Overview of student exchange

• What is exchange?

Student exchange is a programme established between two universities to swap students for a semester, providing students with an opportunity to study part of their curriculum elsewhere. Any courses which you complete at that university can be considered for transfer towards your degree requirements at UCT.

Students pay their regular tuition fee for the semester to their home university. The exchange allows you to spend time at another university without having to pay tuition fees directly to that university.

The universities participating in the exchange programme sign an agreement detailing the rules and provisions for all students in the programme.

• What are the rules for exchange?

UCT’s general rules and policies allow Senate to grant a student in an exchange programme permission to register concurrently

• at UCT for a programme of study leading to a UCT degree, and
• at another university for non-degree purposes.

Senate rules also allow for the recognition of learning or periods of attendance at another university towards the curriculum requirements of a UCT degree with the following restrictions/ provisions:

• the credits must have not been used towards the curriculum requirements of a qualification already conferred by another university (i.e. they must be from an incomplete qualification or from registration for non-degree purposes).
• for a Bachelors student, the credit cannot be transferred against exit level courses (these are the courses in the final year of study) or against courses required for the major.
• for an Honours student, there is no recognition of learning (through credit transfer) or periods of attendance at another university towards a UCT Honours degree. This means Honours students are not eligible to go on exchange.

It is important to note that one of the conditions of an exchange is that it does not extend the time to expected graduation.  To meet this condition, all the courses which you take while on exchange should count towards the UCT curriculum requirements, allowing you to complete your studies and graduate in the regulation time.

• I’m an undergraduate student, can I go on exchange?

Yes. If you are an undergraduate student, you should submit your application to go on exchange during your first year of study.  The actual exchange will be in your second year, most likely in the 2nd semester.

The deadline for applications is the last week in August for exchange in the following year.

Undergraduate students in their final year are not eligible for exchange.  UCT’s curriculum rules require all final year exit-level courses, and courses required for the major, to be taken at UCT.  This means courses completed at a partner university whilst on exchange cannot be considered for credit transfer against the required exit-level UCT course.

• In what year of study should I apply for exchange?

Undergraduate students must complete at least 3 semesters at UCT before going on exchange during their 4th semester (second year, 2nd semester).

• I’m not in first year, can I still apply?

Students in their final year of study cannot be considered for exchange.  Rules GB2.1 and GB3.1 (see Handbook 3, General Rules and Policies) state that credit will not be granted for major courses completed at another institution.

• I’m on an extended degree programme, doing a three-year degree over four years – can I go on exchange in my third year?

Yes. Students studying over four years can apply to go on exchange in their third year of study.

UCT’s curriculum rules require all final year exit-level courses, and courses required for the major, to be taken at UCT.  This means courses completed at a partner university whilst on exchange cannot be considered for credit transfer against the required exit-level UCT course.

As long as there are sufficient non-exit level courses which you can take at the partner university for credit transfer, you can be considered for exchange.  As part of the application, you will need to get permission for the exchange from your faculty curriculum advisor or Head of academic Department and you will need to show that you are able to meet the course and curriculum requirements for the year whilst on exchange.

• I’m on a four-year degree – can I go on exchange in my third year?

Yes. Students studying over four years can apply to go on exchange in their third year of study.

UCT’s curriculum rules require all final year exit-level courses to be taken at UCT.  This means courses completed at a partner university whilst on exchange cannot be considered for credit transfer against the required exit-level UCT course.

As long as there are sufficient non-exit level courses which you can take at the partner university for credit transfer, you can be considered for exchange.  As part of the application, you will need to get permission for the exchange from your faculty curriculum advisor or Head of academic Department and you will need to show that you are able to meet the course and curriculum requirements for the year whilst on exchange.

• I’m an Honours student, can I go on exchange?

Yes. Honours students can go on exchange. Most go on exchange in the 2nd semester.

It is important to note that the partner university carries the final authority and discretion for admission and entry to particular courses. For many universities, the Honours year is part of the undergraduate Bachelor’s degree.

Students in an exchange should take courses at the partner university which are eligible for credit transfer against the curriculum requirements of their UCT degree.  It is important to note that one of the conditions of an exchange is that it does not extend the time to expected graduation.  To meet this condition, all the courses which you take while on exchange should count towards the UCT curriculum requirements, allowing you to complete your studies and graduate in the regulation time.

If you plan to progress to Masters, you can also submit an application during your Honours year if you can show that you have applied for admission to a UCT Masters programme (and preferably, that you have been offered a place).  The Exchange Selection Committee will consider your application and waitlist you.  If you are waitlisted for possible exchange, confirmation of whether you are successful and approved for exchange will be given once you have enrolled in the Masters programme.

If the Exchanges Selection Committee does offer you an exchange place, it will be conditional on your registering at UCT for the Masters programme in the year for which the exchange opportunity is awarded.

• I’m doing a Masters by coursework and dissertation, can I go on exchange?

Yes. Masters students can go on exchange at any time.  Most go on exchange in the 2nd semester of their first year of registration for the Masters or in the 1st semester of their second year.

Students in an exchange should take courses at the partner university which are eligible for credit transfer against the curriculum requirements of their UCT degree.  It is important to note that one of the conditions of an exchange is that it does not extend the time to expected graduation.  To meet this condition, all the courses which you take while on exchange should count towards the UCT curriculum requirements, allowing you to complete your studies and graduate in the regulation time.

• I’m doing a Masters by research/ PhD programme, can I go on exchange? Can I do courses?

Applications for exchange for research students are considered with reference to the research candidate’s project and the extent to which the supervisor considers the exchange will aid the student in their research.

Research students should identify a co-supervisor at the international partner university and make the necessary arrangements for that individual to supervise you during the exchange.  You can begin identifying potential co-supervisors by reaching out to potential supervisors in your field in the first application stage.  Your UCT supervisor may be able to advise and guide you in doing this.  If selected for the exchange, you would then need to confirm the conditions of the research with the co-supervisor at the partner university.

• I’m a Masters by research/ PhD student. Can I do courses whilst on exchange?

Research candidates can request permission to take taught courses whilst on exchange where these contribute towards the research project.  Eligibility for enrolment in taught courses cannot be guaranteed. Consult with your co-supervisor at the partner university about that university’s rules for admission of exchange research students into taught courses.

Application, selection and admission to exchange programme

• What are the academic requirements - what must my marks be like?

To be considered academically eligible to apply for an exchange, students should be maintaining an average of 68% or above. The minimum requirement is 65%.  The average used to determine your eligibility is your grade point average (GPA). This is the cumulative credit-weighted average of all courses taken towards your degree.

Both semesters are taken into consideration.

Academic achievement is important when evaluating students for exchange.  The minimum academic requirement is specified in the agreement for exchange with the international partner university. If you do not meet the minimum academic requirement, your application will not be considered.

• When will I hear if my application is successful?

Admission to the exchange programme is competitive and the application process can be lengthy.

The Exchange Selection Committee will inform all applicants of its decision once the process is complete.

Until you hear from us, you should continue with your programme of study as intended, enrolling in all the courses required for your curriculum.

• I need to register for my UCT programme/ courses but am waiting to hear if my application is successful. What should I do?

You should register as normal and enrol in all the courses required for your programme and year of study. If your application is successful and you are placed in the exchange programme, you will have until Friday of the first week of teaching in the semester to drop your courses without financial penalty.

If you are going on exchange in the 2nd semester, you will have several months following registration to explore course options at the receiving university and confirm curriculum alignment before dropping your regular UCT courses and enrolling in the required exchange course.

We will notify you of the Exchange Selection Committee’s decision in sufficient time for you to meet the add/drop deadlines for your semester exchange.

• I plan to go on exchange in 2nd semester. Which UCT courses should I pick at registration?

Whilst on exchange, you must remain registered as a UCT student and enrolled in at least one course for the exchange period.

You should enrol in the courses required for your UCT degree programme when you register for the year. If your application is successful, we will work with you to place you at a partner university and guide you through the process of working with your programme convenor/ curriculum advisor to decide which courses to take at the partner university whilst on exchange (‘curriculum alignment’). Once this process is complete, you can drop your 2nd semester courses and enrol in the faculty exchange course.

The deadline for adding/ dropping courses for 2nd semester is Friday of the first week of teaching in the semester.

Exchange students taking a Masters by dissertation only and PhD students should register for the dissertation/ thesis ‘W’ course at registration and remain enrolled in that course throughout the period of their exchange.

• Why do you want a reference letter?

The exchange progamme is competitive.  Exchange students must be strong academically and have the necessary qualities to act as ambassadors for UCT in the wider world.  The letter alerts your programme convenor/ curriculum advisor that you intend to spend time away and gives us an assurance that the faculty/ department supports your application, that it will not affect your time to expected graduation and that you are eligible under the curriculum rules for the transfer of credits from another university towards your UCT qualification and curriculum requirements.

The reference letter also serves as a personal testimony of your academic and personal qualities.

• What are the chances of getting the universities listed in my application form?

We cannot guarantee you will be placed with your first or second choice. There are a limited number of available exchange places and we need to ensure that selected students can be placed and are able to meet their degree requirements through credit transfer while on exchange. This can mean having to allocate students to particular partner universities who offer courses that align with the degree requirements of students’ UCT programmes. The most important criterion for the exchange is academic alignment. We recommend you have a third and fourth choice in case your first or second is not possible.

• If I’m awarded an exchange opportunity, can I choose another university other than those mentioned on the application form?

Yes, this is possible. Depending on the applicant pool, the available exchange places, and the placement of students in that particular cycle/ year, it may be possible to choose another university. However, given the limited places available, we advise you choose wisely when completing the application form as a later change may prove difficult to accommodate.

Curriculum alignment

• What is curriculum alignment?

Going on exchange is a formal part of your academic programme while at UCT. To be eligible, the courses you plan to take at the partner university must be eligible for transfer towards the UCT qualification and curriculum requirements. This means the courses must have comparable content, have the right credit weighting, be at the correct academic level and meet the necessary learning objectives/ requirements for the UCT curriculum.

We need to know ahead of time that your programme convenor/ curriculum advisor has reviewed your course choice and will approve the transfer of the credits for successfully completed partner university courses to your UCT record on completion of the exchange period.

• How do I choose a partner university for exchange? How do I choose courses?

You need to do extensive research on the university you are interested in to ensure the curriculum content and academic level you would be missing out on at UCT will be sufficiently covered by the partner university’s courses. You can start informal discussions with UCT student/ curriculum advisors who can help you identify appropriate courses.

Part of the application process is getting written confirmation and approval that the courses you have chosen at the partner university will be accepted by the Head of Department (HOD) for credit transfer towards your UCT degree. This ensures you meet the UCT curriculum requirements and that you can complete your degree within the stipulated timeframe.

If your application is successful and you are selected by the committee for an exchange, you will be placed with a partner university. While we will try to place you with your chosen university, this may not be possible, and you should be prepared for a second or third choice.

We will guide you through the process of getting course approval.  Students who do not get approval for most or all of their chosen partner university courses (even after shuffling courses around within the programme) will be required to withdraw from the exchange. We strongly advise you pay particular attention to researching course options at the partner university and consulting with a student/ curriculum advisors to ensure you select courses which can be approved by the HOD for transfer towards your UCT programme without extending the time to expected completion of your degree

• Can I meet with someone in IAPO to discuss my curriculum and course choices?

The exchange team is not able to provide curriculum advice for specific courses or curriculum requirements.  We can advise about the processes, rules and requirements for exchange and for credit transfer. But alignment of curricula is an academic function and can only be undertaken by a programme convenor or curriculum advisor in your home faculty/ academic department.

Under the rules, requests for credit transfer must be approved by the Head of academic Department following review by the programme convenor.

Financial support for student exchange

• How does the scholarship/ stipend work? What does it cover and what must I pay?

UCT has exchange agreements with various international universities which provide an opportunity for a certain number of academic places to be reserved for UCT students in exchange for their students enrolling at UCT. Students in an exchange are expected to pay tuition fees at UCT for the full period of their semester abroad. The cost for a semester on exchange is typically equivalent to the averaged cost of a full course-load on your programme of study for a single semester.

Some exchange agreements also provide a Cost of Living stipend or scholarship. The stipend is meant to cover (either partially or in full) the difference between the costs of accommodation, meals and health insurance between Cape Town and the exchange destination city. The stipend is not meant to cover ALL travel and living costs. Students should expect to continue to fund the baseline costs of living that they would have had to pay had they spent that semester at UCT.

Students on exchange should save between US$2,000 and US$4,000 for their semester abroad. This amount should help with any other costs incurred like visas, personal expenses, entertainment, inter-city travel and sightseeing/ touring.

• Does IAPO provide financial support for flights?

IAPO has limited funds to support exchange students with their air fares/ flights. Financial support for flights is not automatic. Students must apply for flight support. Applications will be evaluated based on (i) demonstrated need for support in covering the air fare and (ii) the value of the stipend or scholarship provided by the host university (some stipends are specifically intended to cover travel costs and may not be used for other purposes). If your application for flight support is successful, you will receive up to 50% of the cost of the flight.

Once you have been granted flight support, we are not able to provide additional support or cover. We urge you to plan ahead for unforeseen events or emergencies by

1. Ensuring the air ticket you purchase can be changed. If you have to change the dates of your flight, you will need to pay for any re-booking charges. There are many reasons you might miss a flight and some of them will be beyond your control.  Always ensure you can change your flight without penalty or extra charge.
2. Purchasing travel insurance. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to change your travel arrangements at the last minute, you can claim compensation through the insurer.

To be eligible for flight support, you should

• have been interviewed by the Exchange Selection Committee and have been nominated and selected for a semester exchange;
• have been placed in an exchange that does not provide independent funding for flights or travel;
• provide evidence that alternate funding for flight support is not available;
• demonstrate that your chosen itinerary or travel route is the most direct and economical available. Flight support may not be used to pay for stop-over sightseeing or holidays in another destination. It is intended for travel for the exchange only.

Applications are to be submitted after you have received confirmation from the Exchanges office of your successful selection and placement.

The application form will be made available to students who have been placed in a semester exchange.