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School of Social and Political Science: Undergraduate study


Studying Abroad

Study abroad occurs as an option in the third year of your Politics or International Relations degree. It is available both to single and joint honours students. You will find some frequently asked questions about study abroad options below.


The slides from our PIR JYA Information Session held on 31/10/19 can be found here.

Where can I study?

There are two main Study Abroad routes for PIR students:

  1. University-wide Study Abroad route

The university runs exchanges at universities in USA, Canada, China, Singapore, Korea, Australia New Zealand, Mexico, Chile and Argentina. You can find the most up-to-date Exchanges Destination Guide on this page.

The competition for these places is intense. It is advertised early in the Autumn term and generally closes in November.

2. Politics & IR Study Abroad route

The Politics & IR Department also has separate ERASMUS exchange arrangements at the following universities. The closing date for this scheme is also in November.

  • The University of Grenoble, France
  • Free University of Berlin, Germany
  • University of Köln, Germany
  • Universidad Pontifica Comillas, Madrid, Spain
  • University of Leuven, Belgium
  • Sciences Po, Paris, France
  • Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey
  • Radboud Universiteit, Nijmegen, Netherlands
  • University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Other routes

There are three other exchanges available to Politics & IR students, although these are really intended for subject areas without exchange agreements:

  • Universities of Lund and Uppsala (Sweden)
  • Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  • University College, Dublin (Ireland)

These are run by Edinburgh Global and applications should be made through their student mobility portal. It is not possible for Edinburgh Politics & IR students to study abroad via ERASMUS outside of these schemes.

ERASMUS Work Placements

Work placements are not possible under the Politics & IR ERASMUS programme.

Politics & IR international (non-EU) exchanges

There is one international exchange arrangement in Politics & IR: Higher School of Economics, Moscow.

What languages do I need?

  • English for study in the US, Russian Federation, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Helsinki, Leuven and Sciences Po, Paris.
  • French for study in Grenoble (and there is a small French language requirement in Sciences Po, Paris and of course you could study entirely in French there).
  • German for study in Berlin (optional)
  • Spanish for study in Spain (optional), Argentina, Chile, and Mexico.
  • Chinese for study at Fudan University.

How will I be assessed?

If you are not taking a language as part of your named degree, your year abroad marks will be converted to pass/fail, and your Honours degree will be classified solely on the basis of your performance in your fourth and final year. However, the year abroad performance is still important. You need to achieve satisfactory completion of the approved programme of study abroad before being permitted to proceed to 4th year.

As soon as possible on your return to Edinburgh, you should provide your Personal Tutor with a transcript (or other official documentation) describing your performance during your study abroad. Please provide an additional copy to the Politics or IR Subject Secretary.

We may also occasionally ask for additional supporting material (e.g. course outlines, reading lists, samples of your work) to provide information about the level and nature of the course. Please make sure that you retain this material and can make it available if requested.

If you are a Modern European Languages and Politics joint student, please see this separate assessment information.

How do I apply?

To apply to universities in USA, Canada, China, Singapore, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America, go to Edinburgh Global.

To apply to the Politics & IR ERASMUS exchanges you should attend a briefing which is held in the early part of Semester 1 where you will receive information from the Politics & IR International Exchange Coordinator, Dr Kasia Kaczmarska (  Applications are made through the Student Mobility Portal.


You cannot go on an exchange unless you have gained entry to Honours and obtained all your required passes in the summer exams. As a general rule, no re-sits, 'not presents' or unsuccessful appeals are allowed. It is occasionally possible to apply for an exemption from College (which may or may not be successful). However, a) the JYA coordinator can only make an appeal under very exceptional circumstances, and b) any exemption would be conditional on passing the resit.

What should I do once I’m accepted?

Make sure you contact your Personal Tutor and the Politics & IR International Exchange Coordinator (Dr Kasia Kaczmarska) to let them know of your plans. There are several things you can begin to do early, some of them by simply perusing your host university website.

If you are studying in another language, brush up on your language skills.

What can I study?

One of the most important things you need to do is choose the right courses on your year abroad. There are several things to keep in mind when making your selection, including the level at which the courses are taught, the credits you receive, and the exact subject of the courses. It is also possible to take substitutes for required Edinburgh courses while you are away; in fact, it is recommended, or you will need to take the compulsory courses when you return in 4th year.

The choosing courses link gives you more information about this, and you should speak to the Politics & IR International Exchange Coordinator (Dr Kasia Kaczmarska) or your Personal Tutor about your choices. Begin looking at the website of your Year Abroad university in the spring, and finalise course selection in the autumn when you have arrived. Remember to stay in touch about what courses you are taking!

What about cost and accommodation?

These vary depending on the place you go. Check the FAQ page put together by Edinburgh Global.

How do I Keep in Contact?

Please make sure that you send your Personal Tutor and the Politics & IR office the email address you will use in your year abroad at the earliest opportunity. However, you should continue to check your UoE email for important messages from us while you are away.  Your Personal Tutor is also the Politics & IR International Exchange Coordinator, Dr Kasia Kaczmarska (

As well as consulting the International Exchange Coordinator on any changes to course selection, it is good practice to provide them with a regular (e.g. twice a semester) report on your progress.

In North America, where assessment is frequent, you are likely to have plenty of mid-term grades to report! You should certainly contact your Personal Tutor if you have any academic problems.

Should I prepare for my dissertation whilst I'm abroad?

If you are studying away from Edinburgh in your third year and doing a dissertation in your fourth year (compulsory for Single Honours Politics & IR students), you should make sure that you begin thinking about your topic before you return. Stephen Hill, the dissertation convenor, has placed a video on how to begin preparing for your dissertation on the Year 3 Learn page under ‘Preparing for 4th Year’. If you are doing a Single Honours degree in Politics or IR, you also need to take the Research Design in PIR course at the beginning of your fourth year, after you return to Edinburgh (if you did not find a replacement course for this at your host institution). If you are a Joint Honours student you are also highly recommended to take the Research Design in PIR course in the first semester of your fourth year, unless you have taken a similar course in your other discipline.


Second year students applying for exchanges:

  • Sept-Oct: Exchanges Fair, run by the International Office
  • 23 Oct: ERASMUS/International information meeting in Politics & IR subject area. Interested applicants should come to this.
  • 1 - 28 Nov: Applications for non-Erasmus and Erasmus exchanges are due
  • Dec: Final decision made on participating students

Third year students currently on exchanges:

  • Aug-Sept: Confirmation of student course choices while abroad (first semester)
  • Jan-Feb: Confirmation of student course choices while abroad (second semester)
  • Late spring: Students make course choices for year 4.
  • Late spring: Students select dissertation topic.


If you cannot find the information you require on these pages, please contact:

The SPS Undergraduate Teaching Office
tel: +44 (0)131 651 3060

Useful addresses:

Edinburgh Global (click on ‘exchanges’ for comprehensive information about current programmes.)

Additional queries may be addressed to the Politics Subject Secretary.

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