]   Tejavanija Chang Chinda, Internationalization Development of Thailand’s Higher Education: Positioning Thailand as an International Education Center for the ASEAN Region.