Researching destinations

Choosing destinations is one of your key decisions. Read about different research you can do to help you make your mind up.

Enrol in the Study Abroad organisation on Minerva

The Study Abroad organisation on Minerva is one of your most important resources when researching your options. It's also where you go to complete your online application to study abroad.

Enrol yourself in the Study Abroad Minerva organisation as soon as you begin to consider your study abroad options. Enrolling does not commit you to applying to study abroad.

How to enrol:

1. Enrol on the Study Abroad Organisation now!

2. Follow the brief enrolment instructions provided on that page.

3. The organisation will then be listed under 'Organisations', which you can view by clicking on the 'Learn' tab.

Choosing a destination

All study abroad options at the University of Leeds operate on an exchange basis and we receive an incoming exchange student for every Leeds student we send abroad. This means that Leeds students can only choose to study abroad at one of our selected partner universities. It also means that Leeds students never pay tuition fees to their host institution!

On your application for a traditional or Horizon study abroad year, you choose up to seven host universities, in order of preference. These choices can include a mixture of departmental, university-wide, and Horizon partner universities. Take a look at our partner universities on the Where Can I go? page.

Only choose institutions and destinations where you're confident you'd like to study. Every year we have students who are placed at their sixth or seventh choice university, and then withdraw because, on further research, they find that this wasn’t a place they’d be happy to spend the year. Please don’t let this be you! Good research is vital.

Decide what is important to you

Put some thought into what you want to get out of your year abroad, which will help you decide what kind of institution and location would suit you. Here are some important points to consider when narrowing down your search:

Is your subject available? Unless you are planning to take a Horizon year abroad, this should be the first question you look to answer when researching a potential host university. If your subject is not taught, or is taught but not available to exchange students, you should not apply: it is your responsibility to check this.

How important is academic standing? Leeds always aims to partner with universities of similar academic standing, so you will find that all of our partner universities have a good academic reputation. Some partner universities have also been selected because, despite lower rankings, they are particularly good in certain subject areas.

Is the destination affordable on your budget?
Use feedback forms and Leeds budgeting tool found on our 'Partner Information Library' on Minerva and the information on our 'Calculating the costs of study abroad' web page for your research and determine whether you can realistically afford to spend a year in the destination you're considering applying for.

Which locational factors are important to you? City or countryside? Mountains or coast? Hot or cold? Do you want somewhere well connected for international or national travel, or are you more interested in local exploration? This may seem trivial but we have had student withdrawals in the past due to climate and due to the size of the city or town. Bear in mind that in the USA, campuses are large, but most are not city-based.

Do you have a current interest you want to keep up? If you are involved in a particular sports team or society, getting involved in similar activities abroad can help you settle in and offer you some continuity while trying to acclimatise to a new culture. If it’s important to you to maintain skills so you can remain involved in a sport on return to Leeds, make sure you research what opportunities are available at the universities you apply to.

Is there something in particular you want to experience, or learn? Whether this is academic or extracurricular; learning a new language from scratch or starting to snowboard; experiencing -20°C or gaining an internship (subject to immigration law); make sure you apply for places that will allow you to achieve your aims.

Do you have any health conditions that may need consideration? If you do, it will be essential that you carry out your own research into our partner universities carefully; looking at the disability and student support information on their website and finding out what services are available. If you have specific support requirements in place at Leeds that you will need access to abroad, you may wish to contact our partner universities directly to enquire whether this support would be available to you while studying on exchange. You should also make contact with your School disability contact and School study abroad coordinator to disclose any disability, specific learning difficulty, mental health or long term medical condition and discuss any support that you require from the School during your year abroad.  If you have Disabled Students Allowances academic related support in place at Leeds that you will need to use while you’re abroad, we would advise arranging to speak with your Disability Coordinator in Disability Services to find out whether any of this support would be available to you while studying on exchange. If you have a mental health diagnosis then the Mental Health Team at the University can provide you with guidance around travelling with medications, accessing support and considering your needs in preparation of the year abroad. Speak with your School disability contact and they can arrange for you to meet with the team.

Is the destination suitable for you?
What is the demographic make-up of the country/city? What support is offered to minority, LGBT+, disabled students either in the university or the country in general? Are there any places of worship for your faith in the city?


How to research a university

Here are some of the key resources for researching possible host universities:

Enrol yourself in the Study Abroad Minerva organisation (see instructions at the top of this page).

Use the list of destinations by degree programme. In the Study Abroad Minerva organisation, in the ‘Exchange Partner Information’ folder, you will find a spreadsheet listing all of the degree programmes, and showing which partner universities students on a particular degree subject have studied at previously. You should not be limited by this list and should certainly look into other options, but it may be helpful if you’re not sure where to start your research.

Look at the ‘Popularity Index’. You will find this document in the Study Abroad Minerva organisation, in the ‘Partner University Information’ page, and it will give you an idea of which of our partner universities are more popular. If your level 1 average is not too far above the eligibility requirement of 60, you may be advised to consider less competitive partner universities.

Read student feedback. This is available in hard copy in the Study Abroad office and electronically in the ‘Partner University Information Library’ folders in the Study Abroad Minerva organisation. This will give you a valuable insight into the thoughts of previous students, and some students will have left their email addresses so that you can contact them with any questions.

Browse the partner university website. Look at the partner university’s main website to get a feel for academic specialities, campus life, and the local area. Most universities will also have a dedicated section for international students that may also be useful, as it won’t assume any local knowledge.

Explore the study abroad/exchange pages of the partner university website. Most universities will have pages aimed specifically at exchange students, which will give you advice on any restricted subject areas: some universities don’t allow exchange students access to particular subject areas for a range of reasons (usually to do with capacity of equipment/classrooms). Each university folder on Minerva has a link to that university’s pages for exchange students, and you should follow it in particular to see if they have any information about choosing courses and subject areas that are off limits. Links to all of our partner universities' websites can also be found on the Where can I go? page.

Check partner university departmental websites and/or module catalogue. Make sure your subject is taught. You may even want to go so far as looking up individual modules, but while this may be useful, it is not essential at this point. In some countries, modules will be referred to as courses, units or subjects; catalogues as handbooks or calendars. Bear in mind that you do not have to follow a specific degree course at your host university; you can usually choose modules from a variety of departments, at a variety of levels, as long as they relate to your degree.

Visit the Study Abroad Fair and Snapshot presentations. Pick up fliers for these events from the Study Abroad office, or check dates and times on the 'Considering a Study Abroad Year? Important Information for Applicants' section of the Study Abroad Minerva organisation. They are a chance to hear from fourth year students and incoming exchange students about their experiences.

Contact your School Study Abroad Coordinator. This is something you must do at least once before submitting your application, to ensure your application will be approved by your school. Your School Study Abroad Coordinator may be able to:

  • Confirm that your application will be supported by your parent school.
  • Offer advice on which universities may be particularly good for your subject.
  • Offer particular guidance about the school-specific exchanges.
  • Confirm whether the school has particular advice or requirements regarding studying in another language.
  • Confirm any doubts you may have about whether the subjects taught at potential host universities will be deemed suitable by Leeds. 

Speak to the Study Abroad office. You are welcome to drop in to the Study Abroad office during our opening hours of 11am – 3pm, when you will be able to discuss your application with a member of staff.

Before coming in to speak to the Study Abroad office you should have attended a Study Abroad 101 session, to make sure you have all the basic information covered. We will then be happy to sit down with you to discuss your preferences, and can provide you with:

  • Further advice on language requirements.
  • Further advice on your academic standing.
  • Further advice on the suitability of your shortlist of preferred universities, including historical data on which universities are generally most competitive (bearing in mind that this is historical data and trends change every year, so we are unable to predict with reliable accuracy how competitive particular universities may be).
  • If you are feeling overwhelmed by number of universities to research, we may be able to make some suggestions.