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What can I study?

Make the most of your studies with great subject choices

You're spoilt for choice: we have the largest selection of subjects offered by any university in Australia, and our exchange partners have a huge range of study options that can be credited towards your degree.

Make an informed decision on your subjects by researching and getting the support of your local faculty. Refer to the summary below from each faculty about their discipline-specific exchange options. We strongly recommend you talk to your faculty before applying for exchange.

The units of study that your faculty approves will determine where you can go on exchange. The faculty will assess and approve your proposed overseas study plan to ensure your program can be credited towards your University of Sydney course.

When completing your application, compare the subjects available at your prospective host university with those you would complete at Sydney. You can explore the online handbooks available on partner university websites.

While you're on exchange, you are enrolled at Sydney in exchange units that provide a generic match for the overseas courses you take.

Because of strict degree requirements, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Veterinary Science do not allow semester or year-long programs, but short programs may be possible.

Undergraduate exchange

Undergraduate students have a lot of flexibility for exchange, but you need to be aware that:

  • most faculties don't permit you to take an honours year on exchange, and exchange may affect your progression
  • combined courses are common at Sydney, but not overseas, and this can limit the units you are able to take at a host university
  • exchange in your final semester is only permitted for a few courses, and it can delay your graduation.

Postgraduate exchange

Postgraduate exchange has more restrictions than undergraduate exchange. For example, Canadian and United States universities generally require completion of a four-year degree, and many students have only a standard three-year bachelor's degree.

North American university postgraduate exchange programs often only accept students for a September intake.

With our excellent academic reputation, including Business School accreditation by the peak European (EQUIS) and North American (AACSB International) bodies, you can be confident your semester at the University of Sydney will be a challenging, fulfilling experience.

Units of study

A unit of study is our term for individual classes (or subjects) in which students enrol. You’ll typically enrol in four units of study (each valued at six credit points) per semester to make up a full-time workload of 24 credit points.

You can start browsing your options by heading over to Find a course. Search by ‘Area of interest’, and then filter results by selecting ‘yes’ against the ‘Available for study abroad and exchange’ criteria.

Most undergraduate study abroad and exchange students select 1000-3000 level units in areas that they have already studied at their home institution.

1000 level units of study are introductory or Lower Division units (equivalent to USA freshman or sophomore level). 2000 and 3000 level units are equivalent to USA junior and senior level, respectively.


Our units of study (subjects) are widely accepted overseas, however, your home institution will decide what credit will be given for the units you complete.

Make sure you carefully check these requirements with your home institution before enrolling in any unit of study.

The normal full-time study load per semester is 24 credit points (normally four units of study).

The minimum study load per semester required to meet international student visa regulations is 18 credits (normally three units of study).

As a guide, one credit point means around 1.5 to 2 hours of student effort per week. Each semester is 12 weeks in duration.

The amount of time that you spend in class will depend on the subjects you choose. Generally, the fewer scheduled hours of class, the more work you are expected to do on your own outside of the classroom.

For reference, 6 University of Sydney credit points are equivalent to 4 credit hours or 7.5 European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) credits. You can use this to convert Sydney studies to their equivalent in international credit points.

Example units of study

You can design a program of units from a variety of disciplines to fit your area of focus or interests provided you enrol in a full-time load of study and your unit selections are approved by your home university.

A variety of unit options are available at Sydney but not all units are offered each semester. Some units may have prerequisites and specific additional requirements.

Popular units

You can have a look at our unit of study lists to find out about our popular units of study and topics.

Field-based learning

Experiential learning opportunities are available through our faculties of Agriculture, Science and Education and Social Work. Develop a broad range of skills and techniques through field trips or excursions, and gain a deeper understanding of the subject area by undertaking the unit through an intensive period of study.

You can have a look at units of study of this kind in our course finder.

Thematic selections

While most students opt for a program that complements their degree, you can also study abroad simply for the experience and enrol in subjects distinct from the main focus of your studies. 

We suggest that you talk to your study abroad and exchange adviser at your home university before selecting thematic study.


Our Study Abroad Internship program lets you develop familiarity with Australian workplace culture and apply your study to workplace situations. ARTS2600 is a unit of study that is open only to study abroad students and offers:  

  • 120 hours of industry placement
  • eight hours of professional development workshops
  • four hours of blackboard discussions
  • four reflective journals
  • one final project report.

To qualify, you need to meet all eligibility requirements for study abroad, have a GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale (or C or better on ECTS), and have completed at least one year of study. Contact your Study Abroad or Exchange Advisor to apply.

Research opportunities

With exceptional facilities, an innovative edge and the drive to challenge traditional ways of thinking, our students contribute to research that pushes the boundaries of knowledge and makes a meaningful, real-world impact. We offer research opportunities through our Postgraduate Research Exchange Program or Postgraduate Research Study Abroad Program. Apply to undertake supervised research at the University of Sydney for one or two semesters with the approval of your home institution.

Undergraduate study abroad students can get a taste of research by enrolling in the Sydney Abroad Internship Program.

Assessment and results

Assessment formats vary for units of study within different faculties. Each class listed on the online unit of study handbook database outlines how you will be assessed for each unit of study you enrol in. We use a four level passing grade system, with details spelled out in our coursework policy

Examinations happen at the end of semester, following a one-week study vacation period. Timetables are confirmed about one month before the start of the exams. You should ensure any travel plans allow for the exam period.

Results are generally released two weeks after the official end of semester. Shortly after this time, Sydney Abroad sends two copies of your official transcript to your sponsoring organisation/home institution, or to you directly.

Please remember that examination results are also shown on the MyUni website, but you need to have your UniKey login and password to access your results.

Outbound students: discipline-specific exchange options

Agriculture and Environment

With faculty approval, undergraduate agriculture students can apply for exchange from as early as second year. However, most students apply in third year for a one-semester long program.

Agriculture students may go on exchange at postgraduate level for coursework or research with faculty permission.

Course offerings at host universities cover other potentially relevant areas such as:

  • Agribusiness
  • Agricultural Economics
  • Agronomy
  • Animal Science
  • Conservation Science
  • Environmental Design
  • Environmental Studies
  • Farm Management
  • Forestry
  • Horticulture
  • Plant Science
  • Resource Geology.


Architecture, Design and Planning

If you are enrolled in a Bachelor of Design Computing, you can go on exchange for up to one year, and may find it easiest to incorporate creditable units overseas by applying to a University-wide program focusing on arts, economics or science electives.

Computer science, design, film, animation and graphics courses are often limited or restricted at university.

If you are enrolled in a Bachelor of Design in Architecture, you may take no more than one semester on exchange from as early as the second semester of your second year.

If you are a master's student, you can go on exchange at any time during your course, and we encourage you to select units that will follow the enrolment pattern prescribed for your chosen semester of exchange as closely as possible.

Arts and Social Sciences

If you are an Arts and Social Sciences student enrolled in other disciplines, you generally have a broad choice in exchange destinations. Most students apply for a University-wide exchange place.

Students who are undertaking compulsory exchange as part of the Bachelor of Arts (Languages) need to select a university in which the language of instruction is the same as their language major.


Business (The University of Sydney Business School)

The University of Sydney Business School has an extensive range of discipline-specific partnerships to support and encourage you to include an exchange experience as part of your course.

You are expected to undertake only elective units on exchange, and should therefore keep a minimum of one semester’s worth of elective study (24 credit points) aside for the exchange semester.

Course structure permitting, you may consider taking studies from other areas of interest outside of business.


Education and Social Work

We encourage you to take elective units on exchange, especially if you are in a combined course. Please consult your academic adviser before submitting an exchange application.

Education credit often focuses on human movement and health education units, such as overseas courses in exercise sports, nutrition, kinesiology or public health.

You can also take language courses on exchange. Most overseas universities are not familiar with combined courses, so you may need to focus on only one of your course areas while on exchange. We advise you to select the area that is most flexible for exchange.


Engineering and Information Technologies

Different schools within Engineering have slightly different recommendations and requirements. Please consult your academic adviser before submitting an exchange application.

Work placements and other project requirements may impact on the timing of when you go on exchange.

Fourth-year exchange is not usually recommended.

Most overseas universities are not familiar with the concept of combined courses, so you may need to focus on only one of your course areas while on exchange. We advise you to select the area that is most flexible for exchange.


Health Sciences

We encourage students enrolled in a Bachelor of Health Sciences or Applied Science in a particular discipline to apply for a semester exchange. Please consult your course coordinator before submitting an application.

There are two health sciences-specific undergraduate exchange partnerships: Maastricht University in the Netherlands; and Oregon State University in the United States.

Law (The University of Sydney Law School)

You can spend a maximum of one semester on exchange in the last year of your Bachelor of Laws (LLB) or Juris Doctor (JD).

You may only complete elective credit overseas, and cannot satisfy any compulsory requirements of either of the above degrees while on exchange, including the Jurisprudence and International/Comparative and Transnational requirements.

You can only enrol in law units offered by a recognised law school and that count towards an accredited law course, for example an LLB, JD or equivalent.


Medicine (The University of Sydney Medical School)

If you are enrolled in the Bachelor of Medical Science, your can apply for exchange no earlier than third year. This is because you need to complete core compulsory units in second year.

If you are a Biomedical Science student, there is one discipline-specific exchange agreement – with Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. If you are considering an exchange at Karolinska Institutet please discuss this with your course coordinator early in their course.


We have one pharmacy-specific partnership with København Universitet in Denmark. Pharmacy students are also eligible to apply for University-wide exchange places.

As course requirements are strict, you will need to consult with a course or year adviser to ensure you can meet necessary progression requirements. You may need to be flexible in your exchange preferences.

Most health-related courses in Canada and the United States are taught only as professional degrees at the postgraduate level and will be closed to undergraduate students.

However, there may be some undergraduate options in Canada, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.


If you are an undergraduate student in science students you will generally have considerable choice of exchange programs, though there are restricted enrolments in some academic areas at partner universities. Most students apply for University-wide exchange places.

Visit the Faculty of Science's website for more information about exchange.

It is generally difficult to undertake computer science at universities in Canada and the United States due to intense competition for places from local students.

If you are a psychology major, we encourage you to read the department information about exchange options before submitting an application.

Sydney College of the Arts

Sydney College of the Arts has a number of discipline-specific exchange partnerships. You are also eligible to apply for a place at University-wide exchange institutions, although competition can be intense.

If you are a Visual Arts student, we recommend that you participate in an exchange program during the later stages of your undergraduate degree (excluding honours) or in the early part of your postgraduate program – and only in the March semester for no more than one semester.

Our Exchange Committe reviews applications in May, and includes applications for University-wide exchange places through the International Exchange Program. We invite you to consult with the faculty for specific advice on academic requirements for exchange.

For more information, visit the faculty website

Sydney Conservatorium of Music

If you are an undergraduate student, you can apply for an exchange semester from as early as midway through second year. However, we are inclined to prioritise third-year or senior level students.

If you are a postgraduate student continuing from an undergraduate course, you may apply to go on exchange in the first semester of a master’s degree. If you completed your undergraduate studies elsewhere, you can apply in the first semester of your master’s degree.

The Sydney Conservatorium of Music offers several faculty-specific exchange agreements in Austria, Germany, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Because we have a lot of applicants, if you are enrolled in a Bachelor of Music Studies, we encourage you to consider placement at University-wide exchange destinations.


Veterinary Science

Strict degree requirements mean students in the Faculty of Veterinary Science do not typically participate in semester-based exchange programs.

However, if you are enrolled in the Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Science, you may be able to participate in exchange after consultation with your course coordinator.

We may be able to arrange short-term practical placements at a partner school overseas.

Get ready for take off

Study plans approved? Flights booked, visa sorted?
About a month before you leave, you’ll be invited to attend a pre-departure information session to make sure you’ve covered all your bases, including practical arrangements such as accommodation, travel insurance and finance.

Read last year’s information session presentation

How we stack up

Ranked 37th in the world in the 2014-15 QS World University Rankings and consistently in the top three in Australia, the University of Sydney is one of the country’s leading research-intensive universities and a member of the prestigious Group of Eight.

More on our world rankings

Brian Xiong

Exchange student at Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Munich
"The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. Aside from hanging out with my new friends from all different countries, I took two road trips. That is one of the things I love about Europe – if you drive for a few hours you can be in a new country."

Read more blogs