University of São Paulo - Brazil

Credit System

Credit units are measured in hours and correspond to the activities that students are expected to perform. Awarding of credit units at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP) must adhere to the definition of credits as set forth in Regulations 3745/1990 and 7493/2018. At USP, the credit system at undergraduate level differs significantly from the one at postgraduate level.


– Semester Hour Credits (crédito aula): Semester Hour Credits are contact-hour based credits that correspond to the number of hours one is expected to attend classes on campus, i.e. classes that meet in a formally scheduled face-to-face format. A standard classroom period corresponds to one hour (at least 45 and most typically 50 minutes). One semester credit unit based on contact time equals fifteen 50-minute instructional sessions spent by students on activities guided by teaching staff. Learning and teaching sessions include theoretical and practical contents and workshops.

– Coursework credits (crédito trabalho): hours of coursework are regarded as the time spent by students on activities that may or may not be based on formally scheduled contact hours. One semester coursework credit equals thirty hours of coursework spent on learning sessions guided by the faculty such as research (its planning, accomplishment and assessment), fieldwork, supervised internships that belong to the curriculum of a subject or the equivalent, recommended or required reading, special activities, depending on the nature of the courses, and study tours organized by the single departments. Courses consisting exclusively of coursework credits are rare and may be restricted to degree-seeking students.

Despite being an essential part of the learning process, non-contact hours spent on activities performed outside the classroom context, e.g. independent study, preparation for exams, revision, writing, consultation with staff and informal discussions with other students are not necessarily taken into account when awarding credits, even when more time-consuming, and therefore the amount of time calculated by solely adding the hours corresponding to coursework and contact-hour based credits does not represent the total student workload.

The credit-awarding scheme for a single module (the terms course, component and module are used interchangeably) often consists of a combination of coursework credit and semester hour credits, regardless of the amount of non-contact hours, and may be summarized and exemplified as follows:

Course (Component title, as indicated in the course catalogue): e.g. Aspects of the Brazilian Culture I
Semester hour credits: 2 (i.e. 30 contact hours)
Coursework credits: 1 (i.e. 30 hours of coursework)
Non-contact hours required: not estimated
Total number of credits: 3 (i.e. sixty Coursework & Semester Hours, excluding non-estimated non-contact hours required)


At the postgraduate level, a credit unit corresponds to fifteen hours of activities that students are expected to perform.

The minimum full-time semester workload is 12 credits for master students, 10 credits for PhD students holding a prior Master’s degree and 16 credits for PhD students who do not have a previous master’s degree (Regulation 7493/2018, art. 43, 57 and 58).
As a general rule, both master’s and doctoral students need to accumulate a minimum of 96 credit units (192 for PhD students who do not have a previous master’s degree) in order to obtain the relevant qualification, but these numbers may vary across different programmes.
Awarding of credits is based on class attendance and on the amount of hours expected to be spent on the elaboration of the dissertation or thesis. Postgraduate programmes vary in the minimum number of credits required and length depending on the nature of the programme, therefore students are recommended to consult individual departments about the specific requirements for each programme. The proportional relationship between credits awarded for course attendance and for the time spent on the elaboration of the dissertation or thesis is determined by the departments as well.

N.B.: the number of credits awarded for class attendance should not exceed half of the total amount of credits required for programme completion.

See also Structure of degree programmesGrading System and Credit Transfer Guidelines & Grade Equivalency.