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Frequently Asked Questions

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has had a theological training institution in Belfast since 1853. Initially called Assembly’s College, it was later renamed Union Theological College by Act of Parliament. In 1881 the college was awarded a Royal Charter empowering it to grant its own degrees in theology. This authority resides in the theological professors of the college who together constitute the Presbyterian Theological Faculty, Ireland (PTFI). Union Theological College programmes are awarded by this body. The PTFI is recognised as a university under UK law and the work of the college is regulated by the independent body that maintains standards within UK higher education sector and by the Council for Training in Ministry of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

The CATS (Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme) points system is recognised by Union, and most other UK Higher Education institutions, as a method of quantifying credit within academic programmes, functioning as something of a common currency. According to this system, one UK credit point equates to ten notional hours of study. For American students, please note that there is no exact correspondence between the UK and the US system. Credit hours are based on the time spent in class each week over a semester and our system is based on the total hours of study to be undertaken in a module or programme. Conversion between credit hours and UK credit points is not straightforward but, as a rough and inexact rule of thumb, for American students: 10 CATS credit points broadly are equivalent to 3 US credit hours; and 20 CATS credit points broadly are equivalent to 5 US credit hours. Credit points convert to European academic credits (ECTS) as follows: 10 CATS credit points are equal to 5 ECTS credits; and 20 CATS credit points are equal to 10 ECTS credits.

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In UK higher education a full–time postgraduate course is designed to involve the same time commitment as full–time employment, so taking on a part–time degree is like taking on a part–time job. All of this is calculated by way of CATS points (Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme). So, for example, a module might be weighted at 30 CATS points and have twelve weeks of teaching and, perhaps, a three-week assessment period. With a module like that, acknowledging that students work at different rates, you would need to allow for 20 notional hours of work per week in that fifteen week semester.