Cross-campus collaborations bring exchange students to Madison

In addition to the approximately 6,000 degree-seeking international students who attend UW–Madison each year, students from other countries have the opportunity to come to campus for shorter durations through other avenues, including UW–Madison’s Study Abroad Incoming Exchanges and the Visiting International Student Program (VISP), of the Division of Continuing Studies.

The  UW–Madison Study Abroad Incoming Exchange Team manages incoming exchange programs with our partner universities abroad and we welcome students to UW–Madison for a semester or a full year. On both inbound and outbound exchange programs, students pay tuition and fees to their home institutions and earn credits at the host university, which then contribute to their degree progress. On average, prior to COVID-19, UW–Madison welcomed approximately 200 incoming exchange students in the fall and 100 in the spring semesters from universities with partnerships with the UW–Madison Study Abroad units: International Academic Programs, the Wisconsin School of Business, the College of Engineering, and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

The Visiting International Student Program (VISP) was launched in 2012 when the Division of Continuing Studies realized the potential to formalize short-term, fee-paying studies at UW–Madison for non-degree, credit seeking individuals. One year later, the VISP cohort program was established in order to facilitate for credit studies for groups of students within specific academic departments at UW–Madison. Then, in 2015 VISP expanded to offer programming to non-credit learners worlwide as well.  In VISP’s inaugural year, over 60 students participated in this experience; since then, VISP has repeatedly welcomed over 200 credit students in a single semester, totaling approximately 2,500 participants from over 35 countries. Since participating in VISP, over 500 individuals have returned to study at UW–Madison, enrolling in almost 50 different degree programs at UW–Madison.

The UW–Madison Study Abroad Incoming Exchange and VISP teams work closely with many campus partners throughout the process of admitting international students, processing their visa documentation through International Student Services (ISS), and helping the students enroll in courses. The Division of Continuing Studies serves as Incoming Exchange students’ admitting and dean’s office, and together we collaborate to advocate for non-degree international students.

In addition to managing their own students and programs, the VISP staff also collaborates closely with UW–Madison Study Abroad and other campus partners through our campus-wide Exchange Issues committee. This group meets on a monthly basis to collectively plan the orientation for the non-degree international students who join us each term, and we also share updates on policies and information that impact our students.

While studying in another country requires additional planning, non-degree seeking incoming international students for Fall 2022 are facing particular challenges due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. While some students have had to cancel their plans to come to UW–Madison, others are encountering increased wait times to apply for their student visa at certain U.S. Consulates or Embassies around the world. Despite ongoing uncertainty, exchange and VISP students remain excited to attend UW–Madison, and we look forward to welcoming them to campus in September.

UW–Madison benefits greatly from the presence of so many international students on our campus. Chancellor Blank has repeatedly demonstrated her support of international students, citing their ‘unique perspectives and enriching the diversity of experiences in our classrooms, laboratories and extracurricular activities’ as well as the contributions they make ‘teaching our students and bolstering our ability to find solutions to global problems’.

Related articles:

With UW–Madison support, Wisconsin joins lawsuit against student visa changes

UW–Madison calls for withdrawal of proposed rule targeting international students, scholars

UW–Madison Fall 2019 Enrollment Report


Written by Amanda Hammatt and Kim Kroeger.