How the International Exchange Program works

How does it work?

The International Exchange Program enables you to undertake approved overseas study, with the credit achieved counting towards your degree at the University of Sydney. Check out this video to find out more.

You can study at one of the many partner universities across the world with which the University has signed a formal exchange agreement. Some of these agreements are open to the majority of academic disciplines taught at the University (university-wide), while others are limited to specific discipline areas eg: Law, Business (discipline-specific).

As an exchange student you remain enrolled full-time at the University of Sydney while you are overseas. You therefore continue to pay your usual tuition fees to the University of Sydney. Meanwhile, your host university sends a student to the University of Sydney to take your place, though not necessarily in the same faculty as yours. This student remains enrolled full-time at their home university and continues to pay the relevant fees there. So it is literally an exchange between the universities.

You can choose to complete either one or two semesters of your degree overseas. Many students choose only one semester, but as it can take some time to settle into study and to make good friendships, you may wish to consider a two semester exchange from the outset. Extensions to a one semester exchange may be possible but only under certain circumstances. Some universities only accept year long exchange, and, some high demand destinations, such as most languages, are only available for one semester of study.

To participate in the International Exchange Program you must first attend an Information Session. You then submit a formal application and undergo a selection process at the University of Sydney, before undergoing a second application and selection process at the host university.


Before proceeding further, you should check that there are no restrictions in your Sydney course that would prohibit your participation in the International Exchange Program.

University of Sydney requirements

The International Exchange Program is administered through the Sydney Abroad. There are four faculties that have their own arrangements and you should see these faculties for details - Faculty of Law, Sydney College of the Arts, Business School for the Master of Management (CEMS) course and any students selected as part of Erasmus-Mundus funded programs.

For the International Exchange Program the following eligibility criteria apply at the time of assessment:

  • Undergraduate students - the earliest semester in which you can apply is in your second semester of study at the University of Sydney. You must be on track to have completed a minimum of 48 credits in that semester. Please note students who have transferred from another university and received at least one semester’s (24) credits for previous study towards your current degree must still have completed and passed at least one semester (24 credit points) at the University of Sydney. However you can submit an application for exchange whilst fulfilling this requirement. Students in the Bachelor of Arts (Advanced) course can apply in their first semester of enrolment, as long as they are enrolled in 24 credits.
  • Postgraduate students must have passed one semester of full-time study (18-24 credit points) at the University of Sydney in the degree they intend to be enrolled in whilst on exchange.

All students must also:

  • Have achieved at least a credit average (65 percent or higher) throughout your current degree (Credit from previous degrees is only included where this has been transferred to your current degree. Fails in your current degree are also included).
  • Maintained at least a credit average (65 percent or higher) in your most semester of study.

Language students must also have:

  • Credit average (65%) in all language related units of study.
  • Passed at least 3 semesters of the target language (exceptions may apply to students in the Advanced streams).
  • Obtained at least one academic reference from the relevant language department within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

In addition to the criteria reviewed at the time of assessment, you must:

  • Be enrolled full-time at the University of Sydney while away on exchange, and take classes that have been approved by your faculty to be credited towards your Sydney degree.
  • Have sufficient funding for the exchange period. When applying for your student visa, some countries will demand documented evidence of sufficient funds.

International students are also eligible for exchange, but not at universities in their home country.

Australian citizens who hold citizenship in their proposed host country/ies may be restricted from exchange in that country/ies. Please check with an Exchange Adviser for more information.

Postgraduate research students must have written support from (a) their University of Sydney supervisor/s and postgraduate adviser in the Faculty Office and (b) an academic at the host university who agrees to be their supervisor during the exchange period.

Discipline-specific exchange requirements

In addition to the exchange partnerships managed by Sydney Abroad, Law and the Sydney College of the Arts administer selection for their own exchange agreements. Eligibility requirements, application and selection procedures, and deadlines for these discipline-specific agreements will differ from those required by International Services. Students who wish to apply to these programs should contact these offices for more information.

Host university requirements

In addition to University of Sydney requirements, host universities have their own specific eligibility criteria or restrictions, such as language tests or courses in certain subject areas that are not open to exchange students. You will be informed by an Exchange Adviser at Sydney Abroad if special criteria apply to your situation before you submit an application.

Competition for places in the exchange program

Competition for exchange places in most countries is high. On average, almost half of all applicants select just three main countries - the USA, the United Kingdom and Canada - as their preferred destinations. Specifically, almost 30 percent of all applicants select the USA as their primary preferred destination. The next most popular cohort of countries are those in Northern Europe (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and The Netherlands).

Within countries, competition for exchange places at some partner universities is also very high. When you submit an application, you are expected to identify and rank, in order of preference, 5 (five) exchange preferences as your potential host universities. Your application will be assessed for your first preference, however, you may be considered for an alternative preference. Occasionally, you may be required to re-preference your original options.

Please note that distinction and high-distinction average results do not guarantee placement at competitive destinations. There are limited places at all universities and some destinations receive significantly more applications than available places eg: University of California regularly receives 40-50 applications per semester for approximately 10 places. Suitability of course choice, reasons for choosing preferred destinations and academic references are also used to make final nomination decisions.

Competition can be high for some language destinations and preference is given to students studying the applicable language as their major.

Due to competition, you may also be restricted to one semester exchanges only to ensure more students have the opportunity to participate at those competitive destinations.

If you choose any of the following institutions as one of your five preferences, you must also rank several of their available campuses as sub-options, due to competition for specific campuses. This counts as one preference. Failure to rank campuses may result in your application being overlooked for the destination.

  • University of California, USA (9 campuses available) - RANK 3 campuses (all students must rank 3, except Architecture students who can only select Berkeley or Los Angeles due to course restrictions)
  • University of North Carolina, USA (16 campuses available) - RANK 5 campuses
  • Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico (9 campuses available) - RANK 3 campuses

Please note that final campus placement at one of the multi-campus universities listed above is up to the host university. The University of Sydney will only nominate you to the institution as a whole. The host university may place you at a campus you did not preference. If you choose not to take up the place as a result, you will need to reapply for the International Exchange Program at a later semester.

Occasionally agreements may be temporarily closed due to imbalances in the exchange program or other matters (e.g. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade travel warnings). We reserve the right to cancel, temporarily suspend programs or not renew agreements without prior notice. In the event of this, your Exchange Adviser will assist in the placement of applicants at other suitable destinations. New programs may also be added from time to time.

You are advised to double check program availability, program conditions and other eligibility and selection criteria with an Exchange Adviser before proceeding with your application.

Semester system at overseas institutions

University of Sydney students should note that most partner institutions operate on a two semester system with the northern hemisphere academic year commencing between July and October.

Comparing Semesters


Sem 1 in Sydney-Sem 2 at host uni

Sem 2 in Sydney-Sem 1 at host uni




North America
(2 semester system)



North America
(3 quarter system)



United Kingdom
(2 semester system)



United Kingdom
(3 term system)



Japan / Germany






Most have two major deadlines per year for commencement in either semester. Where institutions operate on a trimester or quarter system, University of Sydney students will be expected to take the following:

  • two trimesters/quarters = one Sydney semester
  • three trimesters/quarters = two Sydney semesters

Most destinations will accept approximately two to three students a year. Some can accept more students. These places are divided over the two semesters to ensure and equal spread of students over a given year.

Studying in a foreign language or in a country where the instruction is not in English

Instruction is given entirely in English in many of the host countries, namely USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore. Programs for language majors are available in many countries around the world. For example, French majors could study in France, Switzerland or Canada. Some partnerships are also specific to certain disciplines, such as Law or Business.

Most universities in Asia and mainland Europe teach in languages other than English. As you will be studying with local students, you will need to demonstrate proficiency in the relevant language – sufficient to understand lectures, read texts, do assignments and deliver oral presentations – before being accepted for study at a university where instruction is not in English.

An increasing number of partner universities are offering more and more courses in English even though this is not the native language of the country; however, these classes do not cover every discipline. Such programs are available at some universities in Europe (Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden), Mexico, Israel and Asia (China, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand).

At most partner universities you can enrol in classes for regular students if you are proficient in the local language. In addition, at some partner universities customised international programs are available to allow foreign students to study certain languages (e.g. Japanese, Korean) at beginner, intermediate or advanced levels while taking other classes in English. These programs are designed for visiting students and do not cover a full range of courses.

Most classes taught in English within these customised programs are focused on the humanities and social sciences. There are also some business/commerce and engineering classes in English at some universities.

Due to extreme competition and limited places, students majoring in a foreign language at the University of Sydney will receive preference to study that language ‘in-country’.