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Apply: how to apply for overseas study

Apply for academic approval

If you’re applying for exchange, you’ll need to follow these steps to apply for academic approval for the units you study overseas.

You can also apply to receive credit towards your Sydney degree for your short-term non-exchange subjects, but it’s not mandatory. If you intend to apply for credit, or you think there’s a chance you may apply for credit at some point in the future, you’ll need to follow this guide when choosing subjects. 

If you’re interested in a BYO short-term program, read our BYO page on the Global Mobility Database for information on how to apply for academic approval.

The academic approval process ensures that you’re studying units that fit into your course requirements and that you can continue to progress successfully through your studies.

If we approve a unit, you will receive a conditional mobility credit approval stating that you will receive credit at the University of Sydney on the condition that you complete that unit successfully. This is called an academic approval letter. You can only receive mobility credit towards your course for units that we approved you to study.

1. Choosing your units

When choosing overseas units, it is important to understand the requirements and structure of your course (and major/s).

  • See your handbook
    To help understand your course structure, you should consult the relevant Handbook for your course.
  • See your endorsement conditions (semester exchange only)
    When we endorse and nominate you following your semester exchange application, we outline the conditions you need to meet to be eligible for overseas study. This includes any units you need to complete the equivalent of at your host university. We also upload a degree plan to Sydney Student which will help you with selecting units.
  • View your degree plan and endorsement conditions
    You can do this in Sydney Student (go to ‘My requests’ then ‘View degree plan’). If there are multiple versions of your degree plan, refer to the most recent one.

2. Selecting units in Sydney Student

View your overseas study request in Sydney Student (go to 'My requests'). Here you can choose to 'Select units of study'. 

When you’re selecting units to apply for approval, you can either select from a list of pre-assessed units or elect an alternative unit and upload a detailed unit of study outline.

Pre-assessed units

These are subjects that have already been assessed for mobility credit by our academics and with a credit outcome already determined. You can use the list to see which units have already been assessed for the institutions that interest you.

Before selecting from this list you’ll need to check that the unit is:

  • the right level for your course – either undergraduate or postgraduate
  • offered at the host institution during the session you plan to study, check your host institution’s course catalogue on their website

Applying for other units

If you upload outlines for new subjects, you'll need to provide unit outlines with all the information about that unit, so that we can assess whether these can be given credit first. See our unit outlines page for more detail on what these outlines should include.

Outlines need to be:

  • in English or for language studies and culture units, either in English or the relevant language - if your outlines need to be translated, it is your responsibility to arrange this. We will accept an outline translated by you if you provide both the translated version and the foreign language version. We may verify your translation during the academic approval process.
  • in PDF format – if you’re providing outlines for more than one unit, make sure they’re in separate PDFs. If you’re unable to provide PDFs you can provide a link to the host institution’s website (paste the link into a Word document and convert it to a PDF file).

If you’re having problems finding complete unit outlines from your host institution:

  • contact your host lecturers or host exchange adviser - if a subject does not have an outline, you’ll need to ask the lecturer to email you the information, and you’ll upload the lecture’s response to Sydney Student.
  • contact Sydney Abroad for assistance.

Application timeline

We’ll email you once academic approval applications are open for your program. The table below summarises the application timeline for approval of your units.

Type of program When you can select units Deadline When you'll receive your outcome
Semester exchange

You can select your units once you have access to:

  • your host institution’s course catalogue for the semester you go on exchange, and
  • detailed unit outlines if the units you’d like to study aren’t in our pre-assessed list.

You should aim to have all your units selected in Sydney Student at least 2 months prior to the start of semester at your host institution’s census date.

We will assess late additions, however can’t guarantee that they’ll be approved for credit.

You should receive an initial outcome within 15 working days after you've selected your units in Sydney Student.

You need to contact us at least 2 weeks before your host institution’s census date if you did not receive an outcome or if you need to change the units you selected.
 

Year-long exchange

You can select your units once you have access to:

  • your host institution’s course catalogue for the semester you go on exchange, and
  • detailed unit outlines if the units you’d like to study aren’t in our pre-assessed list.

If you have access to the information, you can choose to apply for approval for a full year’s worth of units before you start exchange or you can apply at a later date for your second semester units.

You should aim to have all your units selected in Sydney Student at least 2 months prior to the start of semester at your hosts institution’s census date.

We will assess late additions, however can’t guarantee that they’ll be approved for credit.

You should receive an initial outcome within 15 working days after you've selected your units in Sydney Student.

For each semester, you need to contact us at least 2 weeks before your host University's census date if you did not receive an outcome or if you need to change the units you selected.

Short-term exchange and non-exchange You can select your units once you receive an email inviting you to apply for approval for your study abroad units in Sydney Student.

You need to add units of study within 10 working days of the invitation to add email.

If you do not add units within 10 working days your application will be withdrawn.

Units added after this date will not be assessed unless all your units have been rejected for mobility credit or your institution has cancelled units of study.

If circumstances beyond your control prevented you to submit your units within the relevant timeframe, you will need to send us an enquiry with supporting evidence.

We aim to provide you with an outcome within 10 working days after your unit submission deadline has passed. If you have not heard from us within this timeframe, you should submit an online enquiry.
 
BYO, third party providers and internship programs You’ll need to submit your application in the Global Mobility Database. You will also need to submit the units for assessment as part of the application. You’ll need to submit your application in the Sydney Abroad Portal by the deadline we give you. We cannot guarantee if you will receive an outcome before the start of your program. This is because the University does not have visibility of program dates for BYO, third party and internship programs.

  • You cannot study a subject at your host institution that you’ve completed at Sydney
  • The content should be academic in nature and like the content taught at Sydney
  • The assessment regime should be like the assessment regime for similar subjects at Sydney e.g. 60% exam, 20% 1000-word essay, 20% quizzes might be approved, 100% class participation does not meet Sydney’s academic standards
  • If the subject was offered at Sydney, you’d be allowed by the rules in your handbook to study it.
  • Certain units can’t be studied on exchange, and this will be in your endorsement conditions or academic approval outcome. Units you’ll need to study at Sydney include:
    • Some degree core units
    • Capstone and interdisciplinary project units
    • 4000-level advanced studies and honour units.
  • Professional degrees and accredited subjects often have special restrictions or limits, and this will be in your endorsement conditions or academic approval letter.

Semester or year-long exchange

Most students will study the equivalent of 24 University of Sydney credit points on exchange. The number of host credits and subjects varies between institutions.

For some institutions, there will be a range for credit. If you see a range for your host institution, you need to study the upper limit. For example, if you see 12 – 15 credits, you should study 15 credits. It’s important you get this right – you could receive a Fail grade if you don’t study the required credit points. Don’t confuse this with what your host institution states is a full-time load for its students, as this does not apply to you.

We recommend selecting up to double what you need in case some units aren’t available at your host institution. For example, if you’ll study 15 credits on exchange, you can select 30 credits worth of subjects in Sydney Student.

You can edit your basket in Sydney Student at any time by adding new units you’d like assessed, however you can only delete units you don’t want to study after they’ve been assessed.

The table below summarises the credit load and number of subjects for each country. It is to be used as a guide only. 

Country/region Full-time semester study load (credit points) Typical number of courses
University of Sydney 24  
China 18 5-8
South Korea 18 5-8
Europe 30 (ECTS) 3-8
Israel 15 4-5
Japan 14 5-7
Latin America 20 5-6
New Zealand 60 4
Scotland 60 (SCQF) 3
South Africa 72 2-4
UK 60 (CATS) 3-6
US/Canada 15 4-5

Short term exchange and short term non-exchange

You can choose to study between 6 and 12 University of Sydney credit points provided you have room in your degree. We’ll advise you of the exact number of units you’ll need to study in your academic approval letter.

You can find general guidance on the credit load at host institutions in the Global Mobility Database (go to the landing page for the host institution and click the Academics tab).

We recommend selecting up to double what you need in case some units aren’t available at your host institution. For example, if you plan to study 2 subjects at your host institution, you can select up to 4 subjects in Sydney Student.

Every subject you study on semester, year-long or short-term exchange will count towards your degree credit points. If you’re approved for a short-term non-exchange program, you can decide whether to apply for credit for your units when you return.

In most cases, we advise students to do electives while on overseas study as these tend to be more flexible and more likely to be approved for study. Some students will study non-electives on exchange. If this applies to you, it will be in your endorsement conditions or your academic approval letter.

If you are approved to study subjects towards your specialisation, program, major, minor or pre-requisites, the table explains what mobility credit you will receive.

Assessment outcome How it will be credited
Specified equivalent Sydney unit
eg. GOVT3644 - Political Campaigning
You’ll receive credit as though you studied the unit at Sydney. However, if you’ve already studied the unit at Sydney, you won’t be able to study it on exchange.
Unspecified unit with code
eg. ENGL3U01 – Unspecified Senior Credit (English)

This can count as an elective or selective towards your program, major or minor if you have space in your course and your handbook has elective or selective units at the same level.
Unspecified unit without code
eg. BUSS3U01 – Unspecified Senior Credit (Business)

This will count as an elective and can be used towards a Faculty credit point requirement eg. BUSS3U01 – Unspecified Senior Credit (Business) counts as an elective from the Business School.

3. Review your unit outcomes

Once your units have been assessed, you’ll receive an email asking you to review the outcomes in Sydney Student. You’ll be able to view and download an academic approval letter that lists the units which have been approved and the credit you’ll receive at Sydney if you successfully complete these. Your academic approval letter may include further instructions about your study and how many units you’ll need to complete. You need to follow these instructions.

In Sydney Student, you’ll also be able to see any units that were not approved, and the reasons why.

Short-term BYO program

If you’re applying for a BYO program, you’ll need to add unit of study outlines to your application in the Global Mobility Database. See our unit outlines page for detail on what these outlines should include.

After we’ve assessed your units, we’ll send the outcome to you by email.

You’ll need upload the outcome to your application in the Global Mobility Database. This is a mandatory step in the process.

If you’re approved for the program, we’ll advise you of the exact number of units you’ll need to study in your academic approval letter. For more information about this, read the 'General tips on choosing units' content.

You can apply to receive credit towards your Sydney degree for your short-term BYO subjects, but it’s not mandatory. If you intend to apply for credit, or you think there’s a chance you may apply for credit at some point in the future, you must follow the process above before you commence your study.

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Last updated: 07 September 2021

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