Undergraduate Student Exchange Programs
An exchange program allows students from two universities in two different countries to spend a semester or two in the other institution while taking courses. Students from the “home university” become visiting students in the “host university” for a limited time to increase their international exposure. This arrangement is made possible by a student exchange agreement between the two universities. Typically, home universities have a minimum grade point average (GPA) requirement for undergraduate students to be eligible for an exchange program. The students also need to satisfy the minimum requirements of the host university. These requirements can include a minimum GPA or a specified level of proficiency in the host country’s language. The number of students in the exchange program hosted by the two universities should be about equal in both directions for a sustainable agreement. If an approximate balance is not satisfied over a period of time, the agreement may come to an end.
Students pay the tuition of their own universities only if such tuition exists. They take courses at the host institution to be counted toward the degree requirements in their home institution. Students bear the costs of travel, accommodation, food and books while they are at the host institution.
Graduate Student Exchange Programs
To increase research collaboration between two universities, a graduate student exchange program is a useful tool. In such a program, for example, graduate students may spend a period in the host university possibly using the facilities or equipment of the host university not available at the home institution. In the same period, it is also possible for graduate students to take courses in the host university not given in the home university. In a typical arrangement, the host institution provides a tuition waiver and stipends and/or free accommodation to visiting graduate students.
In many developed countries, the number of students studying (STEM) science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects is decreasing, and it is becoming more and more difficult to find native graduate students despite the efforts to increase their interest . This is not the case in many developing countries. Hence, the STEM workforce in developed nations depends to a large extent on foreign-born mathematicians, scientists and engineers. A graduate student exchange agreement between a developed country and a developing country and the resulting research collaboration are beneficial to both sides: the developing country supplies highly motivated graduate students while the developed country has a rich research infrastructure and distinguished faculty members. Home universities profit from this arrangement in the form of collaborative research papers and the expertise obtained by the graduate students. Research universities in developed nations prefer to use graduate student exchange agreements as a tool to attract and select graduate students for their Ph.D. or post-doctoral programs.
Exchange Program Coordinators
Every department that is involved in an undergraduate student exchange program should appoint a faculty member or a staff member from the department as the exchange coordinator. The duties of an exchange program coordinator can be listed as follows:
Inform the students in the department about the exchange system and about the partner institutions.
Keep in constant contact with the exchange program coordinators of the partner universities.
Inspect the regulations, academic rules and courses of the corresponding departments in partner universities for the purpose of informing the potential exchange students of the department.
Advise students about the courses they may take while they are in partner universities. Before the students depart for the host country, it is important for students to know how they will satisfy the home institution’s requirements with the courses they take at the host university. It is obviously undesirable if the courses taken abroad are not counted toward the degree requirements of the home institution.
Be a contact point for the outgoing students and be available when they need academic advice.
Report to the department the grades of the courses taken abroad by the outgoing exchange students upon their return, possibly after converting them using an equivalency table.
Transfer of Undergraduate and Graduate Credits
There may be differences in the grading policies of different institutions. For this reason, some universities only transfer the number of successfully completed courses in the host institution toward the home institution graduation requirements: the students are exempted from an equal number of courses in their home institution’s curricula. However, the grades of the courses taken during the exchange period will not be included in the student’s grade point average calculation of the home institution. On the other hand, some institutions may prefer to transfer the courses as well as their grades, using a grade equivalency table. In any case, the students should be aware of the consequences of the exchange system and the grades they get abroad before they go for an exchange.