Study Abroad Students

contact: Denise Long, Director of Student Support and Wellbeing, Student and Registry Services


Provision of study abroad opportunities

"As part of its strategy to internationalise further both academic study and the student experience, UCL wishes to both increase the number of programmes including elements taken outside of the UK and to foster more student exchanges."

"UCL recognises that spending a period of time studying abroad as part of a degree programme is an intrinsically valuable experience. It provides a framework in which students can develop by being exposed to a different culture and academic environment and in so doing improve their CVs and enhance their career prospects."

1. UCL's Corporate Plan (2006-2012) includes an aim of increasing the number of students studying abroad by 3% per year.

Provision of information, preliminary considerations and preparation of student

2. The Study Abroad team in Student and Registry Services are able to provide advice and information on the opportunities available to UCL students for study abroad and on UCL's exchange partners.

3. Students who wish to undertake an optional study abroad placement (i.e. those for whom an overseas placement is not an integral and compulsory element of the programme for which they are registered) are required to submit a preliminary application in the Autumn Term of the year preceding any planned study abroad. Application forms are available from the Study Abroad Team in November.

4. All students considering study abroad are registered for the zero-weighted course unit 'Preparation for Study Abroad'. A pre-requisite for undertaking a study abroad placement is the satisfactory completion of a preparation programme provided by departments and/or the Study Abroad Team. Registration for the course unit triggers the preparation procedure. Compliance with this is monitored by the Study Abroad Team.

5. The Study Abroad Team produces the Study Abroad Handbook for study abroad students, which in 2013/14 will be accompanied by a publication which supports students in making their decision to go abroad. Current and previous versions of the handbook will be available online. (www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/international-students/current-students/ucl-students-abroad/sa-forms) Information published by the Study Abroad Team is supplemented by relevant departmental information. The Study Abroad Handbook includes information/advice on the topics outlined below; any guidance devised by departments working independently of the Study Abroad Team should cover the same items:

  • prerequisites for embarking on study abroad
  • the purpose/aims of study abroad
  • student responsibilities
  • financial awareness
  • advice on insurance, health and cultural issues
  • course selection and work undertaken while abroad and all relevant details regarding submission, assessment, etc.
  • advice on health and safety procedures for students undertaking work placements
  • fee payment
  • assessment on return to UCL (where relevant)
  • emergency contacts at UCL
  • relevance of skills acquired abroad to career potential/self assessment
  • accommodation abroad and on return to UCL

6. Workshops/briefing meetings with returning students are organised by departments. Students preparing for study abroad are expected to attend. The Study Abroad Team runs pre-departure briefings for all study abroad students in March.

7. Study abroad students not registered for language programmes will be required to demonstrate a minimum level of proficiency in a language appropriate to the placement. Responsibility for establishing the required minimum level of proficiency rests with the department. Students should be made aware of study abroad opportunities at an early point in their UCL programmes and should, where appropriate, be encouraged to take courses at the Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE).

8. All departments offering programmes with a compulsory study abroad element should follow the formal Faculty procedure for consideration of waivers of this requirement. Consideration of waivers should take account of how to classify a student to whom a waiver is granted.

9. Departments should set a minimum academic requirement necessary for students to qualify for study abroad. The recommended minimum is a maintained 2:1 average across years one and two.


10. Many placements are on a fee-waiver, exchange basis. However, some students in modern language departments spend their compulsory year abroad as a fee-paying student. Departments should monitor closely the level of tuition fees charged as the maximum amount which can be reimbursed is capped at one third of the full-time fee. Only in exceptional circumstances and when written approval has been obtained in advance from the Senior Tutor may this amount be exceeded.

11. Departments should take account of the fact that UCL's payment of fees for study abroad students is reflected in the Resource Centre Model for the departments concerned, and consider their selection of placements at overseas higher education institutions accordingly.

12. Study abroad students seeking to change from one course to another at an overseas institution are required to obtain prior written approval from their department; failure to obtain such approval or refusal to grant approval will render the student liable for any additional fee.

Progress and feedback

13. It is a departmental responsibility to:

  • ensure that a proposed study abroad placement meets the requirements of the programme specification;
  • maintain contact with, and monitor the progress of, students on overseas placements. For those departments with ERASMUS exchange agreements, funds are available for staff visits to partner institutions. Increased use of these funds to monitor students' progress abroad is encouraged (contact the Study Abroad Team for further details);
  • ensure that students submit authorised documentation confirming that they have registered for and completed the previously agreed programme of study associated with the study abroad placement and in so doing ensure their eligibility to continue their programme of study at UCL;
  • require students to complete an on-line evaluation questionnaire to monitor the quality of their experience and assess the suitability of the host institution for future students.

Staff responsibilities

14. Departments should nominate a member of staff to fulfil the role of Study Abroad Tutor. The Tutor will be responsible for overseeing the student's application, approving the placement programme and maintaining contact with the student whilst away and arrangements for assessment and credit transfer.

15. Where practicable, a member of staff at the host institution abroad should be designated as a point of contact for UCL students at the institution.

16. Departments should be encouraged to monitor numbers of students being received and sent on the Erasmus programme and to aim for parity in this.

Emergency arrangements

17. UCL's policy on risk mitigation for students on overseas placements is as follows.

  • All students due to undertake a placement overseas are required to read the UCL Travel Health and Safety notes and sign the accompanying travel health and safety declaration form (available at www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/international-students/current-students/ucl-students-abroad/sa-forms).
  • Students are required to provide up-to-date contact details of their next of kin during re-enrolment at the start of their year abroad. Their address and contact details abroad should be updated via Portico as soon as they are available. The student is responsible for updating these details following any subsequent changes.
  • The Study Abroad Tutor, together with the student (and the Study Abroad Team where appropriate) should undertake an assessment of any potential risks that may arise. This should be based on any knowledge of the destination and on current Foreign and Commonwealth Office website advice. Where it is felt that the student would benefit from specialist advice he/she should be referred to the Gower Place NHS Practice/their own GP and/or the UCL Safety Services as appropriate.
  • The Study Abroad Team should be the student's first point of contact in the case of an emergency. However, the student or their family may also contact the Study Abroad Tutor if they feel this is more appropriate. In all cases, the Study Abroad Team and Study Abroad Tutor should maintain clear communication over all issues which may negatively impact a student’s time abroad. Crises / emergencies that could potentially occur might fall into the following categories:

i. Financial. Students should be encouraged to consider carefully the financial implications of studying abroad. The Study Abroad Team will work to provide materials to support this. As part of their preparation process, students should prepare a budget and make contingency plans for unforeseen expenses e.g. applying for a credit card or arranging an emergency overdraft facility from their home bank before travelling. In the event of a student contacting their Study Abroad Tutor about financial hardship they should be referred to Student Funding.

ii. Death of a student. Direct UCL involvement in the case of the death of a student is normally limited and responsibility for contacting the next of kin is best handled by the police. With the death of a student overseas this should also be the case. Normal arrangements for UCL's response to the death of a student should be activated as set out at www.ucl.ac.uk/academic-manual/student-death. In the case of the death of a student where a number of students are together on the same placement consideration should be given to bringing those students back to the UK, if only on a temporary basis, to offer some kind of counselling process. In this instance, the Study Abroad Team will work with colleagues across Student Support and Wellbeing to ensure that the response is adequate. Students aware of the death of a fellow student should convey this information to the Study Abroad Team at the earliest possible opportunity.

iii. Accident / serious illness. Practical arrangements should be dealt with via UCL's insurers. Students aware that a fellow student has suffered an accident or a serious illness should contact the Study Abroad Team at the earliest possible opportunity.

iv. General Health. Students should be encouraged to register with a local doctor as soon as possible after their arrival at their placement. Information may be available via the International Office (or equivalent) at the host institution. Students on work placements or teaching assistantships should make enquiries via their employer.

v. Mental Health. If UCL receives information from the host institution or is contacted by the student directly and it seems that the student is suffering from some kind of mental health problem, this should be referred to Student Support and Wellbeing Services.

vi. Crime. If a student is the victim of a crime: assault, sexual assault, racism, victim of theft etc. they should IN ALL CASES report it to the local police. They should also contact the Study Abroad Team to arrange further support, though in more sensitive cases, students may choose to contact Student Support and Wellbeing Services directly.

vii. Arrest. If a student is arrested for a serious crime they should immediately notify the local British (or other relevant) Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. In the case of all arrests they should contact the Study Abroad Team and their next of kin to advise them of the situation.

viii. Missing students. If students are aware that a fellow student is missing they should contact the following: the local police, the local British (or other relevant) Embassy, High Commission or Consulate, the Study Abroad Team and the host institution / employer.

ix. Civil unrest / natural disaster. The Study Abroad Team monitor the government's advice via the FCO website and provide advice for students based on this. It is advised that Study Abroad Tutors subscribe to email alerts for the relevant areas where their students are based in order to stay aware of any incidents which may affect them.

x. Other emergencies. Any other crises should be reported, in the first instance, to the Study Abroad Team. They will deal with the situation as appropriate, taking advice where necessary and maintaining communication with the student’s Study Abroad Tutor.

A point of contact should be established at host institutions for enquiries about the student's academic progress and for all pastoral matters. A reciprocal system of rapid contact (telephone numbers or e-mail) should be set up against the eventuality of an emergency for a student. Contact details of institutional co-ordinators may be obtained from the Study Abroad Team.  

July 2013