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Free Movers - A Stay Abroad Independent of the University's Exchange Programs

Free movers are students who do not complete their stay abroad as part of a university exchange program, but organize their studies abroad by themselves. Nevertheless, the courses completed as part of a free mover stay abroad can be recognized for your program of study in Mannheim, on condition that the university and the courses are selected in consultation with your department at the University of Mannheim.

  • A free mover stay may be for you, if...

    • you want to study at a university abroad that is not part of any exchange program with the University of Mannheim at the moment.
    • you have missed the deadlines for the university exchange programs or
    • you did not receive a study place in one of the university or departmental exchange programs.
  • Are there any disadvantages?

    • If you do not take part in a university exchange program, but go abroad as a free mover instead, you will have to pay tuition fees at the university abroad. These can range from a few hundred to several thousand euros per semester. An overview of the tuition fees charged in different countries can be found in the country database of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) (only available in German). Please ask the respective university about the exact amount of tuition fees.
    • It will be your responsibility to contact the university and ask about application deadlines, the application process, costs, and enrollment.
    • Funding possibilities are limited. Erasmus funding for example is not available for free movers.
  • Which universities qualify for a stay abroad as a free mover?

    • Theoretically, you can choose any university abroad. However, you should make sure that it is an official higher education institution at university level and discuss your choice with your department with regard to the recognition of examinations and coursework.
    • Some partner universities of the University of Mannheim also accept free movers, others don’t. Any university abroad is free to accept or reject free movers at any time.
  • How does the recognition of coursework and examinations for my program in Mannheim work?

    You should discuss the university and the courses to choose with your department in advance. The process is essentially the same as for the university exchange programs: In a Learning Agreement, you document the courses you plan to take and your department confirms the recognition of these courses for your program of study at the University of Mannheim by way of a signature. Once concluded, any changes to the Learning Agreement you would like to make must be communicated via E-Mail.

  • How shall I proceed?

    Choose one or more universities that you would be interested in. First, check their websites for information specifically for free movers.

    Please note: The term “free mover” is mostly used in Europe. Other regions often use different terminology, such as “fee-paying student”, “study abroad”, “non-degree seeking student”, “visiting student” or “occasional student”.

    If you can’t find any information on the university’s website, please contact the respective International Office. You should inquire about the following things:

    • Does the university even accept free movers?
    • If yes, what is the application procedure for free movers and what are the deadlines?
    • What are the costs?
    • What options do free movers have in terms of course selection? It’s best to name specific departments and courses that you are interested in and ask if any special requirements or restrictions apply.

    Some countries provide helpful information for foreigners wanting to study at a university there on a public website. These include for example Campus France for France, the OeAD for Austria, Study in Spain for Spain, the British Council for Great Britain or the Finish National Agency for Education for Finland.

    Basic information on the educational system of many countries can be found in the country database of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) (only available in German).

    Alternatively, you can engage a free mover placement agency.

  • How likely am I to be admitted?

    The admission of free movers varies from university to university. There are universities that are happy to welcome free movers, while others hardly ever or never take in free movers, for example, because they lack sufficient capacity.

    As a rule of thumb, chances to be accepted as a free mover are higher in countries where universities heavily rely on tuition fees for funding, such as Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, and Great Britain. However, countries with low tuition fees are also worth a try.

    You can improve the odds of being accepted by applying at multiple universities at the same time.

  • What are my funding options?

    Students in a bachelor's program who will be studying at a non-European university as a free mover can apply at the International Office for the PROMOS scholarships.

    Another funding option is BAföG for stays abroad, which may include subsidy for tuition fees of up to EUR 4,600.

    The DAAD offers one-year scholarships for stays with a duration of two semesters. Please note that the application deadlines for some of these are very early! We are happy to advise you on your DAAD application, which requires careful preparation.

    Unfortunately, free movers do not qualify for the Baden-Württemberg or the Erasmus scholarships.

    As an alternative, we recommend taking out a small student loan to increase your budget.

  • Placement agencies for free mover stays

    There are a number of organizations that support free movers in finding a study place in their favorite country. For some countries, as for example Australia, it is common practice to enlist the service of a placement agency. In other countries, this practice is less common. The advisory and placement service is usually free of charge, as the agencies are funded by the universities that they are cooperating with. These are some of the free agencies:

    Asia Exchange

    The Finnish organization Asia Exchange offers students free-of-charge support in applying for a self-organized stay abroad in East Asia. Their services for students interested in a stay abroad in Asia comprise informative webinars and information on scholarship options as well as links to internships and exchange programs offered by special partner institutions of Asia Exchange.

    IEC online

    The placement agency IEC (International Education Centre) facilitates exchanges for students in bachelor’s and master’s programs as well as for doctoral candidates at over 100 universities in 19 countries in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia/New Zealand. Their services include advise on financing, academic options, health insurance and much more (only available in German).

    GOstralia!-GOzealand!

    GOstralia!-GOzealand! is an organization representing Australian and New Zealand universities in Germany and has specialized in arranging stays in the land of down under for students and doctoral candidates who want to go abroad as free movers. The organization’s advisors answer any questions regarding universities, programs of study, entire bachelor and master degree programs, double degrees, and doctoral programs. They advise on costs, financing options, and internal scholarships. This service is funded by Australian and New Zealand universities and is free of charge for students.

    Ranke Heinemann Institute

    The Ranke Heinemann Institute is a non-profit organization fostering and supporting the exchange between all Australian and New Zealand higher education institutions. Just as GOstralia!-GOzealand!, the institute arranges stays in the land of down under for free movers. Their service is free of charge. The institute’s services comprise academic advising and assistance in the application process. Moreover, the organization also awards full-ride and partial scholarships as well as scholarships covering travel expenses

    College Contact

    College Contact represents over 230 institutions in 40 countries all around the world and arranges study places for students in bachelor’s and master's programs. They provide support during the application process and give advice on funding and scholarship options (only available in German).

I spent my semester abroad as a free mover at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. This country has so many faces and offers many opportunities to demonstrate social commitment, and to get to know different sides of the Rainbow Nation. Apart from the general differences in culture and society, the experiences you will gain in South Africa may change your perspective on topics like society, wealth, security, and racism. I would definitely choose South Africa again for a semester abroad and can only recommend the university as well as a semester abroad in general. Today, international experience is a must-have for many companies and you will not regret spending time abroad.

Jessica Horn, student in the bachelor's program in Culture and Economy: German Studies and Business Administration, Stellenbosch University (South Africa) / Photo credit: private