The University of Iowa

For a new program, the Faculty Director will likely take on primary responsibility for academic program development, including course selection and planning. For a pre-existing program, the Faculty Director will take on primary responsibility for evaluation of the existing academic program and recommending and implementing any changes. Study Abroad should be consulted if changes in course offerings are being considered.

For many students looking to go abroad, a short-term study program is perceived as a “trip” (read vacation) for credit. Students expect it will not be as academically rigorous as the equivalent course on campus, and that it will be fun and entertaining. It is important for all those involved in study abroad to ensure that this myth is debunked and that the core of any study abroad experience is academically strong. Faculty Directors can begin to combat this image by being clear about academic expectations. It is necessary to provide to students, from the beginning, a syllabus and summary of policies, reading lists, learning outcomes, and expectations.

Students participating in UI study abroad programs are expected to abide by UI and collegiate codes, policies and procedures regarding academic matters. Students who are enrolled in a foreign university must also abide by the host institution’s academic policies and procedures.

Since study abroad policies should generally be consistent with on-campus policies, the UI General Catalog, is an indispensable resource for Faculty Directors. On the other hand, UI policies and procedures will often need to be modified because they were developed for use on-campus and do not account for the special needs of study abroad. While abroad, the spirit of the law often takes precedence over the letter of the catalog. If further clarification of an academic policy or procedure is needed while overseas, the appropriate staff member in the Study Abroad office should be contacted.

Credit Approval

Students participating in programs in which the approvals for degree requirements are established in advance do not need to complete a Study Abroad Credit Approval Form (CAF). In these cases, how the courses and credits apply to degree requirements are all neatly prescribed.

A Credit Approval Form is usually not required on faculty-led programs. However, students can propose that course work be used to satisfy requirements other than those specifically fulfilled by the program. For example, a student taking a literature class abroad may ask to have the class evaluated for Humanities General Education Program credit, area studies for the International Business Certificate, International Studies major area studies, etc. The CAF is given to the student by the Study Abroad administrative coordinator during a student appointment or during the program-specific pre-departure orientation.

Registration Status

All UI students who study abroad must register in the appropriate course number at the UI, as indicated by the student's study abroad advisor. Upon the students’ return, this registration is replaced by the individual course titles, semester hours and grades received. Specific courses taken and credit hours earned will be entered/adjusted when a final grade report is submitted to the Registrar by Study Abroad. Study Abroad staff monitor the class lists in an effort to make sure that all program participants are registered before they go abroad, however the ultimate responsibility lies with the individual students.


All UI faculty-led programs are offered for resident credit and report U.S. letter grades to the Study Abroad office. When instruction is provided on behalf of the UI by a local university, for example, a foreign grading scale is often used. In these cases, it is the responsibility of the Faculty Director to convert the marks into U.S. letter grades. There are usually standardized conversion tables to assist in this process.

Absentee Policy

The Faculty Director and individual instructors determine a policy on class attendance. Excused absences from class(es) are permitted upon the consent of both the instructor(s) and the Faculty Director. Unexcused absences may be cause for disciplinary action, including expulsion from the study abroad program. Instructors should monitor attendance and notify the Faculty Director of any violations. In cases where the program is short, intensive class time warrants exceptional attendance standards in order to assure academic integrity.

Credit Transfer

In general, UI faculty-led study abroad programs are offered for resident credit. When students receive resident credit, this credit is treated as though it was taken on campus and is included in their UI and cumulative GPAs.

Privacy Issues

Students’ academic (and disciplinary) records contain confidential information and should be treated accordingly.


If the program offers an array of courses, students may adjust their academic programs at the beginning of the session just as they may do so on-campus. The last day to drop or add courses should be identified and clearly communicated to program participants by the resident director. Note that students are expected to complete all academic requirements of the program. For example, students on a program that awards 6 s.h. of credit are not permitted to drop down to 3 s.h. unless there are mitigating circumstances (which should be discussed with Study Abroad in advance of the student dropping a class).

The appropriate deadline is determined by the length of the program, but is usually set at the 1/5th mark. During the 6-week summer session, for example, students have 6 days to add or drop courses without a W, or to change their grading status. 6 / 30 = .20. A date should be selected that is both pedagogically sound for the course/program and fair and reasonable to the students.

The Faculty Director may impose an appropriate drop/add procedure, and should carefully maintain records of any changes students make in their academic programs. Requiring students to obtain their academic advisor’s signature on a drop/add slip is not feasible. Students are responsible, however, for maintaining communication with their academic advisors.


At the discretion of the Faculty Director and instructor of the course, students may apply for the P/N option as on campus in accordance with UI policies. Many study abroad programs, especially programs of a short duration, do not allow students to take courses on a pass/non-pass basis. Our interest is in maintaining the academic integrity of the program despite the inherent distractions. If students are permitted to make use the P/N option, they must signal their intention to do so by a specified time—generally the same deadline set for dropping or adding courses. Study Abroad must be informed of this decision in writing on an individual student basis. A letter grade must be reported to Study Abroad which is then converted to P/N before being reported to the registrar. Students must earn a C- or above to receive a P grade. Students are responsible for informing their UI academic advisors of any changes made in their academic program.

Auditing Courses

Students may audit a course if approval is granted by the instructor of the course and by the Faculty Director. It may or may not be advisable to permit students to audit courses. Study Abroad must be informed of this decision in writing on an individual student basis.


As a general rule, study abroad participants should be encouraged to complete all course requirements by the end of the program. However, as on-campus, instructors may report a mark of I (incomplete) if the unfinished part of the student’s work is small, the work is unfinished for reasons acceptable to the instructor, and the student’s standing in the course is satisfactory. The work must be completed and submitted to the course instructor four weeks before the close of the examination period of the next session for which the student is registered. If no change of grade is submitted, the I becomes an F.

Early Withdrawl

Students who are considering withdrawing from the program should be counseled about the academic and financial implications of their action. They have signed a program contract with a withdrawal policy which binds them to pay all of the program fee before the beginning of the program. Any appeals for changes to this policy are made to the appropriate committee in the Study Abroad office for consideration. The Faculty Director should not imply to the student that they will get money back. On the other hand, a Faculty Director should be careful not to talk a student into staying (nor should he/she have talked the student into coming in the first place). Early withdrawal is always a painful step, but sometimes it is an appropriate one.

Undergraduate students are assigned the mark of W (withdrawn) for any course dropped after the add-drop deadline. Students may withdraw their entire registration any time before the 4/5ths point in the session is reached. The date for the withdrawal of registration should also be posted. No credit is given for the session. Any student who withdraws from the entire academic program may not participate in any other aspect of the study abroad program and is responsible for themselves from that point on.

Adjusting Grades

Many study abroad programs employ host country faculty to provide instruction. The grades assigned by these faculty, particularly if they are not familiar with the American educational system, may not accurately reflect the students’ academic performance. In such cases, the Faculty Director may adjust the grades for all the students in the course as appropriate. This should be done before Study Abroad reports grades to the registrar.

Contesting Grades

A student who has a complaint about a grade received (or any other serious grievance regarding faculty conduct) should first attempt to resolve the matter with the instructor. If the complaint is not resolved to the student’s satisfaction, the student should consult the Faculty Director. If the matter cannot be resolved at this level, the student may submit a written complaint to the Assistant Provost for International Programs. Obviously it’s preferable to resolve disputes quickly and equitably at the time and place where they occur. On the other hand, students have access to a formal grievance procedure.

Academic Misconduct

In cases of plagiarism or cheating, the instructor must inform the Faculty Director, who will in turn 1) notify the Study Abroad office and 2) provide his/her recommendation for dealing with the incident(s). Other penalties, including placement on disciplinary probation, expulsion from the program, and suspension/expulsion from the UI may, if warranted, be imposed by the Associate Dean for Academic Programs.

Students who are physically or verbally disruptive in a class may be dealt with summarily by the instructor and/or Faculty Director. The Study Abroad office must be informed as quickly as possible of any action taken.