Skip to main content

Learning Hours  

Overarching guidelines on learning hours establish ranges for the level of learning hours depending on the type of module.

TEIs can include a combination of any or all of the elements below, as they deem appropriate for any given module, provided that enough hours are left for independent study time. TEIs should take into account the level of the students (and the amount of direct guidance they need), whether they are full- or part-time, their educational experience, the kind of material being studied and the learning outcomes involved, the time needed for independent study and to be prepared for that study, the kinds of assessment involved, and so on. 

These parameters do not include lower limits. TEIs will need to use a wide range of different totals up to and including the maxima permitted. 

TEIs can propose patterns that fall outside these guidelines, or a TEI can decide that different cohorts of students on the same module should have different learning hours. The TEI will, however, need to offer a pedagogical justification in such cases – that is, one based on the different needs, resources, and opportunities of the students involved, and, in particular, explaining how students will still have sufficient time for processing the material covered, and working towards the assessments involved. See our Curriculum Development page for more information on how to do this. 

See our Curriculum Development page for more information on how to document the learning hours chosen for modules, or for guidance on how to make changes to these. Visit the TEI Programme Documentation page to see the learning hours currently approved at each TEI.    

Note that the ‘supervision for independent projects and dissertations’ guideline given in theory allows for 24 hours of supervision for a 60-credit MA dissertation. This would be a very unusual total, and TEIs will normally offer substantially fewer supervision hours than this. 


The time that a diligent student can expect to spend on all the activities that contribute to a module is 10 hours per credit (e.g., 100 hours for a 10-credit module, 200 for a 20-credit module). This is a widely acknowledged national standard set by the Quality Assurance Agency in consultation with the higher education sector. That time will normally be made up a selection of one or more of the following elements: 

Classroom time 

Lectures, seminars, discussions, and similar activities where a group (of any size) gathers together for a defined period of time for planned learning and teaching activities. 

Not normally more than 2 hours per credit (20 hours for a 10-credit module, 40 for a 20-credit module), or 3 hours per credit for language classes (30 hours for a 10-credit module, 60 for a 20-credit module). 

Engagement with context 

Time spent on placement or in ministerial practice, in activities directly related to the module learning outcomes. 

Not normally more than 5 hours per credit (50 hours for a 10-credit module, 100 for a 20-credit). 

Supervision for independent projects and dissertations 

One-on-one or small-group tutorials, providing guidance for students undertaking independent work. 

Not normally more than 0.4 hours per credit (i.e., 4 hours for a 10-credit module, 8 for a 20-credit). 

Engagement with distance learning materials 

Reading, watching, listening to, and responding to materials; relevant social media interactions, etc. 

Not normally more than 7.5 hours per credit (75 hours for a 10-credit module, 150 for a 20-credit). 

Independent study time 

Independent reading, reflecting, writing, informal conversation with other students and staff, engagement with other formational opportunities, and so on. 

Normally at least 4 hours per credit (or 40 hours for a 10-credit module, 80 for a 20-credit) – except where substantial reading time is included within ‘engagement with distance learning materials’, in which case the guideline is: normally at least 2.5 hours per credit (25 hours for a 10-credit module, 50 for a 20-credit).