24.     Study Abroad

24.1   The common University policy on the study abroad period applies to those undergraduate modular programmes where either:

  1. An identified requisite of the programme is for a student to study abroad for an academic year for the award of credit, hereafter known as the ‘Year Abroad’. The accomplishment of the study abroad element is reflected in the title of the programme (e.g. MSci Chemistry with Study Abroad or MSci Chemistry with Study in Continental Europe).
  2. A student is permitted to study at another institution for credit in lieu of the units that the student would normally have taken at Bristol (i.e. a ‘Teaching Block Abroad’). Such arrangements are not an integral part of a programme but are recognised in the student’s transcript.

All other arrangements, where students study abroad for experiential reasons (i.e. not for credit), are not covered by this policy.

Principles for the studying abroad process

All formal arrangements for studying abroad

24.2   Where the learning from any period of formal study undertaken outside of the UK is a required part of the programme, how the intended learning outcomes of the programme are met must be identified.

24.3   Any formal period of study abroad must be credit-bearing and contribute to the award of the programme and consequently the degree classification (i.e. and therefore not pass/fail).

24.4   Any mark(s) from a period of study abroad may be reached, solely or in combination, by assessment set by the University of Bristol (i.e. by assessing what a student has learnt during their experience) or by the conversion of marks that have been gained at the partner institution.

24.5   Where the mark is obtained by a combination of assessments set by Bristol and the partner institution, the weighting of the constituent marks and the expected input of the student to each component must be agreed and set out in the specification for the study abroad unit.

24.6   Schools should ensure that students are fully aware of the requirements of their University of Bristol programme of study whilst undertaking any period of study abroad prior to the student committing him or herself to it.

24.7   A tutor within each School must maintain regular contact with a student undertaking a study abroad arrangement, whilst they are away from the University (see 27.12)

‘Year Abroad’ only

24.8   The Year Abroad should only be undertaken in the third year of a four or five-year (Bachelors or Integrated Masters) programme. It is not expected that students will undertake an entire year of study away from the University as part of a three-year Bachelors programme.

24.9   The Year Abroad must be set at the level of study appropriate to the programme and in alignment with the University’s credit framework.

24.10   The Year Abroad equates to 60 ECTS and 120 credit points at the University of Bristol.

24.11   A common credit conversion process is available to ensure that students undertake an appropriate workload whilst studying abroad. Students must undertake at least the equivalent of 100, and no more than 120, credit points of units during the Year Abroad. The marks from units, equivalent to at least 100 credit points, will count towards the mark for the Year Abroad,unless there is a specific rationale for an alternative approach, which must be applied to the entire cohort of students. Any further study may be in units unrelated to the subject and, in such cases, will not count towards the mark for the Year Abroad.

24.12   A student’s performance will be reflected by a single overall mark for the learning undertaken across the year, unless the programme is structured so that students are assessed at differing levels of study during their Year Abroad. Only the overall unit mark should be considered when determining progression from year to year at the University of Bristol.

24.13   The Study Abroad year will be weighted as 10% of the overall programme mark for the purposes of degree classification (see Annex 12).

‘Teaching Block Abroad’ only

24.14   Studying abroad for a teaching block must not be undertaken in the student’s first or final year of their programme of study.

24.15   Normally a teaching block undertaken at a partner institution outside of the UK will equate to 30 ECTS and 60 credit points at the University of Bristol. A common credit conversion process is available to ensure that students undertake an appropriate workload whilst studying abroad that is consonant with the volume of credit they otherwise would have taken at Bristol.

24.16   A student’s performance should be reflected by individual marks, equivalent to the units a student would have undertaken in their registered programme of study at the University of Bristol. These unit marks will contribute to the calculation of the year mark, final programme mark and degree classification, as normal.

24.17   If a student fails a ‘must-pass’ unit (i.e. deemed by the faculty to be a core part of the programme) during a Teaching Block Abroad, a re-sit should be arranged at the University of Bristol.

Process for the conversion of marks gained from study abroad

24.18   Given the variation in structures and standards in the marking process in institutions and across countries outside of the UK, some translation or mapping of the marks to the equivalent standards of the University, as a UK higher education institution, may be required.

The University has adopted an evidence-based approach for converting marks gained from studying abroad, in the form of a common mark conversion table (available from: https://www.bris.ac.uk/esu/assessment/study-abroad-mark-conversion/), based upon the following principles:

24.19   For the Year Abroad - the overall mark will be calculated by averaging all the contributing weighted marks from the host institution and, if necessary, any weighted marks awarded by the University of Bristol. If the partner institution uses a linear marking scale, the conversion provided in the Reference Table is then applied to the overall mark. If the partner institution does not use a linear marking scale, each of the individual marks should be translated before being averaged.

24.20   The conversion of the overall mark must be mapped onto the 0-100 scale, so to conform to the University’s procedures for determining student progression and degree classification, unless it is necessary to use a different marking scale, whereby the processing of marks from the study abroad period will be conducted using the 0-100 scale and then translated to the nearest point on the alternative marking scale.

24.21   The mark(s) awarded, following conversion, for the study abroad period should be reviewed to ensure that it is robust.

24.22   The conversion and subsequent review of the marks is the responsibility of the School Study Abroad Academic Director, or equivalent.

24.23   The relevant Board of Examiners that considers the marks retains discretion to disregard any relevant marks from units taken at the host institution or adjust the marks from those shown in the Conversion Table where there is evidence that the marks gained from the host institution is not an accurate reflection of the student’s performance.

24.24   The conversion algorithm of marks for any new partnership arrangement for study abroad should be checked against those provided in the Conversion Table and confirmed before the agreement is signed.

24.25   The University’s official transcript will show the University of Bristol translated mark from the study abroad period.


24.26   Where there is a good academic reason to request an exception from one or more of the principles, the programme director should make a case to the relevant Faculty Education Director well in advance of the commencement of any arrangements for a student to study abroad. If the Faculty Education Director approves the case, it will be presented to the University Undergraduate Studies Committee for incorporation into the Conversion Table.