Exchange policies and procedures

7.1 Summary of Exchange Programme Procedures

The University offers three types of student exchange programme, the policies and procedures of which are handled slightly differently. These are the University wide International Exchanges, School Exchanges and ERASMUS+ Exchanges. The following indicates the process for approvals for typical programmes:

7.1.1 In all cases, members of academic staff wishing to propose, pursue or implement a new international link of any kind must review the proposal in the first instance with the relevant Head of School to ensure compatibility with school strategy and obtain school approval prior to any formal adoption of an agreement.

7.1.2 University Wide and School Exchanges

  • Initial discussion with the International Exchanges Manager ( within International and Recruitment;
  • Proposals for new, school-based, student exchanges may only be made with the express understanding that the promotion, selection of students, nomination to the host university and support of students abroad is a school matter and the Code of Practice on Student Exchanges applies to such exchanges. Where an exchange is university-wide, such matters will be the remit and responsibility of the International Exchanges Team within International and Recruitment;
  • Draft agreement to be drawn up using the relevant template as a starting point;
  • Draft submitted to partner institution for discussion;
  • Before any agreement for the exchange of students is finalised, a site visit to the proposed exchange partner university should be undertaken;
  • Final agreement, if the exchange is school based, goes to the Faculty learning and teaching committee for agreement;
  • School, in consultation with the Student Recruitment, Admissions and International Affairs Office, submits agreement to the Education and Student Experience Committee (ESEC) and to the Director of Finance;
  • Following approval by ESEC and the Director of Finance, the agreement is submitted to the Deputy Principal (Education and Students) for signature;
  • Copies of the signed agreement to be sent to partner institution, programme coordinator (if the exchange is school based) and the Student Recruitment, Admissions and International Affairs Office;
  • For school exchanges, the Faculty concerned should ensure internal procedures are in place to provide for promotion of the programme, academic advising and support, and for follow-up, including ensuring that transcripts and other relevant documents are obtained from partners and submitted to the Student Recruitment, Admissions and International Affairs Office.

7.1.3 New ERASMUS+ Exchanges

  • Initial discussion with the University’s ERASMUS+ Co-coordinator/International Exchanges Manager ( in SRAI.

Where student mobility is proposed under ERASMUS+ the procedures established for setting up a new student exchange will apply. This includes the requirement for site visits, programme and quality assessments. All ERASMUS+ exchange agreements are subject specific, and an academic coordinator within the division will be named on the agreement. The coordinator is responsible for ensuring that the relevant paperwork for the establishment of the new exchange, and the accompanying site visit, is completed and returned to the ERASMUS+ Co-coordinator.

  • No site visit is required for ERASMUS+ agreements which are for the exchange of staff only;
  • No site visit is required for ERASMUS+ agreements where a site visit has already been undertaken as part of a separate agreement with another school or division;
  • Where co-operation involves research activities, the Research and Enterprise Office will be consulted prior to any agreement being drawn up and signed;
  • The completed site visit paperwork should be submitted to the Faculty learning and teaching committee for formal approval or, where this is impractical, to the Head of School;
  • If the proposal is approved, the Faculty forwards the paperwork to the ERASMUS+ coordinator so that a bilateral agreement can be drawn up;
  • ERASMUS+ coordinator to include proposal in the Institutional Contract Bid and to bring the agreement to ESEC;
  • Copies of signed agreement to be sent to partner institution, programme coordinator and lodged with the ERASMUS+ coordinator;
  • The authorised signatories for a bilateral agreement or other ERASMUS+ agreement will be the Deputy Principal (Education and Students), subsequent to the approval system above being implemented;
  • Schools concerned should ensure internal procedures are in place to provide for promotion of the programme, academic advising and support.

7.1.4 Renewal of ERASMUS+ Exchanges

  • The University’s ERASMUS+ coordinator/International Exchanges Manager will liaise with programme coordinators on a bi-annual basis to determine whether a programme should continue, be approved for expansion or be reduced in scale;
  • Bilateral Agreement drawn up for agreement of the partner institution outlining the proposed activity for the subsequent programme cycle;
  • ERASMUS+coordinator/International Exchanges Manager to include proposal in the institutional contract bid;
  • The authorised signatory for a renewed bilateral agreement or other ERASMUS +document such as a letter of intent agreement will normally be the Head of International Affairs within SRAI;
  • Copies of signed agreement to be sent to partner institution, programme coordinator and lodged with the ERASMUS+ coordinator/International Exchanges Manager.

7.1.5 In all cases, where there is genuine urgency and submission to the relevant committees is not practical, approvals may be given by the appropriate committee chairperson and subsequently notified to the committee.

7.2 Code of Practice: Reciprocal Student Exchange Agreements

7.2.1 This Code of Practice is applicable to all reciprocal student exchange programmes. The purpose is to ensure that all necessary steps are taken by the relevant staff, academic or administrative, or schools, to ensure that University of Stirling students will not be disadvantaged whilst studying abroad, and that programme quality is maintained at a high level.

7.2.2 Any school wishing to establish a student exchange programme must demonstrate that the exchange is planned to operate on a reciprocal basis and that there is sufficient demand from students to fill those places.

7.2.3 There must be a clear academic focus to the exchange.

7.2.4 Exchange partners must be of reputable standing academically, and approved by the University of Stirling.

7.2.5 It is imperative that exchange partners be visited by staff from the Faculty, or member of staff from SRAI on a regular basis, preferably at least every four years, to ensure that standards are maintained. Such a visit will include inspection of all aspects of the exchange: academic issues; support services, and facilities such as accommodation, computing and recreational provision. Failure on the part of our exchange partner to adhere to reasonable standards will result in the closure of the exchange.

7.2.6 Whenever an academic school proposes an exchange, it should ensure that resources will be available to implement paragraph 7.2.5 above. It should also ensure that information about the proposed partner is made available for comment prior to any decision to establish an exchange being made. This material should include undergraduate and postgraduate prospectuses and other supporting information such as information on student housing provision and other facilities.

7.2.7 University of Stirling coordinators must have good working links with the coordinator at the host institution. Such links may include common teaching or research interests, previous visits, or similar evidence of existing co-operation. Exchanges established at school level must have a coordinator appointed to organise and support the exchange, select students to participate and to provide briefings, assist with the completion of all required documentation and to liaise with the partner institution. For exchange agreements operated on a university-wide basis, SRAI will co-ordinate the programme on a similar basis. Where such a coordinator is not identified, the exchange should not be approved. SRAI will ensure that arrangements are made to enable incoming students to apply, be processed, and gain admission to the university.

7.2.8 Partner institutions are required to provide up to date course listings and other support material to the coordinator of the exchange on a regular, preferably annual, basis. This is to ensure that decisions on course selection may be made on a sound academic basis.

7.2.9 Partner institutions should provide, or make available, or make arrangements to assist students in finding, suitable housing for incoming students, as the University of Stirling does for its partners’ students.

7.2.10 Due regard to Health and Safety issues must be paid and where possible, the partner institution should provide the programme coordinator with a copy of its health and safety policy, and its student support policy.

7.2.11 Students studying abroad must ensure, and be advised of this requirement, that they have adequate travel and health insurance for the complete period of the programme.

7.2.12 Students selected to take part in an exchange must be of good academic standing, according to the application guidelines.

7.2.13 It must be possible for University of Stirling students to enrol for classes which are approved by their school at Stirling. This is applicable to language students as well as non-language students.

7.2.14 Support services for incoming students at the partner university must be of a good standard and students should expect to have access to academic advice and support, reasonable housing and other services at a fair cost where appropriate.

7.2.15 The exchange should be available to students with special needs and/or disabilities. The partner institution must be able to accept admission of, and provide support for, a range of such students and make clear before any agreement is signed if any particular disabilities or special needs cannot be supported.

There must be close co-operation between schools at Stirling. Thus, for example, a student wishing to study abroad must have approval from all his or her schools at Stirling, and be taking relevant courses whilst abroad.

7.2.17 Courses taken abroad must be subject to grading and students will receive block credit for courses successfully completed overseas. Students must be advised clearly before beginning their study period abroad how the course approval and credit transfer systems work. All students who study abroad must complete a Learning Agreement with their Adviser of Studies before the start of the study period.

7.2.18 Students wishing to study in a non-native English speaking country, must be able to enrol in classes which shall be taught in English, unless the primary purpose of the study period is to improve their language skills as part of their degree programme.

7.2.19 Students should be able to communicate with their coordinator at Stirling regularly.

7.2.20 There should be close co-operation between academic schools and SRAI.

7.2.21 If a potential programme does not meet the above conditions, it will not be approved. Existing exchanges will be assessed for their adherence to these principles regularly.

7.3 University of Stirling Policy on Student Exchanges

7.3.1 Any proposal to establish a formal agreement of exchange, co-operation or mutual understanding between the University of Stirling and an academic body based overseas will be submitted to ESEC for approval prior to it being signed on behalf of the University.

7.3.2 Once appropriate approval has been given, the International Exchanges Manager will arrange for the agreements to be signed by the Deputy Principal (Education and Students).

7.3.3 It is expected that any new proposal should undergo a process of consultation prior to being submitted in order that the agreement be assessed for its academic, legal and other implications. The academic member of staff acting as the proponent or organiser of the programme would normally consult all colleagues and schools which might be affected by the proposal and also submit a draft to the Secretary to ESEC in order that suitable advice may be obtained.

7.3.4 ESEC will delegate authority to approve an agreement to its Chair in order that the processing of such agreements is expedited, provided that the Chair subsequently submits a report to the committee on any agreements so ratified.

7.3.5 Any proposal for a new exchange agreement of institutional collaboration should be backed by a clear statement of academic aims and objectives, showing clearly the academic purpose of the agreement and establishing clear indicators against which the agreement may be measured.

7.3.6 Exchange agreements which provide for an exchange of students throughout the University shall normally only be permitted at undergraduate level. At postgraduate level, only exchanges which are available within a degree programme, or an academic school, shall normally be permitted.

7.3.7 Any exchange agreement proposed must be supported by a statement on intent to implement the Code of Practice on Reciprocal Student Exchange Agreements.

7.4 Erasmus+ Programmes

('ERASMUS+ is the new framework programme replacing the ERASMUS Lifelong Learning Programme from 2014-2020.')

7.4.1 Primarily, this University’s association with ERASMUS+ relates to student exchange programmes and, to a smaller degree, with teaching staff exchanges.However, the University, through individual members of academic staff or schools/divisions, is also involved in other actions of ERASMUS+, including Intensive Programmes (IP), European Modules (EM), Curriculum Development Actions (CDA) and others. However, such non-exchange activities currently do not have central administrative support.

7.4.2 It is a requirement on all academic staff that any proposed involvement in actions of ERASMUS+ must have obtained any necessary approvals. Staff may not establish, or agree with other institutions or staff to establish, any activity under the ERASMUS+ programme without obtaining the necessary academic approvals and informing the Institutional ERASMUS+ coordinator of the proposal in advance of approval being given. Student exchanges under ERASMUS+ will not be permitted unless they have first gone through the full process for the establishment of exchanges outlined elsewhere in this document.

7.4.3 In the first instance, for student and teacher exchanges, staff should approach the ERASMUS coordinator/International Exchanges Manager, ext. 7042 or to discuss the programme and seek information on the requirements which are in place. For some programmes, staff may be advised to liaise with the Research and Enterprise Office staff or other administrative offices.

7.4.4 From time to time, members of academic staff are approached by colleagues from overseas institutions who wish to establish collaboration or student exchanges with Stirling. Such approaches come most often as the deadlines for the international programmes (e.g. ERASMUS+, TEMPUS, LEONARDO, etc.) draw close. Very often, little time is given for staff to consider the proposed collaboration. The University, for reasons of quality assurance, will not support new agreements without the approved procedures being followed.

7.4.5 It should be advised that programme funding, especially from ERASMUS+, is restricted and that funding will normally be insufficient to meet the full requirements of these bids. Therefore, activities which are bid for may need complementary funding from schools, with the exception of the financing of ERASMUS+ student exchange grants.

7.4.6 As a result, the University must operate very cautiously with respect to new proposals.

7.4.7 New ERASMUS+ student exchanges must not only have a bilateral agreement, but have detailed site visit guidance completed which specifies the academic programme to be followed and the student support services such as housing provision to be provided. Forms for this purpose are available from SRAI (

7.4.8 Individual members of staff do not have authority to commit the University to participation in any international co-operation agreement and should not give any indication to colleagues abroad that they have such authority.

7.4.9 No contract or other document should be signed without it first being submitted for formal approval through the correct internal channels.

7.4.10 Staff must bear in mind that any agreement which may involve the University financially must receive approval from the Director of Finance before it can be signed by the Principal, Deputy Principal or University Secretary.

Programme Review

7.4.11 The programme of the closure of exchanges which fail to implement reciprocal exchanges (defined as the exchange of approximately equal numbers of students, expressed in semesters, over a three year period) will continue.

7.4.12 Where a school appeals against closure, the appeal must have the written support of the Head of School. The appeal will be accompanied by a written plan of action outlining the steps the Faculty proposes to take to ensure that the exchange will operate reciprocally.

7.4.13 Appeals against closure will be submitted through the Student Recruitment, Admissions and International Affairs Office to the Senior Deputy Principal. After consultation, the Senior Deputy Principal's decision will be final.

7.4.14 Where a programme continues, despite this plan, to fail to operate balanced exchange, the lead school will be held financially responsible for meeting the cost of fee waivers for the additional incoming students.

7.4.15 New programmes proposed will be required to meet the conditions on university exchanges agreed by ESEC; academic staff are advised that they do not have authority to commit the university to participate in international programmes outwith the terms of that policy, or to indicate to other parties that such approval will be given.

7.5 Guidelines on the Transfer of Credit for Exchange Students

The following policy was agreed by ESEC in January 2015:

7.5.1 The academic grades received by students when studying overseas on exchange will not be counted towards the student’s degree classification.

7.5.2 The academic credit obtained by students when studying overseas on exchange will continue to be counted.

7.5.3 Students selected to study abroad will follow an approved programme of study agreed with the relevant Adviser(s) of Studies. All students will need to submit and adhere to a formal Learning Agreement and must pass all agreed modules at the partner institution according to the partner’s grading scheme.

7.5.4 Following successful completion of these modules (confirmed by partner university transcript), students will receive 60 SCQF credits for one semester and will be progressed to their subsequent semester at the University of Stirling.

7.5.5 Under new academic regulations, the university has introduced compensation from 2014/5. Modules taken during a study abroad semester will be eligible for compensation unless they are compulsory modules.

Last updated September 2018