Student Workload and Degree Profiles: the experience of CLAR credit in Latin America

  • Francisco Alarcón Central American University High Council (CSUCA), Guatemala
  • Pablo Beneitone Tuning Academy, University of Deusto, Spain
  • Roberto de Armas University of Havana, Cuba
  • Sérgio Kieling Franco National Commission of Evaluation in Higher Education, Brazil
  • Letícia Suñé Federal University of Bahia, Brazil
  • Diana Veneros Ministry of Education, Chile
Keywords: student workload, credit system, CLAR, degree profiles, Latin America


There is growing consensus in Latin America on the necessity to reorganize the degree profiles in a competence-based and student-centred system, with identified learning outcomes, innovative learning and teaching strategies, and new methodologies for assessing competences which could be useful for students. There is also agreement on the need to build up a solid Latin America Higher Education Area —based on common benchmarks—among which a shared regional academic credit system is highly relevant. Not all Latin American higher education institutions are familiar with an academic credit system. In the countries where academic credits do exist they are generally based on traditional views which focus on teaching and transmission, rest on different concepts and definitions and consider diverse scopes for their application. With few exceptions, these countries do not use a credit system as a unit of measure of student workload to achieve learning outcomes and competences. This paper sheds light on a proposal for a common academic credit system for Latin America (CLAR) which comes out of one of the many nuances of Tuning discussion and is referred to the expected outcome 6: “Political-and educational orientations for the establishment of a system of academic credits for Latin America” (Proyecto Alfa Tuning América Latina: Innovación Educativa y Social, 2011-2013). The new credit system that this paper advocates for Latin America is based on the principle that 60 credits measure the workload of a full-time student during one academic year. As such, a CLAR credit is conceived as a unit of value that estimates the student workload, measured in hours, which he/she typically requires to achieve learning outcomes and pass a course or a semester. In order to calculate the value of CLAR credit two elements are considered: the duration of the academic year and the annual student workload. To estimate the annual student workload, a specific survey was applied in 18 countries, 189 universities and 15 subject areas. This paper shows the major results that were brought out by 10,086 questionnaires, which were responded to by students and university professors. As a result of this survey, the student workload of a full-time study programme in Latin America amounts to around 1,440 to 1,980 hours per year and in those cases one credit stands for around 24 to 33 working hours.

Published online: 4 July 2014


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Author Biographies

Francisco Alarcón, Central American University High Council (CSUCA), Guatemala

Francisco Alarcón is the Director of Academic Affairs and Deputy General Secretary of the Central American University High Council (CSUCA), with headquarters in Guatemala City (Guatemala). He is responsible for coordinating different university programmes and projects, at Central American level, and for direct support and follow up to the regional systems and networks within the Central American University Confederation. He is author of different articles and other publications on Central American higher education. Francisco Alarcón received an Honorarium Doctoral degree in Education from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua. He holds a MSc. degree in Tropical Coastal Management (University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK) and a Licenciatura in Marine Biology from the National University of Costa Rica.

Pablo Beneitone, Tuning Academy, University of Deusto, Spain

Pablo Beneitone is Director of Tuning Academy at the University of Deusto (Spain). During most of his professional and academic career since 1994 onwards, he has been responsible for managing international higher education projects at university and national level. At the University of Deusto he was Project Manager of Tuning Latin America and Tuning Africa, and was involved in other regional programmes, Russia, China, and Europe, supported by European Commission. He has published extensively on the ‘Tuning Methodology’ and given Tuning-related conference presentations in more than 25 countries. Mr. Beneitone holds a Bachelor degree in International Relations and a Master in International Cooperation from Universidad del Salvador (Argentine). His doctoral research focuses on the internationalisation of curriculum.

Roberto de Armas, University of Havana, Cuba

Roberto de Armas is Professor of Plant Physiology at the University of Havana (Cuba). He is Chairman of the Technical Evaluation Board for Graduation University Programmes and member of the Executive Secretariat of the National Accreditation Board in High Education. He has also been Head of Department of Plant Physiology and Vice Dean of the Faculty of Biology (University of Havana), and Head of Teaching Methodology Directorate at the Ministry of Higher Education (Cuba). His research interest and experience focus on quality in higher education, curriculum design, assessment and accreditation, and research methodology. Professor Roberto de Armas holds a PhD in Biology (Plant Physiology) from the University of Havana (Cuba). He is a member of International Society of Sugar Cane Technologists, Latin America Studies Association, and Cuban Society of Chemistry.

Sérgio Kieling Franco, National Commission of Evaluation in Higher Education, Brazil

Sérgio Kieling Franco is President of the National Commission of Evaluation in Higher Education in Brazil and Brazil’s representative to the Network of National Agencies of Accreditation of MERCOSUL. He is also Member of ALFA-INFOACES Project for the development of quality indicators of Latin American institutions and National Coordinator of the TUNING Latin America Project. He holds a PhD in Education from the University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) where he also is Head Professor.

Letícia Suñé, Federal University of Bahia, Brazil

Letícia Suñé is Deputy Rector of the University Centre Geraldo Di Biase (UGB), a member of the National Tuning Centre, and Educational Consultant and Advisor for IES, Brazil. For 25 years (1978- 2003), Dr Suñé was Professor at Federal University of Bahia (UFBA), Brazil, where she taught Chemical Engineering-related subjects and was Head of Department of the Graduate College. She is a member of various expert and advisory committees, representations, and commissions of Brazil’s Ministry of Education and other national and Latin American bodies and institutions working on the design, implementation, evaluation, and accreditation of higher education programmes. She holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering (University of Campinas -UNICAMP, Brazil).

Diana Veneros, Ministry of Education, Chile

Diana Veneros is presently serving as full-time official at the Ministry of Education, Chile, in the Division of Higher Education. She is currently in charge of the implementation and follow-up of Performance-based Agreements in the area of Academic Innovation. As a member of the Faculty staff at the Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación- UMCE (Chile) she accumulates a lifelong experience in the fields of Education, Initial Teacher Training and professionalization of teaching. At the UMCE as well as at other universities she has developed activities as lecturer and researcher and taken on responsibilities for university leadership and management. Diana Veneros has a PhD in Comparative History from Brandeis University (USA).


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How to Cite
Alarcón, Francisco, Pablo Beneitone, Roberto de Armas, Sérgio Kieling Franco, Letícia Suñé, and Diana Veneros. 2014. “Student Workload and Degree Profiles: The Experience of CLAR Credit in Latin America”. Tuning Journal for Higher Education 1 (1), 165-86.