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Apply: how to apply for overseas study

Apply for academic approval

This is a new process that we're introducing from Semester 2 2020. If you're currently participating in exchange for Semester 1 2020, you should follow the academic approval process that we've already outlined in our emails to you.

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.

This 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 credit approval stating that you will receive credit at the University of Sydney on the condition that you complete that unit successfully. You can only receive 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)
    If you applied for semester exchange, when we endorsed you we sent you the conditions you needed to meet in order 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.

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 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.

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.
  • 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 eg. 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.
  • Capstone units and some core units can’t be studied on exchange, and this will be in your endorsement conditions.
  • Professional degrees and accredited subjects often have special restrictions or limits, and this will be in your endorsement conditions.

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.

The table below summarises the credit load and number of subjects for each country:

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

Every subject you study on exchange will count towards your degree credit points. In most cases, we advise students to do electives while on exchange 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 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. ENGL3XXX – Unspecified English (Snr)
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. Commerce – Unspecified (Snr)
This will count as an elective and can be used towards a Faculty credit point requirement eg. Commerce – Unspecified (Snr) 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. You need to follow these instructions.

You’ll also be able to see any units that were not approved, and the reasons why.

You can edit your basket 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.

Student Centre



1800 SYD UNI (1800 793 864)
or +61 2 8627 1444 (outside Australia)

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Last updated: 16 October 2020

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