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Frequently Asked Questions: General exchange programme


To print pre-application questions: please download PDF

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

Yes. Undergraduate students can apply to go on an exchange during their second year of study, in the second semester. They must submit an exchange application in their 1st year by the 15th of October for exchange in their 2nd semester of their 2nd year.

How is the exchange structured?

Undergraduates must complete at least 3 semesters at UCT and will go on exchange during their 4th semester (2nd semester, 2nd year). Graduate students may go on exchange if they are registered at UCT for a Masters or Doctoral programme.

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

To be considered academically eligible to apply for an exchange, undergraduate students should be maintaining an average of 68% or above. All marks for undergraduates are taken into consideration. For graduate students who are taking course work degrees, marks from the graduate degree will be taken into consideration, as well as general performance in their undergraduate degree. Graduate students who do not take course work will be assessed independently.

If you do not fulfil this minimum academic requirement, your application will not be considered.

I’m a performing arts student, doing a four year degree – can I rather go on exchange in my third year?

In certain cases, music or dance students may go on exchange in their third year on condition they get the necessary permission from their department and are able to fulfil the necessary course credits needed for that year. Each case will be assessed on its own merit. Students registered for other four year programmes will also need to get special permission to do coursework for credit while abroad. The main restriction to remember is that all graduating major courses should be done at UCT.

I’m an undergraduate student but not in first year, can I still apply?

Generally no, but exceptions do apply for students doing a four year degree (see previous question). Final year students (3rd or 4th year) are excluded from applying by Rule GB2.1 in the General Rules and Policies Handbook that states that credit will not be granted for major courses completed at another institution.

How does an exchange work for postgraduate students?

Postgraduate students can apply for an exchange during their Masters or PhD degrees. Rule GB2.1 in the General Rules and Policies Handbook excludes Honours degree students from completing any courses at another institution.

If an Honours student wants to go on exchange in the first year of their Masters programme, then they can only apply for the second semester exchange (15 October deadline date) if they have enough decision making information. This includes having applied to do a Master’s programme at UCT in the following year and, by the time the selection committee meets, being able to produce an acceptance letter for that Masters programme. Should they be awarded the opportunity, this would still be on condition that they register at UCT for that Masters programme.

I’m doing a Master’s programme that has a coursework component; can I take courses for credit?

Eligible graduate students are allowed to take the courses necessary and required for their degree, providing they are not restricted at the host institution.

I’m doing a research only Masters/ PhD programme, can I go on exchange and can I do courses?

Eligible graduate students are allowed to conduct research and take courses providing they are not restricted at the host institution. Auditing of courses is allowed at some institutions but any courses audited will be for non-credit purposes. Students would have to, as far as possible, organise a co-supervisor at the host institution themselves. This can be started in the first application stage and if they should be granted this exchange, it would just be a matter of gaining admission to the host institution and confirming the time and conditions of the research.

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

UCT has exchange agreements with different universities which enables a certain number of spaces to be reserved at those institutions for UCT students. These agreements also ensure that students receive tuition fee waivers and living cost scholarships. Students are still expected to pay full tuition fees at UCT while on their semester abroad. The living cost scholarship is disbursed directly to the student in the form of a stipend on a monthly basis to manage their accommodation, meals and transport costs. Students are encouraged to provide between US$2000 and US$4000 themselves for their semester abroad. This amount should help with any other costs incurred like visas, deposits, personal expenses, entertainment, inner-city travel and touring. IAPO also contributes up to 50% of the cheapest, most direct flight to get to the host institution.

UCT Tuition - What is the fee implication if I only need to complete 1,2 or 3 courses and not the full course load at the partner university?



You would still be expected to pay your full UCT tuition associated with the exchanges course code that you are required to enrol for through the change of curriculum process, before embarking on your semester exchange.  

The principle of exchange is that each student pays full tuition fees at the level and course load required for their programme curriculum, and then swaps places with a student from a partner university. UCT students must enrol in the exchange course and pay the associated fee. It is against this course that the credits from the exchange are likely to be transferred.

Please see list of exchanges course codes per faculty below.

Commerce Faculty – DOC2001S

Humanities Faculty – DOH2001S

Science Faculty – DSC2001S

Engineering Faculty – END2000S

Law Faculty - DOL2000S

The link below will direct you to the fee linked to each placeholder course code.

How do I choose the host institution and my courses?

Students need to research the institutions they are interested in attending to ensure that the courses they would have taken at UCT are sufficiently covered by the courses they will take at the host institution. They can start informal discussions with UCT student advisors to help them identify appropriate courses or to confirm whether the courses researched are good enough substitutes for the UCT courses they would have taken.

For the application, students must get HOD in-principle confirmation that credits for courses completed at a partner university will be transferred towards their UCT degree, ensuring that they will complete their degrees in the stipulated timeframe.  

Should the student be successful in his or her application and is awarded an exchange and has been allocated a university, then the student will need to get his or her final list of courses approved by the relevant HOD or delegated authority. This is sometimes one of the last things done before leaving for exchange. If the student is unable to get the majority of his or her courses approved before leaving for exchange, even after shuffling courses in the programme around, and the result of going on exchange will extend the students time of completing his or her degree, then the student will have to withdraw from the programme. 

What are the chances of getting the universities chosen as per my application form?

As the number of places available at some institutions fluctuates each year, we cannot guarantee that students will automatically get their first or even second choice. This is an academic exchange and we try, as far as possible, to ensure all students granted the exchange opportunity are placed appropriately. 

If I’m awarded an exchange opportunity, can I choose a different university from those that I initially mentioned on the application form?

Please see the previous question. Depending on the applicant pool and how universities are allocated in that particular cycle, you may be offered a choice of two institutions, but this is not always a possibility so you should be as flexible as possible.

Which universities can I apply to for the IAPO General Exchange Programme?

Please find the latest list on our website:

When will I be informed of the outcome of my application?

The Exchanges Officer will email you confirming as to whether or not you have been shortlisted for an interview. More details will be given in that email. Also kindly note the information below.



To print post-application interview notes: please download PDF


•    No materials need to be brought to the interview.
•    Present yourself in the best possible light: Dress smart casual, be neat and tidy.
•    Treat this interview professionally.
•    Don’t use slang.
•    Be informed of where you want to go and why studying there will be helpful for your personal, academic and career goals.
•    Please note that this interview is an integral part of the selection process so please make every effort to present yourself there. There will be no alternative forms of interview conducted if you can’t attend it (i.e.: no Skype or Telephonic interview will be allowed).
•    Be on time. 
•    Be patient: Interviews may exceed the allocated time so please stay in the waiting room until someone tells you otherwise.
•    For PG students, please ensure that the Exchanges Officer has all your transcripts from previous institutions if applicable.

During the interview

•    For the interview, you need to know what your personal, academic and career goals are. Show the committee how an exchange opportunity can assist you in realizing them.
•    The committee will ask you if you have any questions for them.  Should you wish to ask them a question, please keep in mind we are frequently asked the questions below. We have given you the answers now so please don’t ask them these or similar questions as we are working to a strict time line during the interviews and you can ask the Exchanges Officer about it offline:

  • How many students apply for exchange? It varies every year but generally around 60 students apply.
  • How many students are awarded on exchange? We have enough spaces for all students deemed appropriate for exchange by the committee. Filling these spaces will therefore depend on the quality of your interview and on your application (motivation).
  • How long will I wait to have an answer? You will have to wait one week to hear back from the International Office- the Exchanges Officer will email you. If you have not received feedback, you may contact the Exchanges Officer once one week has passed since the interview date.
  • Will I get my preferred institution? Your preferred institutions are favoured but we cannot guarantee that you will go to these institutions.
  • Who is a part of the committee? The committee is made up of academic representatives from each faculty.
After the interview

•    You will be advised of the outcome of the interview within two days.
•    If you aren’t accepted, please contact the Exchanges Officer to find out about other opportunities that may exist for you. You can also find more information on 

•    Appeal: Please note that the committee’s decision is final and no appeal request will be entertained.

It is important to know that going on exchange is a very prestigious award. You will represent the University of Cape Town and South Africa abroad and you will have to do this in the best possible light.



To print post-application acceptance onto the programme faq.: please download PDF

Process to be followed once granted the exchange award by IAPO

1. After hearing that you were successful in your application, make an appointment with the Exchanges Officer to discuss this process in more detail as well as be allocated a host institution.
2. Once a host institution has been confirmed, start with completing the host institutions application forms. Meanwhile, the Exchanges Officer will nominate you to that  university to inform them of your application. Each host institution has a different deadline date- be sure to submit a full application package to the Exchanges Officer in good time. Only one application to one institution may be completed per student. 
3. Ensure that substitute courses identified at the host institution are acceptable as far as transfering credits are concerned. This should be done with your academic advisor. A Learning Agreement form must be completed before you leave on exchange indicating all courses for credit that will be done at the host institution and the HoD or delegated authority’s signature approving the course. This Learning Agreement will be given to you by the Exchanges Officer. Should you wish to talk to students who have gone on exchange before, exercise caution as course catalogues and policies around certain course credits may have changed. 
4. Housing is either applied for with the initial application or with prompting emails from the host institution. Each institution has a different way of doing things so make sure you take note of the processes of your institution and don’t compare with a friend who may be going to a different institution. Should a deposit be required, you would need to pay this and reimburse yourself from the scholarship that will be disbursed to you when the programme starts.
5. Notice of acceptance from the host institution may take between 1-3 months from the deadline date. 
6. Inform your relevant UCT faculty office that you have been accepted by the host institution and that you need to update your academic profile before you leave. This includes submitting your Learning Agreement and IAPO conditions forms so that your PeopleSoft profile can be updated accordingly. Copies of all these forms should be submitted to the Exchanges Officer for filing.
7. Once you receive your acceptance package, you may apply for your visa. The Exchanges Officer will explain the process and provide you with a visa support letter. You will have to apply and pay for the visa yourself.
8. Once your visa application has been approved, you may continue with booking your flights. Please see Money Matters below for more information about flights and reimbursements.
9. Attend the Pre-departure sessions at IAPO and make contact with students who have gone before so that you can properly prepare yourself.
10. At this point, you’re just about ready to go on exchange! Bon voyage!
11. While abroad, keep a blog and take photos. Once you return, you will have to submit  this blog and submit a picture poster and report relating to your experience abroad.     Please see the guidelines regarding the reporting process below for more details.
Do not hesitate to ask the Exchanges Officer for assistance at any stage as mentioned above. It would be advisable to make an appointment either to meet or connect telephonically. In this way, you will have her undivided attention.

Money Matters

1.    Each student that will go on exchange through IAPO’s Outbound International Exchanges Programme will receive
•    A tuition fee waiver (from the host institution) for one term/semester provided that the student is registered at UCT for the whole academic year in which he or she will be studying abroad. UCT tuition fees for the academic year must be paid before the student goes on exchange.
•   A stipend that requires the student to management payments for accommodation, transport and meals. (*Amount is dependent on the agreement with host institution.)
•   Reimbursement of up to 50% of the cheapest, most direct flight to get to the host institution (See point 4 below)

2.    The student is expected to save and contribute between US$2000 and US$4000** towards the semester expenses. These expenses may include deposits for accommodation, orientation, as well as personal living expenses incurred throughout the term/semester. The students are expected to pay housing deposits and orientation costs as and when they arise. (**Based on a R10 exchange rate. Please consult host institutions websites for more information on costs of living and discuss budgeting with the Exchanges Officer so as to adequately prepare for your time abroad.)

3.    The student is required to pay for the relevant study permits, contribute to flight tickets, and cover any other miscellaneous costs as mentioned in point 2.

4.    Flights:
The following should be submitted to the Exchange Officer for reimbursement of 50% of the cost:

-    3 quotes of the cheapest, most direct flight to get to get to the host institution (Quotes must be submitted before booking, as it needs to be discussed and agreed to by IAPO)    
-    Copy of e-ticket
-    If the e-ticket can’t be used as proof of payment, then a tax invoice/ credit card statement must be submitted (the document must state how you paid and that your balance owing is R0.00)
-    Copy of your ID/ passport
-    Ensure that you have responded to the student vendor email asking for bank details (this is email has been or will be sent to you by our Finance colleagues)

You may contact the UCT vendors for quotes: 
June at STA Travel (, Johan Nel at Millway ( or Brandon du Plooy at Club Travel (

Should you need to reimburse IAPO for flights, please ensure that you have the correct amount from the Exchanges Officer and use the following banking details:
Account name:    University of Cape Town, Current Account
Bank Name:    Standard Bank of South Africa
Bank Address:    Riverside Centre, Main Road, Rondebosch, 7700, South Africa
Account number:    07 148 023 4
Branch Code:    Rondebosch Branch, 025009
Swift Code:    SBZAZAJJ
Reference:    Your name and student number 

5. Scholarships

Scholarships may be released to you either by UCT or the host institution. The Exchanges Officer will inform you of the amount you will receive as well as how to go about gaining access to the scholarship. Should it be released to you by UCT, please ensure that you have responded to the student vendor email asking for bank details (this is email has been or will be sent to you by our Finance colleagues). 



To print while abroad faq.: please download PDF

Guidelines for reporting back on your exchange experience

You need to submit a report, blog and picture poster to IAPO during and on return from your exchange. These are important tools that will help prospective students learn about the different exchange opportunities available to them.

The picture poster must be laminated and can be A2 in size. Please include your name, host institution, semester and year as well as captions for your photos. You are most welcome to decide how you want to arrange your photos.

The report should focus on the following topics: academics, accommodation, finances, culture shock and tips for the next group of students that go to your host institution. The more detail you go into, the better it would read for someone with no idea what an exchange is about. For example, think about what you would have wanted to know regarding the different options for housing, or what the classroom dynamics and assessment formats are like. There is no word limit. The information in your blog may be similar to that in your report.

Please complete the blog while you are away on exchange. Don't forget to send your blog link as we would like to share it on our Facebook page!

Please click on this link for some guidance in terms of the picture poster and blog.



To print: please download PDF

Please note

In our increasingly connected and complex world, the risks of international travel are unavoidable. UCT encourages safe, culturally respectful global travel by UCT students and staff and endeavours to provide all of the necessary information to make those travels as successful as possible. 

The University has not established explicit travel policies in regard to students who go on Exchange but instead recommends that awardees review travel alerts, warnings and other relative information on consulate websites or those provided by the International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO), so as to help inform members of the UCT community while traveling. IAPO will therefore provide assistance to the student with repatriation processes should the country they are studying in, face unrest of such a nature that affects the student’s learning and living conditions.

Students participating in the University of Cape Town General Exchanges Programme must be aware that they are responsible for exercising good judgment and taking certain precautions to minimize risks to themselves and others during their participation in the programme. This includes engaging in personal risk management when traveling to and from, as well as during the exchanges programme.


Students are also encouraged to register with their Consulate in the host country upon arrival.