On April 9, 2020, President Cross approved SYS 100-01, Interim: Study Abroad Emergency/Contingency Fund Requirement Waiver. This interim policy action waives the requirement for institutions to maintain a minimum emergency reserve/contingency fund for students studying abroad. This interim policy expires at the decision of the UW System President. See the interim policy for more details.

Original Issuance Date: October 1, 1993
Last Revision Date: December 17, 2018

1. Policy Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to establish requirements and guidelines for the development and operation of off-campus international educational programs.

2. Responsible UW System Officer

Associate Vice President of Academic Programs and Educational Innovation

3. Scope

UW System institutions, administration, faculty, international educational directors, and staff who are creating off-campus international education programs.

4. Background

The University of Wisconsin System, consistent with its missions in teaching, research, and service, is actively involved in the international dimensions of higher education. International education has become an integral and vital component of University life, and its importance will continue to expand. Increasing numbers of UW System students, faculty, and staff will be part of and contribute to the necessary expansion of knowledge and training in a global environment. Participation in study abroad and other global experiences is not representative across racial, ethnic, gender, field of study grounds, and every effort should be made to increase participation by underrepresented groups on each campus.

The international activities conducted by UW System institutions are diverse, reflecting the talents and expertise of their faculty and staff and the interests of their students. A strength of the UW System’s international efforts has been their distinctive individuality, nurtured at each institution in accordance with its mission and resources. The broad conduct of international programs, however, is guided by the policies outlined in this document and related UW System policies.  These policies articulate policy guidelines in four primary areas of international education: 1) programs for UW students abroad, 2) teaching and research activities of UW faculty abroad, 3) admissions, employment, and service procedures for international students and scholars, and 4) contractual training and sponsored student programs hosted by UW System institutions. These UW System Policy Guidelines serve as the framework for all current and future international activities.

5. Definitions

Study Abroad: Education abroad or Study Abroad is defined as any of a number of opportunities by which students can complete part of their degree program through educational activities outside the United States.  The standard length of Study Abroad has been programs with a duration of a semester or a year, but it also more frequently includes short-term programs and faculty led programs between semesters or in the summer.  Study Abroad programs can also include volunteering or work abroad (including internships), classroom study, research, and service learning.

Sponsors and Sponsored Programs: The term “sponsors” refers to all the entities that together develop, offer, and administer study abroad programs. Sponsors include sending institutions, host institutions, program administrators, and placement organizations.

Teaching and Research Abroad: Opportunities by which Faculty members can study, teach, and or do research abroad. This includes academic year sabbaticals leaves (SYS 10-A to 160-B), but typically refers to faculty teaching or doing research abroad for a semester or summer term outside of the United States. This also often involves faculty exchanges with partner institutions abroad.

International Student: An individual who is enrolled for credit at an accredited higher education institution in the U.S. on a temporary visa, and who is not an immigrant (permanent resident with an I-51 or Green Card), or an undocumented immigrant, or a refugee.

Contract Training: Contractual relationships between UW System Institutions and organizations abroad for the purpose of providing training either outside of the United States or within any physical location that supports activities related to instruction or training (e.g., research or laboratory exercises) at a UW-Institution.  It also includes all terms that describe this type of entity (e.g., campus, satellite, auxiliary, coordinate, extension, off-campus, regional or other).

6. Policy Statement

The University of Wisconsin System supports off-campus international educational programs as a valid, desired, and increasingly important part of undergraduate and graduate education. The UW System encourages its constituent institutions to provide study abroad opportunities that meet the legitimate academic needs of their students. The UW System recognizes that such programs may take a variety of forms, including traditional semester and academic-year experiences, internships, service learning, and shorter-term international programs. All programs abroad operated, sponsored or approved for academic credit by any UW System institution are expected to maintain standards of quality in the delivery of instruction, support services, and administration which are consistent with the educational excellence that every student is entitled to receive. In general, UW institutions will exercise due diligence regarding programs they operate, sponsor or recommend to ensure that they are:

  • appropriate to the mission of the institution;
  • integrated into the undergraduate and graduate curricula of the sponsoring institution;
  • subject to regular, periodic evaluation and assessment according to the institution’s normal review procedures for academic programs and academic support programs;
  • comply with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations.

In addition, programs operated or sponsored by any UW System institution abroad shall adhere to the specific guidelines listed in this policy.

UW Policy Guidelines extend standards of conduct to encompass the international activities of all University of Wisconsin employees and the international programs of all UW System institutions. Any exception to their provisions requires the approval of the institution’s vice chancellor, with notice provided to the UW System Council on International Education and the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.

A.    Safety and Welfare of Participants:

  1. A program is responsible for monitoring and disclosing to participants U.S. State Department Consular Information Sheets, Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings. A program will also advise participants on essential health and safety considerations, including the Center for Disease Control Travel Information: Health Recommendations.
  2. Every participant must receive, sign, and return the UW System Uniform Statement of Responsibility, which establishes informed consent, assumption of risk, and understanding of the terms and conditions of the program abroad.
  3. A program will provide information on available medical care in the host country; if available medical care is a cause for concern, participants will be so informed.
  4. Every participant should be informed about the availability of, and shall be required to purchase, accident and health insurance and medical evacuation and repatriation insurance.
  5. Every program must have in place an emergency response plan that takes into consideration NAFSA’s current Best Practices. Emergency response plans or program policies must designate one or more campus representatives responsible for making final decisions on whether to send students abroad, keep students abroad during a crisis situation, and/or return students to the U.S.
  6. Programs will instruct participants to register at the nearest United States embassy or consulate.
  7. A program will provide information for participants regarding the scope of the sponsor’s responsibility. In particular, program sponsors generally:
    • Cannot guarantee or assure the safety of participants or eliminate all risks from the study abroad environments.
    • Cannot monitor or control all of the daily personal decisions, choices, and activities of individual participants.
    • Cannot assure that U.S. standards of due process apply in overseas legal proceedings or provide or pay for legal representation for participants.
    • Cannot assume responsibility for the actions of persons not employed or otherwise engaged by the program sponsor for events that are not part of the program or that are beyond the control of the sponsor, or for situations that may arise due to the failure of a participant to disclose pertinent information.
    • Cannot assure that home-country cultural values and norms will apply in the host country.

B.      Recruitment, Admission, Orientation, Participation, and Re-entry:

  1. Recruitment materials and/or advising shall provide a description of the program that includes selection criteria, estimated cost, and services provided.
  2. A program will select students for participation on the basis of criteria appropriate to its academic, cultural, and educational objectives.
  3. UW System institutions will provide reasonable access to programs abroad for students with disabilities.
  4. A program will provide pre-departure and/or on-site orientation for all participants, including emergency contact information.
  5. A program will communicate to participants the applicable codes of student conduct and consequences of non-compliance as well as a list of participant responsibilities.
  6. UW System institutions, in consultation with faculty and departments, will grant appropriate academic credit for coursework successfully completed on educational programs abroad which they operate or sponsor. Each UW System institution will inform participants as completely and accurately as possible about the process it follows in awarding credit for study abroad and provide academic advising to facilitate integration of coursework abroad with a participant’s major field and degree requirements.

C.     Host Country Consideration:

To promote the free exchange of ideas and knowledge, no restrictions shall be placed on the establishment or maintenance of programs in other countries based on the political, religious, racial, ethnic, or ideological characteristics of a host country or its government.

D.     Financial Management:

Recognizing the need for flexibility while maintaining accountability, the UW System has established a policy for the financial management of study abroad programs to govern the assessment of program fees and related procedures. [See UW System Administrative Policy 810 (SYS 810)Study Abroad Programs dated July 1, 1993.]

  1. All program fees collected from students shall use approved state accounts, with appropriate management and auditing procedures.
  2. Each institution shall maintain a minimum emergency reserve/contingency fund equal to at least $100 times the number of students sent abroad each year or an amount adequate to respond to emergencies and unforeseen problems. Institutions shall develop policies related to funding levels appropriate to the institution or program and to acceptable uses of the emergency reserve/contingency fund and should designate one or more campus representatives to be responsible for making decisions related to appropriate use and expenditure of reserve/contingency funds.
  3. As state-supported public universities, UW System institutions will exercise care in contracting relationships with for-profit institutions and agencies, to ensure that such arrangements are determined to be in the best interests of students, and that any pecuniary benefit received accrue to the benefit of students. All contracts must conform to Wisconsin State statutes and purchasing requirements.

7. Related Documents

SYS 145.A: University of Wisconsin System Uniform Statement of Responsibility, Release, and Authorization to Participate in Study Abroad and Exchange Programs
Suggested Study Abroad Program Checklist for Implementation of SYS 145.
SYS 146: University of Wisconsin System Faculty and Academic Staff Abroad
SYS 147: Admission and Delivery of Services to International Students and for the Employment and Delivery of Services to International Faculty and Academic Staff at UW Institutions
SYS 148: Development and Operation of Contractual Training and Sponsored Students Programs

8. Policy History

Original Issuance Date:       October 1, 1993


  • December 17, 2018
  • June 23, 2017
  • April 2008
  • October 1999

9. Scheduled Review

May 2023